You might, like me, have a favourite Bible book but the man who demands the most of us has no book. In fact we could say all Christians are his book, to take an analogy from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians (3:1-3). The revolutionary zeal that moved John the Baptist and gripped the men who answered Yeshua’s call has practically disappeared into the crookedness of every generation since the apostles fell asleep. Can today’s movements and religious sects have any integrity without renouncing their so called prevailing truth and empty traditions and change their minds? Are our generations – the older and the younger – turning to each other? John wants to know.
John died apparently discarded by his generation, but rich in experience. He had seen a hypocrite mob come out to the Judean desert (Matthew 3:7, Luke 3:7). He had heard that the never-seen were happening. His authority was still deceptively debated as the end of Yeshua’s public ministry approached. When John was preaching the axing of the tree was not conditional.
And [Yeshua] answered and said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good tidings preached to them.Luke 7:22
I cannot imagine any one, least of all theologians familiar with the theme of Messianic teaching, doubling down on grasping at the straws of Judaism with the popular and pernicious doctrine of saved by works and faith. Even Jews do not believe that any more.
John’s repentance rejected
If we want to prove how bankrupt we are we only need to join the chorus of ruling priests, elders and scribes that all one needs is a return to Moses and the cherished (and actually quite empty) traditions of the Jewish people. We cannot say we have changed our minds and still trot out the Pentateuch, the proverbs and prophecy, as if the pimps and prostitutes, tax-collectors had not conscientiously turned to John and Yeshua.
The Way – with its straight paths for our feet – is a long way from the tabernacle, the genocidal possession of Canaan process, the exclusionary provisions in the statute and judgments, and the merciless execution of accused persons. The church is a different creation than the insular twelve tribes. The church must not become a nepotism-laden priesthood or develop money-making temple quasi-services. If there is pride in copying Israel-Judah John wants to know how you got there. John wants to know who asked the families of the earth to become Jews. John wants to know why does anyone- even a Jew – need either circumcision or the law of Moses, since Abraham was justified and made father of many nations in a state of uncircumcision.
And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also:Romans 4:11
Wallowing in mud after a bath is great to a pig!