When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.” Luke 3:7-8
John the Baptist was clearly a really interesting character. Matthew tells us that he wore clothes woven from coarse camel hair and existed on a diet of locusts and wild honey (see Matthew 3:4). There was nothing conventional about him. Like so many prophets before him, he spent time in the desert. He had a very simple and straightforward message: he called on everyone to repent and be baptised.
Baptism was a rite that was used when Gentiles – or non-Jews – wanted to convert to Judaism. It was a clear sign that they had decided to change their lives, and wished to live under the Jewish law.
What shocked John the Baptist’s Jewish audience was that he was asking them to repent and be baptised. They had assumed that, because they were of Jewish descent, and could claim to be Abraham’s children, they were safe. But John was insistent: everyone needed to repent and turn to God.
This wasn’t merely a religious act. People needed to demonstrate that they were willing to change their lifestyle. He told those who had two shirts to give one to the poor and, if they had food, to share it with the hungry.
With the coming of Jesus, the message of good news developed in many ways, but repentance continued to be at the heart of it. God cannot bless us in the way that he wants to until we recognise that we have done wrong and are willing to change. God never imposes himself on us, but only blesses us when we acknowledge that we need him and deliberately open our lives to him.
What do you need to repent of today?
Lord God, I admit that I have done wrong, and seek your forgiveness and the strength to live for you. Amen