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Luke carefully sets the historical scene at the start of John the Baptist’s ministry. Pontius Pilate, Herod and his sons, and the high priests Annas and Caiaphas all failed to respond to God’s word and its messengers. None of them welcomed Jesus; some were implicated in his death. Yet it was precisely into this unwelcoming world that God sent John the Baptist to inaugurate an age of mercy and salvation. God saves his people, despite their perversity and hardness of heart. God has the last word, not man.
John’s mission was to prepare the way of the Lord by ‘preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ (Luke 3:3). John was a bridge who brought people to Jesus and his kingdom. He demanded from them both repentance and a renewal of their lives. He prepared their hearts to receive Jesus and his gospel.
The main emphases of John’s preaching – repentance, change and renewal — still remain the way to Jesus and his kingdom. His message invites us, as individuals, to take on the same spirit of repentance, change and renewal:
The message of repentance and renewal always speaks powerfully to the human heart, for it offers the possibility of forgiveness and a release from a burden, as well as the promise of healing, change and a new start. Into our world of sin, failure and broken promises, the Lord’s word still comes with conviction and power, as it did in the time of John the Baptist, to set us free and save us. The gospel of mercy invites us into a new time of grace.