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II. Sunday of Advent 2016 | ICCS EM
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II. Sunday of Advent 2016

4. December 2016

Clear the obstacles

John the Baptist as a “Bridge”

Eveangelium: Matthew 3:1-12

As a road must be cleared of obstacles before an approaching king, John is calling for the people to clear the obstacles out of their lives that might hinder their reception of the Lord. With the phrase “in those days John the Baptist came,” Matthew jumps from Jesus’ infancy to his adulthood, from one point of his life to the other…

John the Baptist appears prominently at the beginning of all four Gospels. In Matthew, he is the first person to appear when the public ministry of Jesus is recounted. John is an immensely important historical figure, especially because he is the link between God’s saving activity in the Old Testament and his saving activity in the ministry of Jesus. John the Baptist could be presented through this explanation as a bridge.

     John the Baptist has one central message, in which he urgently calls the people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (3:2–3). This is the same message Jesus announces (4:17) and the Twelve preach on their missionary tour through Israel (10:5). John’s call to repentance sounds similar to the prophets of the Old Testament, calling the people into a right relationship with God that must affect every aspect of their lives.

 Indicating “to change one’s mind,” repentance in the Old Testament always called for a change in a person’s attitude toward God, which would then impact one’s actions and overall direction in life.

External signs of repentance regularly included confession of sin, prayers of remorse, and abandonment of sin.

But as similar as John’s message is to the Old Testament prophets, there is a distinctly new sound to it. He calls the people to repent because “the kingdom of heaven is near.”

The kingdom has come near in the soon-arriving Messiah. John is the one foretold by Isaiah who would be privileged to prepare the way for the Lord’s arrival and his kingdom: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’ ” (3:3; cf. Isa. 40:3).

 John wasn’t just another religious zealot drumming up support for a new following.

As a road must be cleared of obstacles before an approaching king, John is calling for the people to clear the obstacles out of their lives that might hinder their reception of the Lord. Like this they can “pass through the bridge from the lives in the desert to the everlasting lives with God.”

He calls for the people to get themselves ready—to prepare their heart and life—for the arrival of the Coming One with the kingdom of heaven.

But what kind of kingdom did they expect? What did John expect would occur now that the kingdom of God was near?

The response to John’s call to repentance is extraordinary, as throngs of people go out to him from the city of Jerusalem, from all over Judea, and from the region of the Jordan River valley. John’s message seems to have taken hold of every stratum of Israel. But they do not go out just to watch a show. It was no easy matter to go into the desert, especially for city dwellers. But, gripped by his startling declaration of the nearness of God’s kingdom, they demonstrate their repentance by “confessing their sins.”

 The coming of Messiah (3:11–12). Here we get to the core of John’s ministry. He points ahead and beyond himself to another person.

John has a powerful place in God’s history of salvation, but he knows it is only preparatory to the main event. Calling the nation to repentance is not the main issue. The main event is the appearance of the One who will actually inaugurate God’s kingdom on earth.

Although there is continuity between their messages and ministry, John especially emphasizes the contrast between himself and the Coming One. That contrast is seen in the Coming One’s identity and baptism.

 (1) John points to “the one who is coming after me,” an expression with strong messianic expectation. John is rugged, marked by the rigors of the desert and the harshness and loneliness of his calling as a prophet. It takes personal strength of body and soul to endure such hardships.

But John looks to One who is “more powerful,” who will arrive with the power of God to inaugurate messianic rule. As a servant to a king, John realizes that he is not worthy even to carry the sandals of this messianic deliverer. His language is not self-deprecating. He is not lacking an adequate self-image. He knows himself and knows clearly the identity of the One to come.

John is the herald; the Coming One is the messianic deliverer.      

(2) John accentuates further the contrast between himself and the Coming One by differentiating their baptisms: John baptized “with” (or “in”) water for repentance, but the Coming One will baptize “with” (or “in”) the Holy Spirit and fire. Once again, John displays a straightforward understanding of his own role and place in God’s plan of redemption. John’s baptism will be superseded by the coming baptism.


Activity
Aim: to know the instance of the lectures of John the Baptist that means knowing Jesus requires and results changes
1. Write the following words on cards:
pathway, road, building way, highway, reconstruction, obstacle on a road, street, avenue, crossway, companion, travelling, pilgrimage, etc
Every child shall choose (without seeing which they choose) a card and tell the answers for the following questions
• what experience do you remember regarding the chosen word

2. Letter to John the Baptist:
We give the letter to the children and they have to answer in the of John the Baptist
3. My way
give the followings to the children
• the part of the Gospel: Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth
• reflection: John the Baptist is a great road builder and teaches us to prepare a way between Jesus and ourselves and to take care of the existing road
• Questions:
◦ what are the obstacles on your way
◦ what is missing
◦ who are walking with you
◦ who is your leader
◦ is there any crossway on your way
◦ is your way straight or not, why
◦ when can you build your road easily and when do you have problem