In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”
John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducee’s coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax 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.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”Matthew 3: 1 – 12
Past: I have always liked John the Baptist. He’s pretty punk rock in how he is going after the Pharisees and Sadducee’s. They only cared about the things surrounding the law, which is why it was so hard for them to hear the message John was preaching about Jesus. They acted like they did all the right things and fit it, but missed the messiah they had been anticipating their entire lives. It makes me think about how Americans will spend millions of dollars on presents and decorations this Christmas season and ignore the reason why we celebrate.
Present: Arguing about what the kingdom of heaven is, is a favorite past time within some areas of evangelical Christianity. The truth is, we just don’t know what that will look like, or even at times, what it is. Whether it is the remaking of heaven and earth, the time in-between that happens, or the everyday we have no clue. We can only speculate and in acting it out, make the world a better and more loving place for a period of time. However, what we do know about it at this point in the text is, it is on it’s way. There is an oncoming hope that it will arrive, and with that the Messiah as well.
A friend and former co-worker of mine, who lives in Toledo has a monthly dinner. The doors are open to literally anyone who decides to come, whether they know anyone there or not. I’ve had the honor to attend a few of these a few years ago when I still lived in Toledo. The food flows freely, the conversations have no limits, and toward the end of the evening everyone is treated to original songs, poetry, and art. The out flowing of love from Steve, and those that help him organize and put on these dinners, is nothing short than the kingdom of heaven breaking through. While we may not live in it fully, these moments come to mind when I think of this passage. Especially in light of the second week of advent.
During this week, may you not only experience, but exude the kind of love that will break the kingdom of heaven through, as we await it’s arrival, and the arrival of the Christ child.