Summary: What relevance does the third chapter of Matthew have for us today? A Brood of Vipers and an Ax at the root of trees?
Snakes and Hedgehogs, Fallen Trees and Fulfillment
Five “God” Promises
1. God promises that you can sit in a church pew and still smell of sin.
2. God promises that vipers will vanish because they will be vanquished.
3. God promises that only righteous fruit-producing trees will stand.
4. God promises that He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
5. God promises that SOME will escape from judgment.
What do snakes and hedgehogs have to do with trees and Biblical fulfillment? We find out in Matthew 3 (I like the way John 1:6 describes John the Baptist –“There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.” In Matthew 3:4 we find out what he was like:
Matthew 3: 4: “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (John’s attire was totally non-characteristic of contemporary clothing. We might think of him as some sort of “hippie”. His diet was extremely sparse, (seed pods and wild honey) which was a sign of his life being in tune with God and not the things around him. Even “in the day”, he was atypical, he was different than the normal. If you were looking for the status quo or normal, you wouldn’t find it in John the Baptist. That’s the way it is with people of God’s Kingdom. They are DIFFERENT from the world’s expectations and standards. What is important to the world is NOT important to Followers of God .The important thing about John is that he was proclaiming the appearance and ministry of Jesus. )
5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. (The Word spread about John, and people said: You have to see this guy!)
6 Confessing their sins, (People came to him and were confessing the fact that they had missed the perfect mark of God’s holiness. They were getting sins off of their hearts-getting the weight of sin off their chest, so to speak.) they were baptized by him in the Jordan (the descender, go down) River. (they were baptizô: dipped in the waters of the Jordan as a profession that they wanted to turn from their sin. They wanted to be clean.)
Brood of vipers
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? (“You generation or offspring of poisonous snakes.”
In Genesis 3, Satan is pictured as a serpent or a viper, one who deceives and steals precious hearts and lives from God. What did that mean to Jews schooled in the Old Testament? “Snakes and serpent (s) were used more often in the OT: the root word pertains to soothsaying, to divination and sorcerers, people who would lead others AWAY from God and His Word by deception.
Ps. 140:3: “They sharpen their tongues as a serpent ; Poison of a viper is under their lips.”
(This phrase was VERY contemporary. The Greek the word for “viper” is “ecidna”. Today, Echidnas are small, solitary mammals covered with coarse hair and spines. They resemble the anteaters or other spiny mammals such as hedgehogs and porcupines. In Greek mythology, “Echidna” was half woman and half snake, known as the "Mother of All Monsters" because most of the monsters in Greek myth were mothered by her. She was the mother of evil monsters in the same way that the devil is the father of all evil.)
Vipers are mentioned 5 times in the NT; If you are part of a brood that were vipers you are offspring or children of the devil. (Actually, that fits every person ever born.) Jesus used the same phrase to the Pharisees in Matthew 12:33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
Again in Matt 23:33, Jesus addresses the scribes and Pharisees: “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell ?”
John 8:43-44, Jesus said: “Why is my language not clear to you? (Jesus answers his own question:) Because you are unable to hear what I say. (YOU”RE SPIRITUALLY DEAF!) 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”