Finally, we get to John—John who was predicted in Malachi, John who was just born in Luke 1, finally arrives in Luke 3. This is the guy! This is who we’ve been waiting for! What novel idea or message can we expect?
Steve Jobs, the founder and deceased former CEO of Apple technology company, was a master at managing expectations. He would paint a picture of a situation so difficult that it would be impossible to fix—and then Apple would come out with a product that solved the problem. Or they would take away abilities from a newer model of their technology, claiming it’s not a defect—it’s a feature! You want simplicity, right? Jobs’s charisma and ability to generate product by sheer mental force both managed expectations and built anticipation for the secrecy-wrapped novel products, for better or worse.
John the Baptist may have had serious expectations for his life given his father’s prophecy. But those expectations may not have been met. John wore strange clothes and ate strange foods, and he had only one sales line: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” Even that line came from Isaiah.
Steve Jobs may have been a master at managing individual expectations, but we see that John the Baptist is the master at overwhelming the expectations for who Jesus is to be. Jesus is expected not simply to arrive but to set the world aright, to remove the inequalities, and to humble the self-exalted. We’ve now spent two millennia understanding that those massive expectations are met only when they are made real in every community’s life together across the globe.
Holy One, help us name our expectations for this day, and guide us to wisdom on how to align them with your possibilities. Give us courage to go into the wilderness. Amen.
The prophet Malachi speaks of a future day when God’s messenger will come to prepare the way for the Lord. The Lord will then purify the people and restore proper worship of God. Christians believe that John the Baptizer was this messenger, preparing the way for Christ. In Luke 1, the Holy Spirit fills Zechariah, John’s father, who proclaims that the fulfillment of God’s promises to their descendants has begun. Luke continues the story of John in chapter 3, describing John’s ministry of calling people to repentance. They need to prepare the way of the Lord in their own hearts, thus fulfilling Malachi’s prophecy. Paul in Philippians focuses not on the advent of Christ but on the ongoing power of Christ’s presence to make us blameless and righteous in God’s sight.
• Read Malachi 3:1-4. How have you experienced the refiner’s fire? What was your experience?
• Read Luke 1:68-79. At home and work, are you usually the first touch, the second touch, or the third touch? How so?
• Read Philippians 1:3-11. How could you make expressing your gratitude to others a habit?
• Read Luke 3:1-6. How are you preparing the way of the Lord? What crooked paths are you helping to make straight?
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