The Gospel weekly.
On this page the Gospel for the coming Sunday will be displayed, along with a commentary, written by Rev. Gavin Williams. Previous Gospel readings with their commentaries can be found lower down the page.
With the Gospel we are encouraged to:
Open our minds and hearts to God in prayer, read the passage once – or better, twice – and think on it.
Read the commentary, and prayerfully reflect on the impact of the Gospel.
To do the same again another day; that is, to meditate on the passage. Possibly every day.
Second Sunday of Advent 2021, December 5th.
1In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’
This week, our focus is on John the Baptist. His role was to prepare a people for the coming of the Messiah. In chapter 3, Luke’s story begins to pass from the private sphere (the story of the births of John and Jesus), to the public or political realm. Luke gives details of the history and government of the world God intends to save.
The Romans and the three sons of Herod the Great (Herod Antipas, Philip and Lysanias), who ruled using fear and oppression, appear to be in charge. But change is coming: ‘the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah’. John is called to be a prophet. He proclaims a ‘baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins’.
Note that John is in the wilderness and in the region around the Jordan. These places had religious significance because of Israel’s time in the wilderness during the Exodus. At that time, God was especially present with his people, guiding and testing them and the Jordan was crossed on the way to the promised land. Luke is preparing his readers to expect a new closeness to God and a new rescue plan. The rescue plan is going to be for everyone, not just for Israel. God is going to keep the promise he made through the prophet Isaiah: ‘All flesh shall see the salvation of God’. (See also Simeon’s song or the Nunc Dimittis, 2.29-32).
Perhaps we feel our lives – personal or political – cannot go on as they are and that something has to change. But what? And how? What kind of ‘road-mending’ might we do during Advent to prepare for the coming of the King of Kings?
Advent Sunday 2021, November 28
25‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’
29Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
34‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’
What are we waiting for?
On Advent Sunday, Christians may well ask, ‘What are we waiting for?’ Luke’s gospel offers
guidance to all who live between what has already happened (the first coming of the Son of Man
and the inauguration of the kingdom of God) and what is still to come (the parousia and the final
consummation of all that God has promised).
For Luke’s original audience, much of what Jesus prophesies in chapter 21 has already taken
place. Jerusalem has fallen (to the Romans in 70AD), and the church has been persecuted (see
the martyrdom of Stephen and Paul’s hardships in the Acts of the Apostles). Most importantly,
Jesus has already revealed himself as the Son of Man. He forgives sins (Luke 5.24). He is lord of
the sabbath (6.5). He has come eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners (7.34). He has
already endured suffering and death.
The kingdom of God is also a present reality. That is why Luke’s account of the Passion places a
heavy emphasis on the kingship of Jesus (22.3). The kingdom has been revealed in Jesus’s work,
in casting out demons (11.20) and in healing (9.11; 7.22). But Jesus also taught his followers to
pray for the kingdom to come in all its fulness (11.2; 22.29-30). And it is prayer which Luke the
doctor prescribes for us, Jesus’s disciples, living as we do between the now and the not yet.
Luke says we should be alert and pray. Pray for strength. Pray that we do not lose heart when
many turn their back on God. Pray when our hearts are troubled. Pray that we may seek relief
from trouble and anxiety in ways that do not harm ourselves or others. Pray that we do not allow
ourselves to be distracted by ‘the worries of this life’. Pray that we may find ways to help others
we know who are in difficulty. In prayer, let us honestly put before Jesus the struggle, weariness,
or fatigue that we are feeling in seeking to follow him in our day to day lives. And let us pray for
the fruits of the Spirit, particularly patience and faithfulness.