I happen to be on vacation where it was 86 degrees today, but I wanted to submit a translation for the week. I’ve dealt with the kingdom of heaven before in a full length book and in several blogs, so you may remember that the KOH refers to life where everything is living together in harmony on this planet. I’ve also blogged a little about repentance not being sorry for doing something wrong, but instead, changing your mind or changing the way you think. And remember, I’ve taken all the fourth century religion out of it.
1 And in those days John the Baptist came publicly proclaiming in the wilderness of Judea, 2 saying, “Change the way you think, for the development of harmony is within your reach!” 3 For this is the one who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said:
“The voice of one shouting in the wilderness: Prepare a way of thinking1 of the Lord; Bring forth his upright ways.’”
4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, openly confessing their failures to act with love.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Children of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming vengeance? 8 Produce fruits now appropriate to an amended life, 9 and do not presume to say amongst yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Already the ax is lying at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear mature fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.2
11 Indeed, I wash you with water for the purpose of amending your life, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will immerse you in a spirit of reverence and purity, indeed a purifying fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor, and gather up his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the outer husks with fire that will consume it completely.”
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1 ὁδός, a proceeding (cf. the Germ. Wandel); denotes a course of conduct, a way (i. e. manner) of thinking, feeling, deciding
2 fire, purifying fire – a reference to the consequences of sin that one is supposed to learn from.
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The reference to fire and burning the husks is not about bad people getting sent to hell for eternity and good people going to heaven. You have to remember that each grain of wheat is made up of an outer shell and an inner shell. They belong to the same entity, not two separate entities. John is comparing the components of the grain to one person, not two different people. Every person is made up of good parts (good fruit/wheat) and husks (outer actions that are not worth anything). The fire of consequences is designed to eliminate our worthless actions.
The point of John the Baptist is this: Stop thinking God wants you to follow rules and if you don’t, you’ll have to face poisonous snakes, getting swallowed in earthquakes, or drowned in floods. God wants you to treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated by others. Do what is good and upright, just like a God who is good has always done.
Prepare the way of the Lord doesn’t necessarily mean prepare the way of Jesus. Nobody at that point in time ever thought of the “Lord” as the Messiah – if so, the writer might have written the “Christ” instead of the Lord.
“This is the one” – did this refer to John or to Jesus? Jesus wasn’t even in the picture yet. Was John referring to himself when he quoted Isaiah as the one who would try to get people to change the way they think and act? John, like all the other prophets, had the law to encourage people to follow the upright ways of the Lord. Martin Luther compared the law to water in the story of Jesus turning water into wine. John immersed people in the law. Someone else would follow John with another kind of approach…a more effective approach than the law. Respect for each other. Love for each other.
Did Jesus “baptize” anyone with the Holy Spirit and with fire? Literally? Show me where that ever happens in the New Testament. What does that mean? Were you baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire when water was sprinkled on you? Did it change the way you were thinking or living? Can infants change like that?
If Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire, has that happened to you? Is this to be interpreted literally? If it’s not literal, then what does it mean? I wish I could give you better answers than I’ve been given. Sometimes I have more questions than answers.
Jesus came and showed us the example of how God wants us to live…with compassion that doesn’t depend on rules. Or rituals. Does religion save you? I think compassion, respect, and love are what bring you a better life and builds the kingdom of heaven on earth. Sometimes religion helps you to do that. Sometimes it just makes you feel bad when you break the law.