The Pilgrim God: Reflections on the Story of Jesus
11. The Call Of John: (Luke 3:1-6)
We know that for the eternal God time is not all that important. God is never early; God is never late. God works out the salvation of the human race in his own time and it is always the best time. As the psalmist sang at the dawn of human history:
Before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world
were brought forth,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
For a thousand years in your sight
are as yesterday ... no more than a watch in the night.
Psalm 90: 2-4
From eternity the plan for the salvation of humanity was set. Some 800 years before its implementation, it had been predicted by the prophet, envisioning the Father-God speaking to the Son and saying words like these:
Before you go to earth I shall send a messenger to prepare the way for you. He will cry out: "Get ready for the coming of the Lord God, clear the roads, he is coming!"
Cf. Isaiah 40:3
In the year 28 A.D., the plan began to play out. Sometime in that year in a place located just west of the Jordan river near the Dead Sea (a wild and mountainous place which from ancient times was called simply "Desolation") there appeared a young hermit called John.
John was in his late 20's when he heard the call to begin his work. He had lived in that barren place for 14 years waiting for his time to come. His life was austere and solitary. Except for a few shepherds he had no human contact. His friends were the sky and the high peaks, the rushing torrents and quiet glens. He spoke to no one except his God. People knew of his existence and honored his way of life. In those early days no one was afraid of him or upset by him because he did not try to tell them what to do. He exemplified the sad truth that no one is disturbed by prophets or teachers as long as they keep their mouth shut.
John had lived with God alone for 14 years and thus when the great call came (the call that would mark the end of Old Testament times and the beginning of the New) John heard it.
It is not surprising. John had been surrounded by God and embraced by God and drowned in God for his whole life and thus was sensitive to every divine whisper. No human hears God unless they take time to listen. No human who wholly lives and exuberantly rejoices in earthy noise can ever hear God even when God shouts. John had not lived such a life. He was not suffocated by possessions. He was not driven to experience every pleasure that this life can provide. He had no ambition except to do the will of God. For this reason, when God was ready for John, John was ready for God.
There is no record of what God said to him. There should be no surprise at that. God speaks to each of us deep inside our own being, in that private quiet where there are no witnesses. However the effect of that private call on John quickly became very public. After 14 years face to face with God, the quiet John suddenly began to move up and down the Jordan valley proclaiming in a loud voice:
THE LORD IS COMING!
For the first time in history the human race heard the wonderful and long awaited message:
GOD HAS COME AS A PILGRIM ON EARTH TO LEAD YOU BACK HOME!
PREPARE TO GO HOME WITH GOD!
Jesus Christ was about to break out of his Nazareth cocoon. It was the beginning of his public life.
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