The Proclamation of John the Baptist
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,
and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis,
and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God
came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the
words of the prophet Isaiah,
'The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." '
Luke sets this story very firmly in history. He is telling us this is not mythical or legendary but a real
event. Often in the Bible dates are uncertain but we know that Tiberius reigned from September
AD 14 until March AD 37. Therefore the 15th year is AD 29. He also sets out the political scene.
The Romans are in charge and they allow minor 'royalty' to hold sway over smaller territories.
From our perspective we know that social and political scenes are fluid and change all the time.
That's how it was then; this is how it is now. But God is never changing. He sends his word to
accomplish whatever he desires, whenever he desires. Here God's word comes to John fulfilling
what God had said through Isaiah hundreds of years before. At this particular time in history,
God's word comes to John and sets him off on the path of the classic prophet, criticising the
current thinking and practices; criticising the way the world is now. Preaching repentance, which
means turning around, turning away from wrong thinking and harmful ways; turning from the ways
of the world, re-finding the right path; turning back to God.
I have a friend who loves the Lake District and cannot bear the thought of it being levelled but that
is to hear this with purely worldly ears. John speaks the word of God to people's hearts. We are to
prepare our hearts to receive him. To remove any obstacle that hinders. Anything that comes
between us and God. The words of John's prophecy echo down the years... Turn back!
Father God, you promise that if we draw near to you, you will draw near to us. Help us this advent
to recognise and remove any obstacles that stand in the way between us, whatever form they may take. Amen