Summary: A Message of how to avoid God’s judment
Luke 3:1- 15 – How to avoid the axe
Have you every traveled on a road which is so pitted with potholes, you are forced to slow down. Some of them are so deep, particularly after rain, that you think you are going to be swallowed up. I’ve got this picture of an African pothole hanging on the wall of my office which I think is a classic picture.
Now I want to ask you a question? What would happen if a king or queen or important dignitary was to visit this African country and have to drive along this road. What would happen to this pothole? Well you could be sure that before the arrival of the dignitary, someone would come out and fill in the pothole and fix it up so that the journey in would be comfortable and smooth.
This is a little like what what John the Baptist did for Jesus. If you’ve got your Bibles there, open them up to Luke 3 and read with me …
Read Luke 3:1-6
Isaiah’s prophecy was that before the Messiah came, there would be one who came from the desert regions preparing the way for the Lord. He would make the paths straight, fill in the valleys, level the mountains, straighten up the crooked roads and smooth out the rough roads. Wouldn’t you like to have a few John the Baptists on the council road crews.
But John wasn’t a civil engineer. He didn’t drive a grader or an excavator. He didn’t have a ticket that allowed him to drive a steam roller. In fact he probably didn’t even know how to use a shovel or a spade. So what’s new you say – he’d fit perfectly into a council road crew. I’m going to get in trouble for that one aren’t I!!!!
John didn’t move dirt, rocks, soil or earth. He moved people. Isaiah is talking about people’s hearts here figuratively. Our hearts are crooked, up and down, rough, bumpy and twisted. John came to straighten us so that we could be prepared for the Messiah.
Why? To tell us how to avoid the Axe. What axe? You say. Read on with me …
Read Luke 3:7-15
God’s axe was ready to strike at the trees. Who were the trees? The crowd who had gathered. Who was in the crowd? The Greek term used indicates that it was probably a fairly mixed bunch. We likely had Gentiles there. We definitely had Jews – they were the ones who claimed that Abraham was their forefather (vs 8). There were tax collectors, there were soldiers. Matthew’s account of the same events say that there were even Pharisee’s and Saduccees. And John here addresses specifically those who are putting their faith and trust in their Godly heritage. The Jews and those Gentiles who had adopted the Jewish religion had incredible pride in their heritage and why shouldn’t they. God had specifically chosen them out of many nations to be called his people. But they were relying on this heritage alone.
It would be like me saying that because my Great Grandparents, my Grandparents and my Mother & Father all did well at their school studies and achieved top marks, that I will also even without studying. No it doesn’t work that way. To do well at school or university, you have to work at it and usually work hard – yourself. John here was saying that those who had come out to hear him, couldn’t rest on the privileges afforded them by their forefathers.
You would have thought that they would know that but they hadn’t learnt their lesson from history. You see, 600 years before, their great, great, great grandparents made the same mistake. They too thought that they could just do anything they liked and because they were descended from Abraham, they would be okay. WRONG. What did God do, he allowed Assyria and Babylon to come and invade them and cart them off into slavery. Their family tree was descimated and only a small remnant ever made it back to Israel. John was warning that the same thing could and would happen if people didn’t sit up and take note. Read it with me again in Vs 8 & 9
8 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. 9 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.”
The people in this crowd had an inflated view of their own importance. God didn’t need the Jews for some sort of little ego trip to show how many friends he has. He is God and created man out of the dust – didn’t He? So he could easily have made people out of all the stones that littered the desert around where John was speaking – Couldn’t He? And surely they would have praised him. God was not interested in excuses and had the Axe raised.