|Leonardo da Vinci: St. John the Baptist|
ca. 1513-1516, The Louvre, Paris,
probably Leonardo's last painting
Good News, Despite Initial Appearances
He's not very Christmassy, this John the B.,
In calling them snakes who from judgment would flee;
Who worry that God will not be on their side,
And therefore, to save themselves, others deride;
But John simply tells them a down-to-earth creed:
Be honest, not violent, and help those in need!
That's it! But still troubled that all be made right?
Then leave it to God! Not your goodness and might
Will enkindle the reign that you think should come now,
But the One by whose powerful love will show how.
Scott L. Barton
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.” And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.