3rd Sunday of Advent
Reading I: Zep 3:14-18
II: Phil 4:4-7
10 And the multitudes asked him, "What then shall we do?"
11 And he answered them, "He who has two coats, let him share with him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?"
13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than is appointed you."
14 Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Rob no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."
15 As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ,
16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
18 So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.
When John the Baptizer first appeared, he did so proclaiming "a baptism of repentance" (3:3). When he speaks, he demands "good fruits as evidence of repentance" (3:8). Here various groups approach Jesus demanding to know precisely what "good fruits" they are to bear.
It was a common cultural belief in those days that if someone has more of something, someone else automatically has less. Also in this culture to have more than one need is greed.
In the Roman Empire a chief collector was usually a native who bid for the right to collect tolls but had to pay the assessment to Rome immediately upon winning the bid. It was then his task to recoup this sum and make a profit if possible.
The soldiers are best understood as Judean men enlisted in the service of Herod Antipas. These soldiers were despised because they worked for Rome's puppet king and strove to enforce the will of Rome, the occupying power.
"Loosen the thongs" This task was reserved to servants, never performed by children of the household. A rabbi's disciples were forbidden to untie his sandals and so John disclaims the role of disciple. He is, simply, a servant and less than a servant.
One Main Point
It is not the religious leaders who are willing to repent, but the ordinary people and those who are on the fringes of Jewish society: toll collectors, soldiers. These are the same people who respond positively to Jesus' teachings.
Are greed, selfishness and abuse of power and position still my weaknesses?
Who is the modern voice crying in the wilderness for me at this time? Am I invited to be this voice?
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A synthesis by the Vietnamese Christian Life (Dong Hanh) Community