Tuesday, December 23, 2008

John the Baptist Proclaims God's Message

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending December 28, 2008


Scripture Text: Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV)

Background: Luke 3:1-20

Purpose: To consider how we can proclaim by our actions our commitment to God.

Luke 3:7-18
(7)John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8)Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. (9)Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’
(10) And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ (11)In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ (12)Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ (13)He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ (14)Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’(15) As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,(16)John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (17)His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ (18) So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

This is our second look at John the Baptist. We also visited John in our first study of the year, back in September. At that time the Gospel of Mark was our source. Today we look at this unique character from Luke's gospel.

Since the finding of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” left by the Essenes, Bible scholars have been debating whether John the Baptist was a follower of the Essenes. The Essenes were a group that now claims such followers as John the Baptist, Jesus, Mary, and Elizabeth and Zechariah as well as many of the disciples. They rebelled against the organization or Temple structure that existed in Jerusalem. They felt it had been corrupted during the reign of the Maccabees, when the priesthood was sold to the highest bidder and was no longer necessarily of the linage of Aaron. They were apocalyptic, meaning that they expected God to act soon to destroy evil. They had a commune near the Dead Sea. They were very scholarly, and well versed in many types of religions, but they also believed in being separated from a corrupt world.

John was not your typical Evangelist, he was not there to attract a crowd, he was there to preach repentance, he did not care what your station in life was, he preached repentance. He told his audience that being a son of Abraham meant nothing. He preached, as Jesus did, about sharing with those that were without. If you are a Tax Collector that is okay but do not collect more than you were suppose to. If you were a soldier that is okay but do not extort or use your authority to falsely accuse and quit complaining about your wages.

I am going to spend some time talking about the “threshing floor” found in verse 17. I find this reference very interesting. There are many references to the “threshing floor or threshingfloor as it is referred to in the King James Old Testament.

The first mention is when Joseph takes his father Jacob/Israel home for burial in Genesis 50:10-11. Another reference is when Gideon puts out the fleece in Judges 6:37. One of the more interesting is found in the Book of Ruth where Ruth's mother-in law convinces her to go to the threshing floor where Boaz is working late and he wakes up with Ruth at his feet (Ruth 3:2-14) and out of this union came Obed, father of Jesse, father of David.

Another interesting event takes place in 2nd Samuel 24:16-24.and I Chronicles 21:15-28.(same story) David had disobeyed God and God was ready to destroy Jerusalem, but God repented and David purchased the “threshing floor of Araunah or Ornan the Jebusite” and erected an altar. The interesting thing is, that this is exactly where Solomon chooses to build the Temple (see 2nd Chronicles 3:1). Now knowing all of this is the reference to the “threshing floor” is really a knock at the organized Jewish leaders that ran the rebuilt temple, in Jerusalem. Is John the Baptist saying God is going to clean out His “threshing floor,” meaning the Temple? We know Jesus ran the money changers out of the Temple, but is John saying your time has come and gone, you will now be judged. Truly for us Gentiles, it was “good news” God's promise to Abraham was extended to all, God's grace that was extended to David at the “threshing floor of Ornan” was extended to each of us. How will our actions proclaim our commitment?

1 comment:

Kenneth said...

Burgess: Thank you for teaching us, even when we are not meeting, We look forward to the Thursday meeting starting again.

"In Christ"
Ken Howell