Prepare the Way of the Lord with Concrete

He comes walking down the footpath, each footstep erased in the sand by a slight breeze. Two pre-adolescent girls giggle softly as the eccentric gentleman passes by, not quite a stranger but not amiable enough to be accepted into this social world. He does not seem to take notice of the girls. Like a car accident on the highway people gathered just to look at his long disheveled beard. The rumors were that he had gone into a desolate tract of the wilderness and come out an altered man, a man with a delegation and a duty. The religious elite had already fated his messages saying he was a zealot stirring up turmoil and trouble. But we all know how the common peasants are; any spectacle creates bottlenecks, a strain on any ancient highway system. The result was a man who came back from the desert empowered. People came to the Jordan to hear him speak and baptize. Walking down the path he comes. Long hair. Not the best dressed. Probably not the most popular kid in school.

Here we find the man we have read about so often since we were little. But as we take a moment to reflect on what life must have been like for him we realize that he was a real man. He was not just a person in a Sunday school story, he really walked. John the Baptist simply spoke the words of the Lord in the tradition of the prophets: When the Lord comes there will be justice. There is no difference between the rich and the poor for every mountain shall be made low and every valley filled in. All mankind is going to find the answer they have been looking for. Read the words of Isaiah from whom he quotes:

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her had service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hands double for all her sins. A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind together shall see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”[1]

John the Baptist delivered his messages just like Isaiah: imminently. His orations called for an incarnation that was already beginning. John’s ministry was successful because he made the people “wait expectantly…wondering in their hearts.”[2] For John the Baptist, God is not coming in a few years; his incarnation is in church, in the world, and is taking form before our very eyes. John’s message was always imminent: Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves we have Abraham as our father.[3] We must produce fruit and we cannot simply depend on tradition to create that fruit. The fruit we create must be from our own hands, not the hands of our fathers.

When John the Baptist preached in Luke there were three groups of people that approached him.[4] The first group was simply the crowd. We can all put ourselves there; we have all been part of a crowd. When they ask what they should do, John gives them a concrete answer: they should share with the poor. When the second group, the tax collectors, asks what they should do John again gives a concrete answer: Don’t collect more than you are required to. When soldiers ask what they should do John again gives a concrete answer: Do not extort and be content. When people come to Jesus, when people come to Christianity, what should our answer be when they ask what Christianity consists of? Christianity consists of concretely doing good in the world around us. Anything less than this is not Christianity as the Bible seems to put forth.[5]

[1] Isaiah 40:1-5

[2] Luke 3:15

[3] Luke 3:8

[4] See Luke 3:10-14

[5] Luke 3:10-14


One thought on “Prepare the Way of the Lord with Concrete

  1. Dan Dan,
    Good stuff bro… pretty strong. Many people would be afraid to close the way you did. Many people are o afraid of a “works based” faith that they take the works out all together. You recapture a very central aspect of following Christ.

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