John Tells the Truth
By Dr. Carol J Miller
Did you know that Jesus had a cousin? Well, we’re not exactly sure how they were related. The Bible just says they were “kin”. That means “relatives”. Most people just call them cousins. Does anyone here have a cousin? Let’s see your hands. [Tell if you have a cousin or not].
Jesus’ cousin was named John. They called him “John the Baptist” or “John the Baptizer”. [Can anyone guess what John spent his time doing? Accept all answers. That’s right, he baptized people].
It wasn’t like our baptism in church. When John baptized people it was because he thought the Messiah––God’s special person––was about to come and punish grown-ups who did bad things. John told the crowds that they had better stop doing wrong things and start doing the right things, or they would get into a lot of trouble with the Messiah. (That’s what they called God’s special person: “Messiah.” It means the one God sent).
John told the grown-ups that being baptized would show that they were serious about stopping the bad things and starting the good things. Just saying they were sorry was not enough. The adults were going to have to change what they were doing.
The people were scared of the things John said. John looked kind of scary too. He wore a rough camel hide robe. He ate locusts (like grasshoppers) and wild honey. He lived in the rough wilderness. I think John must have had a loud voice to be heard outside by crowds of people. He scared the people, but they also thought, “Maybe John is the Messiah; maybe he will show us what God is like.”
Grown-ups came from everywhere to the Jordan River where John was baptizing. They wanted to hear some message from God.
I want to tell you what John told them to do. But first, can anyone guess one of the things John told them they had to do? [Respect all answers. Look for giving to others, helping the poor, etc].
In his Gospel Luke tells us just what John said. Pretend you are one of the grown-ups listening to John. John said, “He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.” John is telling people that they need to help the poor. If a person has two coats and someone else doesn’t have any, the person with two coats must give a coat to the shivering person. The same with food. Don’t ask why they are in need; just help them.
Did you know that when a group does a coat collection for kids or when they collect food for the food bank––especially at Advent and Christmas––those ideas came right from John the Baptizer and have been done for almost 2,000 years. The Church still listens to John.
NOTE TO CHILDREN’S SERMON LEADERS. I specifically use the terms “grown-ups” and “adults” because I have found that many children, because they hear this kind of Scripture as if it were for children, think God is angry at them . We know that these angry words of John and those of Jesus were not directed at children, although many have wrongly used them to help “keep the kids in line.” Threatening children is not the purpose of the gospels; John is not preaching about being nice to your little sister. He is taking to adults who have turned from God by adopting selfish, thoughtless life-styles, misusing their authority and believing that there will not be a reckoning.
I also briefly went to Luke’s gospel because the children can understand helping people in need. They understand John’s directive as being “fair”––a very important concept for children. They would not understand or be enlightened by John’s depiction of Jesus in Matthew 3:12.
Scripture quotations from the World English Bible
Copyright 2013, Richard Niell Donovan