Our scripture passage for Sunday follows on the heels of John the Baptist preaching a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” (3:3). Unique to Luke’s account of John’s ministry is the response of the “multitudes” to his message.
In Sunday’s passage, three particular groups, after hearing John’s call to repentance, approach him with the same question: “What should we do?” It certainly would have been easier for them to ask, “How must I pray?” or “How should I feel?” but they didn’t. They asked the real question of discipleship: for a concrete expression of repentance.
John’s response made repentance immediate and attainable. He gives them practical ways to exhibit generosity, integrity, and justice. These are “the fruits of repentance”. Jesus will say later that his followers will be recognized by the fruit their life produces.
John’s message to the multitudes was that repentance should affect how they do business and how they treat their neighbor.
Generosity is not something possible only by the wealthy. It is the fingerprint of a gracious God upon a transformed soul and flows from the heart’s desire to give something because God has given so much.
The central question for us on this Third Sunday of Advent is this: What would John say to you, to me, if we asked him “What must I do”? What are the fruits of repentance, which I might bear? Real repentance is personal, specific, and expressed.
All we need to do is turn. We can take a million steps away from God, but it takes only one step back to him.
Repent and believe in the Gospel!