Shall We Gather at The River?

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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John the Baptist went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. . . . John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Luke 3:3-9

John the Baptist stood waist high in the cool waters of the River Jordan, hollering, haranguing, dunking those that wanted their lives turned around. His clothes (camel hair loin cloth) were strange even for those days, and his locust and honey dip diet made more delicate palates quiver. Eyes burning red, this distant relative of a backcountry itinerant preacher leveled at the crowd and challenged them to get straight for the coming Messiah.

He was more than a thunderous pulpit-banger. Though his message cut to the bone, something about him was true and authentic, and thousands came to be dipped. His rare gift was to lay a person bare not in order to ridicule and scorn, but to reveal truth in love that prepared a person to encounter The Almighty.

The Gospel writer then sets us up dramatic tension. Two kinds of people gathered there on the river banks: everyday folk looking for God and religious leaders. The second group listened to John’s fiery sermons and frantically scribbled notes, hoping to catch him in blasphemy. They hated that John did not attend their seminaries, publish in their journals, or observe their protocol. Worse, his ministry numbers dwarfed theirs (ever an irritation for large-church preachers) and brought in the crowds without drop-down screens, LCD projectors, and wireless microphones. High on the river banks the preacher-types stood, arms crossed, watching their regular church members pass them to be baptized by John.

Ever wonder what that was like? Regular folk unknown for heroic acts bearing the scorn and sharp looks of their religious leaders? Trudging past the authorities and down the banks to be dunked by the man they sensed was touched by God?

Now there's a path: Take humility past the obvious to the Truth.

Shall we gather at The River?