1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.
For Martin Luther and his followers in the 16th century, John the Baptist was the paradigmatic evangelical preacher. He preached law, calling for repentance, and gospel, pointing to Christ. They did not admire or praise John because of his odd lifestyle, unusual dress, or distinctive culinary choices. No, what was most important about John was his message. He did not advocate imitation of his unusual lifestyle; he preached the coming Christ. John knew that he was not worthy even to untie the thong of Christ’s sandals—and yet he also knew that his calling was to be the messenger, sent to preach Christ and thereby prepare the way. Both the confidence and humility of John might impress us—but in the end he points to Christ, and invites us to as well.
Lord, help us to hear clearly both your word of judgment and your word of forgiveness. Help us to live in humility and hope. Amen.