Based on Luke 3:1-14
Those of us who follow the liturgical calendar in worship are used to hearing this passage about John the Baptizer in Advent. Usually, two Sundays in Advent are dedicated to hearing about John and his call to “Prepare the way of the Lord…” It fits well in our time of preparation for Christmas and our annual celebration of Christ’s birth.
The reading also fits well into Lent, as John’s call to prepare is first and foremost a call to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John invites all the people in the region around the Jordan river to come, be baptized and repent. And then, he exhorts them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” It is a rather harsh reality that John says the tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. And yet, repentance necessarily leads to amendment of life — change, transformation, good fruit. To repent of our sins and then commit them again and again suggests a failure to truly repent and turn away from our disobedience. Thankfully, the Lord Jesus Christ came to forgive sinners, and we know we are in need of continual repentance and forgiveness. Still, we are called to bear good fruit, because we are forgiven. Living in God’s mercy and grace, we are to live lives of charity, generosity, honesty and justice. These, John says, befit repentance.
It is appropriate for us to spend a moment now, in the second full week of Lent, to consider again that this season is for reflection, which leads to repentance, which leads to forgiveness and renewal, through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Prayer: Lord God, give us ears to hear and heed the call of John, to repent and prepare. Amen.
Lenten response: Pray a prayer of confession and repentance today, for the sake of absolution.
This year’s devotional was prepared by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for ministry and ecumenism. To learn more about A Lenten Walk Through the Word, visit thenalc.org/lent.
Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
5:1 (4:14) But now slash yourself, daughter surrounded by soldiers!
We are besieged!
With a scepter they strike Israel’s ruler
on the side of his face.
2 (5:1) As for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
seemingly insignificant among the clans of Judah –
from you a king will emerge who will rule over Israel on my behalf,
one whose origins are in the distant past.
3So the Lord will hand the people of Israel over to their enemies
until the time when the woman in labor gives birth.
Then the rest of the king’s countrymen will return
to be reunited with the people of Israel.
4He will assume his post and shepherd the people by the Lord’s strength,
by the sovereign authority of the Lord his God.
They will live securely, for at that time he will be honored
even in the distant regions of the earth.
5He will give us peace.
Should the Assyrians try to invade our land
and attempt to set foot in our fortresses,
we will send against them seven shepherd-rulers,
make that eight commanders.
6They will rule the land of Assyria with the sword,
the land of Nimrod with a drawn sword.
Our king will rescue us from the Assyrians
should they attempt to invade our land
and try to set foot in our territory.(NET Bible)
65:1 For the music director; a psalm of David, a song.
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion.
Vows made to you are fulfilled.
2You hear prayers;
all people approach you.
3Our record of sins overwhelms me,
but you forgive our acts of rebellion.
4How blessed is the one whom you choose,
and allow to live in your palace courts.
May we be satisfied with the good things of your house –
your holy palace.
5You answer our prayers by performing awesome acts of deliverance,
O God, our savior.
All the ends of the earth trust in you,
as well as those living across the wide seas.
6You created the mountains by your power,
and demonstrated your strength.
7You calm the raging seas
and their roaring waves,
as well as the commotion made by the nations.
8Even those living in the most remote areas are awestruck by your acts;
you cause those living in the east and west to praise you.
9You visit the earth and give it rain;
you make it rich and fertile.
God’s streams are full of water;
you provide grain for them,
for you have prepared the earth in this way.
10You saturate its furrows,
and soak its plowed ground.
With rain showers you soften its soil,
and make its crops grow.
11You crown the year with your good blessings,
and you leave abundance in your wake.
12The pastures in the wilderness glisten with moisture,
and the hills are clothed with joy.
13The meadows are clothed with sheep,
and the valleys are covered with grain.
They shout joyfully, yes, they sing.(NET Bible)
3:1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, 2during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan River, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
4As it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
“The voice of one shouting in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley will be filled,
and every mountain and hill will be brought low,
and the crooked will be made straight,
and the rough ways will be made smooth,
6 and all humanity will see the salvation of God.’”
7So John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Therefore produce fruit that proves your repentance, and don’t begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 9Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10So the crowds were asking him, “What then should we do?” 11John answered them, “The person who has two tunics must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise.” 12Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He told them, “Collect no more than you are required to.” 14Then some soldiers also asked him, “And as for us – what should we do?” He told them, “Take money from no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your pay.”(NET Bible)
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016.
Let me mention at least a few testimonies from the year 1520. In June, Luther wrote to the same Dungersheim, “We wish to be judged by Scripture; you wish to judge it … If the Fathers are to be read without selection and judgment, the Scripture is taken away.” (17–18)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.