Matins Devotion: January 5, 2023
John the Baptist had been sent by God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah—making him the pinnacle of the Old Testament prophets—the bridge between promise and fulfillment. Yet there was something very strange about his message and method. John proclaimed that the kingdom of the coming Messiah would bring salvation to “all flesh” not just to those who could number themselves amongst the chosen people. Furthermore, John was baptizing those who responded to his call to repent. Baptism at this time was not something that you ordinarily needed if you were a flesh and blood descendant of Abraham. In fact, in John’s day, baptism was a way to initiate Gentile converts into the Jewish community. Yet John warns those who would despise his preaching and forgo his baptism that their confidence in an ancestral connection to an earthly patriarch is worthless. God is able to make a people for himself out of stones if he so desires. In fact, God’s axe is right now being laid to the root of every tree—ready to sever any which does not bear good fruit and throw it into the fire.
It's a strange way to speak and act toward a people who have been waiting thousands of years for this promised Messiah. It’s brash. It’s harsh. It’s rude. But John wasn’t sent to soothe the ego—he was sent to crush the heart. That heart of stone that lies at the center of every fallen human being. That heart that boasts in its own righteousness. That heart that confidently believes it is pleasing to God on its own merits. The only way to prepare a heart of stone is to smash it into dust with the hammer of God’s Word. And then, amid the swirling dust of what remains, point to the Christ. The one who, as we sang a moment ago, reaches out with his wounded hand to heal the heart that he has broken. To heal it by making it new. Transforming the crushed stone into a heart of flesh. A heart that is pure. A heart that is loyal. A heart that serves him joyfully.
He gave you this heart in your baptism. And every time that sin threatens to turn that heart to stone again, he invites you to return to that baptism. To repent. To let him once again crush the stony hard surfaces that have polluted your heart and let him make everything new—wash everything clean. So repent. Every day. Let your heart be crushed. Let your baptismal waters cover you. Let Christ give you a heart that abounds in faith and rejoices in grace.