7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
John the Baptist has preached to the crowds and exhorted them to repent from their sins, return to God, and be baptised to show their allegiance to God and God’s ways. A large and diverse group have responded and come for baptism but John calls them out. It’s not enough to be baptised he says you must repent from your sins and change your ways. He reminds them of God’s teachings and laws that they would have known well from their learning of the scriptures. Scriptures like Micah 6:8b “… do Justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” To care for the poor, help the hungry, do not exploit people, and live justly. He then clearly points out what each can do. Share your clothing, provide food to others, don’t take more from others than is necessary, and live as if God is with you in your midst. Finally, give thanks and live gratefully.
These teachings from the Old Testament were fulfilled and exemplified in Jesus. In the New Testament, we see Jesus caring for the vulnerable and instructing people to care for one another. Love God and love people. Paul encouraged the early church to follow Jesus in living this way – care for the sick, the orphans, and the poor. For example James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” Share with one another and care for your brother and sister in Christ. We too are called to follow Jesus and his ways. This is the way of peace, love, and goodness. It is the way of Shalom and the way to human flourishing for us and for those around us. It is the outworking (the revealing of) our salvation – not the way we get saved but the way we live because we have experienced God’s saving grace.
Jesus, help us to walk in your ways. May we love God and one another. May we be generous, loving, and kind because you have shown us this way! Amen
Written by Ps. Zoe Stewart