Our scripture this week is Matthew 3:1-12.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John the Baptist didn’t sugarcoat the truth. He told the people who came to him exactly what was coming – they could be part of God’s harvest or burned up like the chaff. He was straightforward with them about the choice they faced.
We might think of John as a “fire and brimstone” preacher, warning about sin and death. While he tells them some scary things, he wants them to make an honest choice for Jesus and live as Jesus teaches, not just avoiding the unpleasant alternative. We need to learn to be brothers and sisters in Christ, doing the work He has for us gladly rather than the frightened sinners John calls out in verse 7: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
John warns the people (and us) that there are consequences for rejecting God’s plan and the Savior He sends us. God loves us and wants us to choose Him, but we must come to with repentance for our failings in order to be forgiven and then “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (verse 8). Only by accepting Jesus and then living as He has taught us can we be part of the good harvest God desires.
Loving Lord, we are often in opposition to You because of our willfulness. Help us to see that Jesus is the way to forgiveness and the hope of eternal life with You. Amen.