Lukeby Mike Raiter
As Jesus preaches throughout Luke’s gospel, He will repeatedly call His disciples to follow Him down a road both hard and costly. This challenge to commit to a radical lifestyle begins with the preaching of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist is one of the most important people in history. Indeed, Jesus will later say that, of all those born of women, no one is greater than John (Luke 7:28). Abraham, Moses, King David, and Elijah—John is greater than them all because he pointed most clearly to the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, especially in Isaiah 40 (see Luke 3:4–6). Luke tells us that “the word of God came to John” (v. 2). This is very important. After 400 years of virtual silence, God is speaking to His people again (Hebrews 1:1–2).
John’s message is essentially the same as the prophets of old: turn your lives around, because our God and our Saviour is coming. Israel’s wait was over, and so John prepares the people to meet their Messiah. However, repentance is more than just a change of attitude. It must be expressed through action. The people are to greet their coming King with transformed lives. In particular, they are to show kindness to those in need (v. 11), treat people fairly (vv. 12–13), and not abuse positions of power for personal gain (v. 14). John is not telling his listeners what they must do to be saved; he is reminding the nation—whom God has chosen and delivered from bondage—to live in response to their salvation.
John was a fiery preacher, warning people of the coming judgment. As he said, a fruitless tree is of no value to anyone (v. 9). While we live in the era of grace, we too must speak to both believer and unbeliever of the coming wrath. We cannot claim to love people and yet not warn them about God’s impending judgment.
God calls us all to give sacrificially to those in need. Throughout the gospel, both John and Jesus bring this challenging word. We who have understood and received God’s grace must respond with lives that bear the fruit of justice, mercy, and generosity.
Read Isaiah 40:1–5. When Isaiah speaks of the Lord, to whom is he referring? When John quotes this passage, to whom is he referring? What is the significance of this?
If John the Baptist were to visit your city today, what practical challenges do you think he would present to its people?