10 The people asked [John], “What are we to do, then?”
11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must give one to the man who has none, and whoever has food must share it.”
12 Some tax collectors came to be baptised, and they asked him, “Teacher,
what are we to do?”
13 “Don’t collect more than is legal,” he told them.
14 Some soldiers also asked him, “What about us? What are we to do?” He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or accuse anyone falsely. Be content with your pay.”
15 People’s hopes began to rise, and they began to wonder whether John perhaps might be the Messiah.
16 So John said to all of them, “I baptise you with water, but someone is coming who is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to untie his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
17 He has his winnowing shovel with him, to thresh out all the grain and gather the wheat into his barn; but he will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out.”
18 In many different ways John preached the Good News to the people and urged them to change their ways.
Other readings: Zephaniah 3:14-18; Isaiah 12:2-6; Philippians 4:4-7
Week by week Luke leads us through John’s ministry. Now the final tragic conclusion in Herod’s prison looms.
But first Luke reveals John’s ministry to the different people who sought peace of mind and a way forward. He gave direct instructions. The hated tax collectors, for example, are told not to abuse their power.
In John’s day, provided the Roman authorities received their taxes, they turned a blind eye if the tax collectors took more for themselves. So tax collectors could effectively rob people and put the surplus cash in their own pockets. Many grew very rich doing so.
By contrast, soldiers were poorly paid. They used force to obtain things like extra food and money from people. Neither situation was right. John preached a moral life and those who listened to him and accepted his teaching changed their lives.
People began to hope that John might be the long-expected Messiah. John shattered their dream immediately by saying, “someone is coming who is much greater than I am”.
John described his mission as a preparation for the coming Messiah.
John also met Herod Antipas, who was keen to hear his teaching. Herod Antipas, one of Herod the Great’s sons, had been appointed leader of the northern area of Galilee by the Romans. John, never one to hold back, was very direct in criticising Herod Antipas’s immoral lifestyle. Sadly, John’s directness led to his arrest and imprisonment by Herod.
Consider how the principles in John’s teaching in verses 8 and 11-14 are relevant to us today. What stands out for you?
Some people have more than they really need; others, not enough. How do you relate to verse 11? Verse 17 could strike terror in your heart until you remember Jesus is the Good News (the forgiveness of sins). What does the Good News mean for you and how do you balance it with verse 17?
Ask the Holy Spirit to use today’s Gospel reading to reveal if there is anything you need to do or change. Read Isaiah 12:2-6 and Zephaniah 3:14-18, and make these great hymns of praise personal to you.
Praise God for the wonderful things he has done. Praise him for sending Jesus. Thank him for revealing his love for you and for the countless times he has helped you. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you tell others just how wonderful God is.
Contemplate Jesus as Saviour and think of his redeeming grace opening the door to salvation for everyone who will accept him.
Consider Paul’s wise advice in Philippians 4:4-7. Remember you can give God all your cares and worries in prayer; his peace will fill and protect your heart and mind.
Lectio divina is an ancient tradition of reading and engaging with God’s Word. These outlines for the Sunday Gospel readings are published by the Bible Society. Download at Biblesociety.org.uk/lectio. © 2008 United Bible Societies. Bible text Good News Translation, second edition