Water & Fire

Years later (22), in the fifteenth year of the rule of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea (southern Israel), Herod Antipas was ruler of Galilee (northern Israel), and his brother Philip was ruler of the territory of Iturea and Trachonitis (east of modern Israel).  During this same period, Lysanias was ruler of Abilene, and Annas & Caiaphas were the Jewish high priests in Jerusalem.

At this particular time, the word of God came to John the Baptizer, son of Zechariah, while he was serving God in the desert.  Then John went up & down the Jordan River preaching: “Turn away from your sins & be baptized, and God will forgive your sins!”

This work of John the Baptizer had previously been prophesied by Isaiah, when he said: “Someone is shouting in the desert: ‘Get the road ready for God!  Make a straight path for him to travel! Every valley must be filled up, every hill & mountain leveled off. The winding roads must be made straight, and the rough paths made smooth. Then all people will see God’s salvation!'”

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When John saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him to be baptized, he said to them, “Why do you snakes think you can escape the punishment God is about to send? Do things that show you have turned from your sins. Don’t think you will escape punishment, just because you’re descendants of Abraham. God can make descendants of Abraham out of these rocks! God’s ax is ready to cut down trees to their roots.  Any tree that doesn’t bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire!”

Then the people began asking him, “What are we supposed to do, then?” John answered, “If you have two shirts, give one to a person who has none.  If you have food, share it with people in need.”

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Some tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what are we to do?” “Stop collecting more taxes than you’re legally permitted to collect!” he told them.

Some soldiers also asked him, “What about us? What are we to do?” He said to them, “Don’t use your position of authority to take money from people by force! Be content with your pay.”

When people began to wonder if John the Baptizer was the Messiah, he said: “When I baptize you with water, it shows that you have turned away from sinning.  But the one coming after me will baptize you with fire, filling you with his Holy Spirit!

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“He is much greater than I am; I’m not good enough to carry his sandals. He will sort out all the grain, separating the wheat from the chaff. He will gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out!”

In many different ways John the Baptizer preached the good news about God to the people.  He urged them to stop resisting God.

John also reprimanded Herod Antipas, the ruler of Judea, because he had married Herodias, his brother’s wife, in outright rebellion against God’s plan for marriage. Herod had also done many other evil things, and eventually he did another evil thing: he locked up John in prison.

 

(22) Luke 3:1-20, Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:1-8