“Now John Wore…”
Matthew is doing more here than telling us that John the Baptist was an interesting looking and interesting character, although John certainly was that; Matthew is through his physical description of John communicating to us that John followed in the tradition of the great biblical prophets who had come before him, especially the prophet Elijah.
It is good for all of us to remember the long line at the end of which we stand—there have been many people who have gone before us who have done a lot of faithful thinking, praying, talking, and living; our faith and practice are but the latest word in a very long book that God has been writing through God’s people for countless generations now.
John could not have been aware of every person, every belief and every word that had preceded him and neither can we; we can, though, be as aware as is humanly possible of who has and what has come before us and we can exercise appropriate humility and gratitude for those who passed along a framework within which we can express our faith.
Lord, thank you for those who have gone before us. Forgive us for the arrogance we sometimes exhibit in the ways that we claim ownership of our faith as if it somehow started with us. Forgive us as well for the carelessness we sometimes exhibit in the ways that we fail to rethink and reframe our inherited traditions for our own time and context.
Help us to be enough like those who have gone before us to be legitimate and enough unlike them to be authentic.
“Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4).