Summary: How would you like to receive a Christmas card with the figure of John the Baptist on it, saying— You “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7)?
How would you like to receive a Christmas card with the figure of John the Baptist on it, saying— You “brood of vipers” (Matthew 3:7)?
The expression means malice.
He reminded them of God’s wrath, which is not the emotion of anger, but God’s holiness that brings judgement in its train of glory. He says to the Pharisees and Sadducees: Don’t presume or rely on the privilege that you have Abraham as your father—because a changed life that produces good fruit is the only thing that shows evidence of God in your life.
—The evidence of God in your life is a turning away from the “old us,” a letting go of things as we know them to be sinful or harmful or not beneficial, and waking up to things as God sees them for us.
The only thing that will count at the judgement will be bearing fruit worthy of repentance, that is good deeds issuing from a converted heart.
E.g. Sue Kidd, in her book, All Things Are Possible, says that when she reads the news, she often encounters a headline, characterized by “words in big letters shouting about a world threat, a crisis, another crime.” But, one day she read this remarkable headline: “I Asked Jesus into My Heart.” This was the story:
“During the night, dogs had begun to bark furiously around the home of a local couple. Usually the dogs’ barking signaled something amiss, that perhaps prowlers lurked nearby. But the next morning, the couple discovered that nothing had been taken. Instead, something had been returned. Outside the front door were two car speakers that had been stolen six weeks earlier. A note attached to them read like this: ‘I’m sorry that I took your speakers, but now I have repented my sins and asked Jesus to forgive me. I hope you will forgive me too. I no longer take other people’s belongings…God has changed me. I’m a new creature since I asked Jesus into my heart.’
It was signed simply, ‘Saved.'” It could have been signed, “Baptized.” In fact, I like “baptized” better. “Saved” connotes that we have been delivered from the power of sin, but Baptism is more than that. Baptism means that we have put on new life in Christ. And we are walking in it and renewing it and renewing it.
2. Of course, on a Christmas card featuring John the Baptist, he would be wearing clothing made of camel’s hair with a leather belt—
An author named Craig Barnes said that the rule of St. Benedict, which is the famous written norms for the way that Benedictine monks live, states that when the monastic community welcomes a new novice, they take the person’s street clothes and dress the newcomer in the novice’s Benedictine robe. But they hang the person’s street clothes in an unlocked closet, so that each morning the person has to make a decision anew: What identity will I put on? Who will I be? Whom will I serve?
3. On the Christmas card, there would have to be a drawing of some locus and wild honey as John the Baptist’s food—
The vitamin content of locusts is high.
We have disordered appetites by the consequences of original sin, which is why we daily need God’s grace to help us.
Do you think eating grasshoppers is gross, consider that the Catholic writer Flannery O’Conner wrote:
“What people don’t realize is how much religion cost. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keeping asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”
Sometimes all you can do is hold hope for someone who has no hope until they can take it and hold it for themselves—people call this being a "hope-holder."
4. Lastly, if our Christmas card of John the Baptist played music or sound—it would speak just one word, “Repent!”
The word “repent” means “to change one’s mind.”
Repent was the first word of John the Baptist’s preaching (Matthew 3:1-2).
Repent was the first word in the preaching ministry of the twelve disciples (Mark 6:12).
Repent was the first word that Jesus gave to His disciples after His resurrection (Luke 24:46).
Repent was the first word of exhortation in the first Christian sermon (Acts 2:38)
Repent was the first word in the mouth of the Apostle Paul through his ministry (Acts 26:19).
Repentance is about restoring our relationship with God
The modern ear, and the defensive ego that's listening with it, hears the word "repent" and fails to recognize the voice of God's grace. It sounds like guilt (William J. Sappenfield).