The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Luke 3:15-17
Welcome to the book of Luke! I have always understood that Luke was a “Physician”. It is easy to apply our modern ideas about what it means to be a doctor to Luke but I am not sure this is accurate or fair. Clearly medicine at the time was a very different thing than it is today. I am teaching a class right now and we are using a book about the 1918 Spanish Flu called Pale Rider by Laura Spinney. We have been exploring what was known and what was not known about diseases and germs at the time of this pandemic so I have a better appreciation of what it meant to be a “physician” at the time of Jesus.
Apparently at the time Luke would have been practicing medicine he would have been strongly influenced by Greek concepts of health and healing which had been largely adopted by the Romans. At the core of their understanding was the idea that within each person were four fluids or “humors”. Imbalance in these humors resulted in external manifestations of ill health. The four humors were black and yellow bile, phlegm, and blood. I am not sure to what extent Luke would have ascribed to this idea or practiced blood letting and other treatments intended to restore balance in these fluids, but since water is in fact a fluid and it is integral to my “walk on water” through the bible I thought it important to be cognizant of this context.
I assume that Luke also understood some illnesses, perhaps most, to have a spiritual cause. I think that even most modern doctors would acknowledge that on some level there is a connection between the mind and body in determining our overall health. Some might be even be willing to admit a spiritual side to some symptoms. From my experience I think our health is the result of a complex mixture of the physical, spiritual, and intellectual causes.
This passage comes after floating past much of the familiar territory in Luke about of Christ’s birth and childhood which is the subject of much Christmas tradition. There are deep truths in much of this familiar water but alas no water references. This account of people approaching John the Baptist along the Jordan River asking him who he is and what he has come to do has been recounted in both Matthew and Mark.
In previous versions I do not remember this particular wording being used to describe the people waiting “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts” What does it mean to wonder in your heart? Since the heart has been pretty much synonymous with our souls this statement would seem to be saying that the people’s souls were “wondering.”. What does it mean to have a wondering soul? I really like the idea, perhaps a future Rabbit Trail for sure.
I associate wondering with curiosity, and curiosity with children. So to approach God with a wondering soul is to acknowledge our status as little ones in relation to a loving God. This is not to lessen our lives here on earth, but to place them in the proper spiritual perspective. Souls that wonder seek and knock to find answers.
The take home message for me from this hidden well is to approach God with a soul full of wonder at His amazing love and care for us as His children. Not a bad beginning for the book of Luke. I look forward to running this stretch of river.
Prayer: God You love us as little ones. Help us to approach You with souls full of wonder.