Tuesday after the Festival of the Epiphany of our Lord
Posted on January 7, 2020 byunder
Scripture: St. Luke 3:15-20 (NKJV)
3:15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not, 16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather the wheat into His barn; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 And with many other exhortations he preached to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, being rebuked by him concerning Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, 20 also added this, above all, that he shut John up in prison.
John condemned King Herod for his adultery and other evils. When John proclaimed the Messiah’s coming reign of righteousness, Herod “added this, above all,” and put John in prison. Why? Herod’s kingship was under the occupation of the Roman Empire. He and Pilate were enemies until Pilate outwardly deferred to Herod during the trial of Jesus (Luke 23:12). But John never deferred: only the Christ’s coming could restore Israel. Herod took John as undermining his authority, as if he wished Herod to “burn with unquenchable fire”!
So great is the fear of righteousness enforced by law that it can cause people to miss or reject the true righteousness given freely in Christ. Misconception drives non-Christians to assume that our glory is in declaring others as chaff, rather than see our hope to have sinners gathered as “wheat into His barn” by grace alone, through faith alone.
We are called to believe, teach, and confess as John did. No matter what acclaim we may have in this world, we do not consider ourselves worthy to loosen Jesus’ sandal strap. Our own need of the Gospel is always to be in our view when we proclaim the Law, whether as pastors, or as parents, or as neighbors, or in any other vocation. Remembering that our worthiness is as little as others’, our need as great as theirs, fixes our eyes on Jesus—and on proclaiming His cross—even under threat of prison and execution. As John did, we simply apply what God the Holy Spirit uses to accomplish His work; the power and the glory belong to our Triune God alone.
We pray: O Triune God, grant us perseverance as the world misunderstands Your desire to give righteousness and life everlasting to all, that, clinging to the cross of Christ, we humbly proclaim the same. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.