Friday, April 7, 2017

37 - The Locust Eating Preacher


The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." John came baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And all the land of Judea, and those of Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a leather girdle about his loin. And he ate locusts and wild honey. And he proclaimed, saying, There is One coming after me who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down to loosen. I indeed have baptized you in water, but He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Mk. 1:3-8

Here is a brief outline of the story of John the baptist:  

After Matthew had explained that Joseph and his family had fled to Egypt and later returned to the hill country of Judea, he moves on to the topic of the ministry of John the Baptist.  In this part of the story, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are very similar.  

Mark introduces his biography with this story and he is much more concise than either of the other two. 

The Setting 

In similar words, all three Gospel writers tell us that the coming of John the Baptist was foretold in the Old Testament: it is written in the book of the Words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight."Luke 3:4 

That prophecy was fulfilled and Matthew wrote, In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea. Mat 3:1-2

Matthew and Mark describe his austere lifestyle as to food and dress. And the same John had his clothing of camel's hair and a leather girdle about his loins. And his food was locusts and wild honey. Mat 3:4. There are a variety of locusts, but about locusts Smiths Bible dictionary states, The common brown locust is about three inches in length, and the general form is that of a grasshopper. ... Locusts have been used as food from the earliest times. ... some dried their locusts in the sun and ate them with milk. The more common method, however, was to pull off the legs and wings and roast them in an iron dish. Then they were  thrown into a bag, and eaten like parched corn, each one taking a handful, when he chose."

Only Matthew and Mark tell us who his audience was; Then Jerusalem and all Judea went out to him, and all the region round about Jordan. Mat 3:5

John's message and method: 

1. After the people confessed their sins he baptized them. And they were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. Mat 3:6.

2. who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Mat 3:7, Luke 3:7. It is appointed to men once to die, but after this the judgment. Heb. 9:27

3. Therefore bring forth fruits worthy of repentance. Luke 3:8.  Live a life that matches the confession of sin you just made.  Empty words have no meaning. 

4. do not think to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. Mat 3:9.  Don't claim your religious background as a passport to heaven.  It is your faith and your lifestyle that will decide where you will spend eternity, not the lifestyle of your forebears or your church's teachings.

5. And now also, the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bring forth good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. Mat 3:10.  What makes you think that you have forever to repent and ask Jehovah for forgiveness. Remember this: now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Luke 3:9
The hearers are all ears and they ask, You tell us to live a new lifestyle, but what exactly does that look like?  The Baptist answers:
    He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. And he who has food, let him do likewise. Luke 3:11
About Christ, John said, whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor.  In Christ's day after all the old grain had been sold or eaten the owner of the granary would clean the leftover chaff out the granary by wafting it out with a fan.  Not an electric fan. After that was done he would gather the wheat into His storehouse.

But He will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire; after the wheat is safe in the granary the chaff is disposed of by burning.  Luke 3:17.   This phrase by John has often been used to mean that Christ will send all non-born again people to "hell".

Notice, though, that this phrase says nothing about people and it probably refers to the evil deeds (the chaff) done by a person as opposed to the good deeds which are safe in the granary to be reckoned with on the day of judgment.

Herod's involvement

But Herod the tetrarch (governor of a Roman province) was (reproved by him (John the Baptist) on account of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife), (Herod had an adulterous affair with his brother's wife and John said to him, It is not lawful for you to have her. Mat 14:4) and for all the evils which Herod had done added still this above all, that he even shut John up in prison. Luke 3:19-20.

At this point, we must skip to Matthew 14, to flesh out this story.

And when he (Herod) desired to put him (John) to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him as a prophet. Mat 14:5
                                                    But when Herod's birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod. So he promised with an oath to give her whatever she would ask. 

And she, being instructed before by her mother, said, Give me John the Baptist's head here on a platter. 

And the king was sorry. But for the oath's sake, and those reclining with him, he commanded it to be given. And he sent and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl. And she brought it to her mother. 

And his disciples came and took up the body and buried it, and went and told Jesus. Mat 14:6-12.  Christ's second cousin had just been killed by the king.  Christ knew that His message was very similar to that of John.  I wonder how this turn of events made Christ feel.
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