In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.In the sermon A Particular Time and Place I told why this list of names is relevant,
What we have in our passage is a short Who’s Who that includes the Roman leaders together with the political and spiritual leadership of the Jews. Now that we know who is in charge, we are ready for the next bit of information. The word of the God arrives in this time and place. Note what happens. God’s word passes right by Rome, missing the Emperor Tiberius, then it zings past Pontius Pilate’s palace so fast that he doesn’t know what he missed. The Word of God bypasses the palaces of the Jewish political leadership as well. Herod, Philip, and Lysanias never know what didn’t hit them. They don’t know what they missed. Then the Word of God goes zipping right over the top of the Temple in Jerusalem and lands out in the wilderness. Right out there in the middle of no where, the most unlikely fellow of all gets the Word straight from God. John, who is not yet the Baptist, hears the echoes of the Word God gave to Isaiah centuries before, “Prepare the way of the Lord.” And John believes God and sets to work preparing the way for Jesus.In fact, God is always picking such unlikely people, that he even picked me and you.
Notice what did not happen. God’s Word did not come to any of the powerful. God’s Word did not come to any of the rich. God’s Word did not even come to the city. God’s Word came to the most unlikely person hanging out in the back of beyond. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness. His hair was wild, his clothes were ragged skins, and he lived off the land eating whatever he could find. Picking John the Baptist is so very like God. God is always picking the unlikely person and starting things in unlikely places.
The Rev. Frank Logue, Pastor + King of Peace Episcopal Church