In the Lectionary

January 9, Baptism C (Luke 3:15–17, 21–22)

When we resist the powers that oppress this world, we are baptized through fire.

John’s baptism with water is a bold exhortation for people to repent publicly and join a covenantal community with a particular way of life. For John, leading people to repentance is crucial because he is preparing the way to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. That is why he is assertive, even aggressive—and his tone does not stop the crowds from following him and responding to his extravagant and passionate ways.

John understands the urgency of his mission, and he also understands his place in God’s redeeming plan. Therefore, when the people question whether he is the Messiah, right away he makes it clear that he is not. Why do they want to know this? What are they expecting? What are they searching for? Perhaps, amid the oppression and marginalization that the Israelites are experiencing, they just hunger for a sense of belonging.

John is offering this to them—a particular community and way of life. John’s audience is expecting a Messiah, but what they do not know yet is that they are becoming the messianic community—the body of Christ on earth. John knows well that the one coming after him is more powerful. Not only that, but this powerful one is coming to gather the wheat and burn the chaff.