In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Ceaser – when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod Tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip Tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias Tetrarch of Abilene – during the high praise of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the Desert. (Luke 3:1-2)

In those days, John the Baptist came into all the country around the Jordan and in the wilderness of Judaea, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, saying, “Change your hearts, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” John is the one who was written about in the book of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the Lord’s way, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. Whatever is crooked shall become straight, and the rough roads shall become smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” [Isaiah 40:3-5] John’s clothes were made of camel hair and a leather belt around his waist. His food was locus and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem, Judea, and the whole region of the Jordan. They confessed their sins and were baptized by John in the Jordan River. (Luke 3:3-6; Matthew 3:1-6; Mark 1:2-6)

Warning For “The Crowds”

John said to many of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the crowds coming out to be baptized him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath that is coming? Bear fruits, then, worthy of a change of heart. Do not say among yourself, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you that God has the power to raise children for Abraham out of these stones. Even now, the axe is laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be felled and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:2-10; Luke 3:7-9)

The crowds then questioned him, saying, “What should we do?” John replied to them, “Whoever has two tunics must share with one who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and asked him, “Teacher, what must we do?” John told them, “Collect nothing more than you are required to.” Men serving in the army also questioned him, saying, “And we too, what should we do?” And John told them, “Neither extort from nor falsely accuse anyone; and be content with your wages.” (Luke 3:9-14)

The people were waiting expectantly and were debating in their hearts concerning John, whether “He might perhaps be the Anointed.” John answered them with this message, “I indeed baptize you in water, but there comes one mightier than I, regarding whom I am not fit to loosen the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to purge his threshing floor, and he will gather his grain into the storehouse and burn away the chaff with inextinguishable fire.” Thus, then, with many and various exhortations, he proclaimed good tidings to the people. (Luke 3:15-18; Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:7-8)

Discussion Questions

  • John the Baptist preached a message of repentance and preparation for the coming of the Lord. What do you think it means to “prepare the Lord’s way” in our own lives, and how can we make our hearts ready for God?
  • John’s appearance and lifestyle were very different from those of the religious leaders of his time. Why do you think John chose to live simply in the wilderness, and what can we learn from his example about focusing on what truly matters in our spiritual journey?
  • John warned the Pharisees and Sadducees not to rely on their heritage as descendants of Abraham for their salvation. What does this teach us about the importance of personal faith and actions over-relying on our background or family traditions?
  • When people asked John what they should do to show their repentance, he gave them practical advice on how to live justly and generously. How can we apply John’s teachings to our daily lives, especially when it comes to sharing with others and acting with integrity?
  • John spoke about someone greater than himself who would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. How does this prophecy about Jesus help us understand the difference between John’s baptism and the baptism Jesus offers? What significance does the Holy Spirit have in our lives?
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