—a wild man in the desert telling you to repent
—telling you the truth… that you are a sinner
—you wouldn’t think that would be a good message.
--You wouldn’t think it would be popular and attractive.
Can’t you hear the ad men now, “Oh, soften your image, John. Replace camel hair with Prada and pastel. Maybe tone down the sin talk
Or only talk about sins that other people commit
—Tell the coatless that people need to be generous,
the occupied about the danger of Roman taxation,
and the extorted that soldiers are sinners.
Or even, you know, cut out this whole sin talk in total.”
To which John replies by doubling down.
He turns to the newly baptized, who he—I want to be clear here, he was the one who warned them… warned to flee the wrath of God, He question “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” is rhetorical,
and he says, “You brood of vipers!”
your nation of origin,
isn’t your value
—isn’t your fruitfulness.
God created humans from the humus—earthlings from the earth.
God can shake every grave until the stones fly away and the dead rise
—God can produce women and men much more faithful than you.
Be fruitful or be cut down.
This baptism thing wasn’t a one and done.
Look alive or you might as well be dead.”
“It’s like,” he continues, “you heard the phrase ‘Bear fruits worthy of repentance’ and turned it on its head… as thought that meant: sin a whole lot so when you repent you have a whole catalogue of stuff to repent of…
but you’ve already repented!
You’ve somehow grabbed at the root of the phrase and assumed the root was the branches
—you’ve dug yourself into the root system, the term, repentance, instead of looking up at its fruits dangling there so sweet.
You’ve somehow managed to dig yourself into a grave, even though I called on you to climb out of it!
You’ve repented, that’s the seed that you’ve planted…
I want to know what kind of bush you’ve produced,
what kind of plant you’ve got?
Is it an actual repentance-plant or some sort of sickly self-sanctified scrubland shrub?
If that’s all you got, its taking up space
—it’s a waste of space
—it ought to be burnt so actual repentance will have space to flourish!
“What does fruitfulness, a turned around life preparing for God’s coming, look like?” the crowd asks.
“You that have, share with those who do not have.”
Someone in the crowd hurrumphs and responds, “That’s all well and good—but we’re living in a complex multi-faceted world where diverse cultures and dominant empires collide to make all sharing hard.”
“For example,” another man in the crowd continues, “This is an occupied country, but I collaborate with Rome to make ends meat, I collect taxes for the enemy.”
“That way of doing things is rigged, unrig it,” John replies.
A roman soldier studies him and says, “What about us occupiers ourselves?”
“Did I stutter?” John replies, “The way you are occupying is rigged… unrig it.”
Share and don’t rig the system—it’s so simple it’s in brilliant.
Simple, but how often do you let your life get in the way of it?
How often do you make excuses for not showing forth the fruits of repentance?
How often do you say, “They probably don’t really need a coat”... or maybe you give them the worst coat you own and then complain that they are ungrateful!
How often do you say, “I’m part of a very unjust and rigged system, but such a little part, that it doesn’t matter… blame the game not the player.”
How often do you say, “This world can be brutal, but that’s just the world,” and shrug your shoulders and move on?
Share and don’t rig the system… that’s what a repentant life looks like.
There with John, despite, or maybe because of, his rough calls to repentance and fruitfulness, baptism after baptism occurred, and you began to babble asking, “who is this John fellow?”
“Is he the one? Will he bring about salvation? Is he King of the Jews? Is he Lord of the World?”
“No,” John replies to us
—“I can tell you about a fruitful life,
but he’ll burn you and turn you into mulch so you can be fruitful
—purifying you with fire and spirit.”