Summary: John the Baptist was not out in the wilderness pursuing fame or fortune. He was calling for repentance, a change in life style. Repentance is an about face from sinful behavior to a life that imitates Jesus, that produces "fruit". (Gal. 5) Sadducees and
In Jesus Holy Name December 9, 2007
Text: Matthew 3:1-12 Advent II - Redeemer
“Signs Along The Way: An Urgent Warning”
The Advent season places our feet on a journey to the manger in Bethlehem where God the Creator invaded our humanity. John Gugel, in his Advent devotional “Signs Along The Way”, writes: “Our Advent journey is hardly a Sunday afternoon excursion in the country, but a holy crusade in which we spend time “reflecting upon the spiritual content of our lives. (Signs Along the Way - an advent devotional by John Gugel)
John the Baptist was not out in the wilderness pursuing fame or fortune. He was not seeking public office or popularity. He was an “equal opportunity” critic – every segment of the Jewish population was called to repentance. John was calling for a complete change in life style. In some ways John is like the modern corporate or government whistle-blower. Whistle-blowers are not popular as they expose corruption, unmask lies and tell the truth.
Repentance is an about face from sinful behavior. It is a return to imitating Jesus (Eph. 5:1) It is more than feeling bad about something we’ve done. It is being different. As we turn around, our minds are changed, our vision corrected. As John cries, “Repent” – he points to the carpenter’s son, reminding us that “Jesus has come, not so you can feel different but so you can be different. Produce fruit in keeping with repentance! (Matthew 3:8) (Pulpit Digest p. 48 James Howell)
John cannot make it any clearer. Those who have are to share with those who don’t. If you have two coats, most of us possess more, that is one more than you need, so share it.
As curious people arrive at the Jordan River, John directs his attention to those who felt their religious pedigree would be sufficient on the Day of Judgment. It is not enough to follow in the footsteps of a long line of religious ancestors.
One translation paraphrases John’s message this way. “Don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as your father. Children of Abraham are a dime a dozen … What counts is your life behavior. Is it green and blossoming.” God is not interested in your religious blood line. What God wants are the fruits that come from repentance.
Often, here at Redeemer, we sing a hymn during advent that describes our spiritual journey.
“As we make or Advent journey, Let us walk as in the Lord.
Pilgrims with a holy calling, Trav’ling, strengthened by God’s word.
Toward a stable, toward a manger, toward the gift of God made flesh.
Spirit, fortify our journey; may this trek our souls refresh.”
Some Pharisees (The Pharisees in charge of the village synagogues had produced a self righteous religion that told people they could earn God’s love by keeping the law) and Sadducees (Sadducees, were in charge of the Jerusalem temple activity – they had sold out to materialism.) both, came down to the river. They were holy men, men of the cloth, respected by the community. John saw something in these men’s heart that troubled him. They had not come to listen … They had not come to repent. They had come to see … and to be seen – but they would not step into the water.
John knew they were as sinful as those standing in line. The only difference was their fine clothes, their leather-bound bibles. John the Baptizer was a leading religious figure of the day. He was recognized by everyone at the time as a true prophet in the O.T. pattern.
The message of John is talking about our relationship with God. If we are to have peace with God, it must begin with repentance. Our repentance must then result in godly behavior. As Paul writes: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he prepared in advance for us to do.”
One of the most terrible aspects of sin is that it cuts us off from God and one another. Our highest destiny, our deepest desire, is to know and worship God. We have been created in the image of God. God will bring people around us who are on a spiritual quest. There is a spiritual hold within the human soul that wants to be satisfied. As Reggi McNeal writes in “The Present Future” we are to invite people to experience Jesus, not the church. They want to know Jesus.
But this God, whom humans seek to know, is a righteous God, infinite in his moral perfection. He can not be contaminated by sin. The Bible says that God is holy and in Him there is no darkness at all. “ If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth.” I John 1:7-8