Gospel Reflections (Matthew 3:1-12)
‘Repentance’ seems an unattractive word. It conjures up images of morose brooding over past sins and failures, a negative idea. This is not what John the Baptist proclaimed. His message was wholly positive. In Hebrew and Greek the concept of ‘repentance’ is about a change of behaviour, a change of direction. John is calling on his listeners to change their ways, to change their scale of values, their whole direction of life. To reinforce his message he wears the clothes worn by Elijah, the prophet whom Jewish tradition taught was to return to announce the final coming of the Lord. John proclaims his message in the desert, that apocalyptic landscape of the arid and bare Jordan Valley, below sea-level, where merchants would be crossing the Jordan on the road to the East. So John makes a deliberate claim to be this final prophet and to be preparing a way for the Lord. We see Jesus as the Messiah, the loving Saviour, but John was not at this point proclaiming this Jesus. He was proclaiming the threatening and imminent arrival of the sovereignty of God, when rotten trees would be cut down and evil swept away to be burnt in unquenchable fire. If we are to be open to the arrival of the Kingship of God, we may need to look to our own scale of values. Is my scale of values compatible with those of the Kingship of God? How far do they coincide?
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