The Preaching of John the Baptist (Lk 3:1-20)

The Preaching of John the Baptist.*

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar,* when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea,a and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,

2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas,* the word of God came to Johnb the son of Zechariah in the desert.

3* He went throughout [the] whole region of the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,c

4* as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:d “A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,e make straight his paths.

5 Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth,

6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”f

7 He said to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?g

8 Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.h

9 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”i

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

11 He said to them in reply, “Whoever has two tunics should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”j

13 He answered them, “Stop collecting more than what is prescribed.”

14 Soldiers also asked him, “And what is it that we should do?” He told them, “Do not practice extortion, do not falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.”

15k  Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Messiah.

16*  John answered them all, saying,l “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.

17 His winnowing fan* is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”m

18 Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

19* Now Herod the tetrarch,n who had been censured by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil deeds Herod had committed,

20 added still another to these by [also] putting John in prison.


In verse 7 John the Baptist begins his sermon “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  Can you imagine a priest beginning his homily on Sunday that way?  Would anyone listen to another word?

In verse 10, we read from the people “What should we do?”

In Verse 12, the Tax collectors asked “What should we do?”

In Verse 14 the soldiers asked “What should we do?

Do we see something familiar?  You bet!  Three times we hear “what should we do”.  The “crowds” represent the average Jew.  The Tax Collectors represent apostate, debased men – men who had betrayed their nation and their people in the worst way.  The soldiers, who are non-Jews represent everyone who isn’t a Jew.  Together these three “types” represent all of mankind.

Furthermore, their question “what should we do?” shouldn’t be taken as if they’re asking what box they can check.  They want to completely amend their lives; they seek true conversion of heart and they’re earnestly asking John the Baptist how they need to proceed.

So our pattern of three appeals for heart-felt conversion from the three “types” of peoples completes the prophetic message that we read in verse 6.  That is, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

Our prayerful response could also be “what should we do?”


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

One Comment

  1. Ed August 19, 2016 Reply

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