I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Luke 3:1-6
B. Other Texts for the 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year C
1. Malachi 3:1-4
2. Philippians 1:3-11
D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?
2b The call of John follows the pattern of the call of several of the prophets. In Hebrew the phrase frequently translated as “The word of the Lord came to …” can also be translated as “The word of the Lord HAPPENED to …” I believe the latter more nearly reflects what occurs. The former can be interpreted like receiving the morning news paper, it implies the word of the Lord can be received with out action. But whenever the word of the Lord HAPPENS to the prophets they immediately do and speak. When the word of the Lord HAPPENS to someone they are no longer the same as they were before.
3 How is John’s baptism different from the baptism of Jesus Christ? For me the difference is first repentance “BECAUSE OF” rather than “FOR” the forgiveness of sins and second the addition of the assurance of eternal life. This is why I baptize infants, not because they have turned from their sins, but as a sign and seal that they have already been forgiven so that they might turn towards God throughout their lives.
4a And also in the post exilic prophet Malachi.
4b What do we need to do to prepare the way of the Lord TODAY?
5 C.F. Interstate roads to local roads with dive through hollows and jog around farms. The latter is nicer for sightseeing and for distractions along the way. But the straight roads are for urgent traffic. The word of the Lord requires the path for the most urgent traffic. With the least distractions from the left or to the right.
6 We should not be quick to narrow the scope of God’s action. N.B. The covenant of Noah is with every living creature (Genesis 9:12).
E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?
- The New Oxford Annotated Bible Includes Malachi 2:17 and 3:5 with 3:1-4. These verses then become the answer to 2:17 (Where is the God of justice?) and 3:5 exposes the other side of the sword of justice which cuts away those who “do not fear the [Lord.]”
- Follows youth of Jesus. Precedes the baptism of Jesus by John.
- Luke 3:7-17 shifts the emphasis from the one who prepares the way to the message that the one who prepares gives to the people. This is next Sunday’s pericope.
D. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?
Luke 3:6 NIV “all mankind.” NRSV “all flesh.”
II. Literary Study.
A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?
Luke maintains a tension between the kingdom as already and the not yet come. Thus the listing of the secular and religious rulers acknowledges the “not-yet” and the identification of John as the voice in the wilderness fulfills the “already.”
B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
Matt 3:1-12 — Omits historical markers, which places John the Baptizer in context of secular and religious rulers. Adds John’s call to repentance. Relocates John from the Jordan to the desert of Judea. Shortens the quotation of Isaiah to only the first phrase.
Mark 1:1-8 — Presents Mark as a fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah rather than as conforming to the prophecies.
Luke 3:1-6 — Of the Synoptics, only Luke includes and interprets the quote: “and all flesh shall see God’s salvation.” Or according to Isaiah: “And all flesh shall see it together.”
D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?
The John the Baptizer narrative serves as an interlude from the chronology of Jesus’ life, focusing on the chronology of John the Baptizer. It also foreshadows the Jesus’ ministry and rejection of his message.
III. Question the text.
C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?
- Center of Gravity: The Word of the Lord came in the midst of life, not apart from an historical setting. And the Word that came was consistent with the prophecies that proceeded him.
- Emotional Center:
D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.
F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?
Why are we reading about John the Baptizer while we are trying to get ready to celebrate Christmas?
IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?
V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?
Those times when my sermons were best received, when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,” were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond