Summary: John warns peopel of the comming of God. He is direct and pounds guilt into his hearers.
Going through the motions
We are now at the third Sunday of advent, already two full weeks into the new year…the Christian new year.
This is a time of preparation for almost everyone around us. The Jews are already in their season of Chanukah -- the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of Kislev 25 or this year (Friday) December 11. The festival-- celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality. I would like to suggest that if you know a Jewish family that you wish them a Happy Chanukah. Listening to that brief description of that festival I am reminded that it is not very hard to find connections to our adopted Jewish roots.
We celebrate the Triumph of Light over darkness as Jesus came into the world. The gift of imputed righteousness as we receive the gift of Jesus perfection on our souls. And we are reminded with phrases like Jesus is the reason for the season that our celebration is also about a focus on the spiritual event over material things. Chanukah last for 8 days while our season of Christian preparation last for 4 weeks.
We are picking up with the story of the beginning of John the Baptist ministry this week. Last week we were reminded that the basis of John’s message was par of the prophecy form Isaiah. That the Voice would come from the wilderness calling the people to get ready, prepare for the arrival of the Lord.
As he preached along the river Jordan at places where people gathered , people responded by being baptized as a sigh of their repentance. Baptism indicated that mountains of arrogance and greed were leveled. And that sins of abuse and hate were covered over preparing that person, identifying the person’s relationship with God.
What we heard about John’s message last week was a quote about what his message as the herald of God would include. This week gets a bit more specific.
Starting at verse 7:
“John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe 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."”
My first thought is that John is not using any of the tested techniques that we might find in the book, “How to win friends and influence people.”
Dude, this crowd can out her to hear you message, don’t run them off or make them mad before you give the invitation.
It seems that John just goes straight to the point. He might have said you sinful generation some other historical prophet phrase to remind the people of their condition. Instead he uses a word picture.
I was reminded of my Boy Scout days as I tried to understand the image. What I remembered was that my scout master did not like to go camping in the middle of summer. He took us on trips that involved hikes starting in the fall and ended before spring started warming up.
You might think he was avoiding the heat. But in reality he was doing everything in his power to avoid contact with snakes.
Basically, really did not like snakes. Every year as the troop would prepare for our first trip we would talks about safety. There was the Toten Chip card orientation that allowed you to carry a pocket knife and ax. , fire safety, first aid drills, then there was a lot of time spent on snakes. He encouraged hiking sticks that you used to pat the ground as we walked. Of course everyone had to have hiking boots with high tops. Never forget to shake out you boots before you put them on. When a log crossed the trail the first person in line could not just step across the log. They were supposed to tap the log and us their foot the shake it as much as possible.
The idea is that snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them…..I am not sure that is exactly true in all cases. The important thing in training was that every scout needed to make sure that we did not surprise a snake…basically of they felt you coming with the tapping and stomping and rocking that would take off like a shot to avoid the potential danger.
John has called the crowds that hear about the baptism of repentance as people that are running form destruction. Running from the approaching wrath of God.