This is a serialised version of a sermon preached as John the Baptist. Perhaps consider it a kind of ‘true confessions’ of that first eye-witness of the Lord.
Our prophets weren’t all doom and gloom of course. They also told us that this wasn’t going to be the end of the story. God, they said us, is going to do something about it. Something new. Something Big. With a capital B.
That’s what I’m doing out here at the fringe of the promised land — back where it all began, where God was with us and went before us and gave us victory and brought us into the good land like he promised. I’m here waiting for God to do it all again. Just like the prophets foretold. Gloriously. Mercifully. Returning. And setting things straight. Purging the land of all its moral compromise. Its false religion. Its petty jealousies and power struggles. Cleaning up the mess and establishing his kingdom. In perfect justice and righteousness.
That’s what I’m waiting for. What I’m hoping for. And that’s why I want people to repent. To get back to their roots. To make a fresh start as God’s people, ready to be swept up in the unstoppable tide of his victory and cleansing judgement — instead of being swept away by it!
It’s like what I told the ‘heavies’ who came out from Jerusalem. I’m just doing what the prophets said, just trying to get things ready — do a little house-cleaning. Before the Messiah shows and God arrives.
It’s not that they don’t expect the Messiah to come, mind you. They’re mad for it. Apparently some of their rabbis are talking about setting up a chair for Elijah out the front of the synagogue and presenting every boy who gets circumcised to it — hoping that Elijah himself will appear out of thin air and point out the kid that’s the Messiah.
I get where they’re coming from (I guess). They’ve heard the prophets talk about Elijah making another appearance before God returns. But really? Elijah himself! Sure he was taken away bodily by God — and so I know some people think he didn’t die… But, it’s prophecy people! They’re talking about the future in terms that make sense in the present. When they speak about a new exodus — no-one thinks we’re actually going to go back into Egypt and be delivered from there again. What God’s got in store is much bigger than that!
No. The reason I’m wearing this camel’s hair shirt and eating this diet of desperation — locusts and wild honey. It’s not because I think of myself as a trend-setter. And it’s not because I think I’m Elijah reincarnate or something. Not at all! I’m not Elijah. And I’m not ‘the Prophet’ that Moses talked about who would go one better than him — him who had seen God face to face! And I’m definitely not the Messiah.
I’m just the sign-post. The usher. They guy with the job of preparing the people, showing them to their seats before the main event so they’re ready for the Messiah when he finally arrives. And, I tell you, it’s going to be glorious! His triumphant arrival. Bringing God’s judgement. Setting things straight. Baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Doing for real what I’m only doing symbolically. Purifying. Burning off all the dross…