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.)