The Message of John

Two fellows opened a butcher shop and prospered. Then an evangelist came to town, and one of the butchers was saved. He tried to persuade his partner to accept salvation also, but to no avail. “Why won’t you, Charlie?” asked the born-again fellow. “Listen, Lester … More


This passage gives us precise historical information about the secular leaders of that day and specifically brings before us the baptism of John the Baptist and his message of repentance (vv. 1-6). Luke tells us exactly when John began his ministry. Isaiah wrote about John in Isaiah 40:3-5. It was in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberias Caesar  (v.1). Tiberias was the step-son of Augustus Caesar and secular history portrays him as a very evil man. Luke then goes on to introduce us to both political and religious leaders who would later determine the death of Jesus Christ. John says that repentance is not genuine unless it is morally productive. He challenged the people to bring forth fruit as an indication of their belief (vv. 7-9). He was clear that being a member of the nation of Israel would not save anyone (v. 8), and that judgment was coming to anyone who did not evidence a genuine repentance (v. 19).

Three groups responded to John’s warnings: the people (vv. 10-11), the tax collectors (vv. 12-13) and the soldiers (v. 14). The virtues God demands are not mere legal technicalities but are:

  1. Generosity (v. 11) - A person shows his repentance by being generous with the necessities of life - clothing and food.
  2. Honesty (v. 13) - Tax collectors were notorious for their dishonesty in collecting more than required and pocketing it for themselves. He said they needed to be fair in all their dealings.
  3. Contentment (v. 14) - Soldiers were known and hated for always trying to get more money. He told them that they needed to be content with what they had.

The crowd, all asked, What should we do to give evidence of genuine repentance? In response John told the people to be (a) generous (3:11), (b) honest (v. 13), and (c) content (v. 14).


These three virtues that John said were evidence of genuine repentance are certainly missing in the day in which we live. On a scale of 1-10 how would I rate myself in the areas of generosity, honesty and contentment?

Luke 3:1-14 (English Standard Version)

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" He said therefore 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 in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." And the crowds asked him, "What then shall we do?" And he answered them, "Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise." Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than you are authorized to do." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages."

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »