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Water: symbol of God’s grace

March 8, 2022

Daily Scripture

Luke 3:1-22

During Lent, we are using short videos to share a daily idea (linked to the gospel of Luke) on how to grow spiritually. Watch today’s video. Click here or on the image below:


Note: We are reading the entire gospel of Luke in the GPS. Some day’s readings are longer than usual. We hope you’ll have an extra cup of coffee, or use your lunch break, and read Luke’s entire story of Jesus.

1 In the fifteenth year of the rule of the emperor Tiberius—when Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea and Herod was ruler over Galilee, his brother Philip was ruler [or tetrach] over Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was ruler [or tetrach] over Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas—God’s word came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 John went throughout the region of the Jordan River, calling for people to be baptized to show that they were changing their hearts and lives and wanted God to forgive their sins. 4 This is just as it was written in the scroll of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

A voice crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley will be filled,
and every mountain and hill will be leveled.
The crooked will be made straight
and the rough places made smooth.
6 All humanity will see God’s salvation” [Isaiah 40:3-5].

7 Then John said to the crowds who came to be baptized by him, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

11 He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

14 Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

15 The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ. 16 John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” 18 With many other words John appealed to them, proclaiming good news to the people.

19 But Herod the ruler had been criticized harshly by John because of Herodias, Herod’s brother’s wife, and because of all the evil he had done. 20 He added this to the list of his evil deeds: he locked John up in prison. 21 When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized. While he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form like a dove. And there was a voice from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.”

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Israel had gone through a long period with no clear prophetic voice. John the Baptist’s forceful preaching, calling people to change their hearts and lives, drew crowds hungry for a word from God. He baptized people as a symbol of cleansing and change. But he pointed beyond himself, and Luke said he had the privilege of baptizing the Savior whose way he’d prepared.

  • John the Baptist showed a sense of urgency as he passionately called people to change their life’s direction. To what extent do you feel a sense of urgency in pursuing God’s path for your life? What steps help you keep your commitment to God’s call strong and focused?
  • John prepared the way for Jesus by calling for generosity, integrity, and living out God’s ideals. Scholar N. T. Wright said, “John was doing what the prophet Isaiah had said: preparing a pathway for the Lord himself to return to his people….Rescue was at hand.” * Lent is a time to prepare. How are you preparing the way for Jesus to work in your life? In the lives of others?

Click here to incorporate music and worship from the COR Worship Collective into your daily practice and devotion.


Lord Jesus, help me to hear your call on my life clearly. Give me the courage and conviction of John the Baptist in living out that calling and doing your will. Amen.

GPS Insights

Donna Karlen

Donna Karlen

When Donna Karlen wrote this blog in 2020, she served with the Communications Ministry on special projects. She's since left the staff, but we are still grateful for all she added to our ministry, of which this blog post is just one example.

(Donna Karlen wrote this Insights blog in June, 2018, when she still served on the Communications staff at Resurrection.)

In the 15 references to “tax collectors” I found in the New Testament, not many of them were flattering to those in the profession. Most of the passages lumped tax collectors and sinners together as the lowest of the low. On or about April 15 every year, I tend to feel that way about them myself.

Of course paying taxes is much different now. We don’t have to worry about being cheated. Our relatives aren’t tortured if we don’t pay up. But paying taxes makes me grumpy. I’m grateful to live in America and for good schools and other things taxes help pay for, but sending that check each year…

And then I remember those who can only wish they could pay taxes, because that would mean they have a job and income to pay taxes on. (Please take a moment to pray for those who are unemployed. The fear and desperation and hopelessness can be overwhelming.)

Today’s Scripture describes how “even” tax collectors came to be baptized. They may have been rich, but were considered the lowest class of people, held in contempt and considered traitors. Did John baptize them when they showed up at the river? Or did he send the “children of snakes” away, telling them to stop cheating others and start doing the right thing – and then he would baptize them? With Jesus, we don’t have to wait until we’re good enough before we come to him. We don’t have to try to earn his love by first ceasing to be sinners. Jesus welcomes all – even tax collectors.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* N. T. Wright, Luke for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 34.