Starting a Journey with Jesus, Day 9 (Matthew 3:7-12)
Brace yourself! Today’s part of the journey is going to be jolting.
When John saw many religious leaders (Pharisees and Sadducees) were coming to be baptized, he shouted: “Sons of snakes! Who suggested you should flee the coming wrath? You need to do something that shows you are really changing mind and heart, and don’t think you can say “Abraham is our father” and that makes everything okay. Being a child of Abraham is not the point. God can raise up children of Abraham out of common rocks. What matters is the tree of your life. Is it green and producing fruit? If it’s deadwood, the ax to chop it down is already being swung, and if there’s no fruit of true repentance, down it goes and into the fire!
“I’m baptizing you here in the water, turning your old life in a new direction–for the kingdom. The one coming after me, the truly great One, who I’m hardly worthy of bowing down to–He will baptize you with God’s Holy Spirit and fire. He’s going to make a clean sweep of everything, separating wheat from chaff, and everything empty and false he’ll burn it up with the unquenchable fire. (Matthew 3:7-12)
John has fierce and tough words for those holding power and influence, who have responsibility for leadership of the community. These are not the broken and sinners, those cast out who need hope and an encouraging word from God. These are the leaders, the confident, the protectors. They are professionals in their religion. John warns them about coming as spectators or inspectors, as observers or judges.
“Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Claiming descent from Abraham is no worthy boast. Bad trees producing bad fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. John’s ministry is prophetic and focused on calling people to repentance.
The Messiah to come is more powerful and will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He will not simply rebuke and warn vigorously as John does. He will judge, distinguish and clean out the good from the useless, burning the bad with great fire.
The question for those on the journey is, “What do I need to repent of? Has repentance made my life fruitful and productive of the right things?”
Prayer: God, I thank You for John and all of Your prophets, preaching Your Word and warning us, calling us back to You. I repent of my sin and misdeeds. I repent of my fruitlessness. I repent of my pride and spiritual arrogance.
I need You, Lord. I need YOU alone. Help me turn loose of the extra that I cling to, that I believe I need besides You. Lead Your people into revival in our day. May Messiah deliver us, move in our hearts, empower us to produce fruit that tis keeping with repentance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.