Would you bother to go into a desert to hear a man dressed in a camel-hair cloak? And if you knew that he ate locusts and honey, would you be interested in visiting him?
John the Baptist is neither attractive nor diplomatic, but he is exactly whom God chooses to announce the arrival of a kingdom that is not from earth but from heaven, as well as his king, Jesus.
Not fairy-tale soldiers in uniforms blowing golden trumpets, but a crazy-looking John is God's candidate to announce an unpopular message:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
Whoever listens to John and repents gets baptized in the Jordan River. Whoever doesn't listen ....
Well, some people are there just out of curiosity and end up hearing something they didn't want to hear. John calls those distinguished citizens of the Jewish society a "race of vipers." They are the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Pharisees profess great devotion to the law of Moses and are self-righteous. Of course there are those who are sincere, who struggle to live a righteous life, but sincerity does not save anyone from their sins. If you know someone who thinks his righteous life will save him, then you know how a Pharisee thinks.
Other targets for John's rebukes are the Sadducees, who don't believe in resurrection, in the existence of angels, in the immortality of the soul, or eternal punishment. Who are they today? The rationalists, skeptics, those who put their trust only in science, logic and reason.
Pharisees and Sadducees believe that because they are descendants of Abraham they have an advantage over other people. But for God, responsibility and repentance are individual matters.
John warns that the proof of a genuine conversion is in the fruit -- whoever really believes in the Word of God is born again and this becomes evident in that person’s life. John warns that those who do not produce fruit will be cut off, as is done to dead branches of a tree, and cast into the fire. John doesn't mince words.
While baptizing the repentant ones in the Jordan, John warns that the Jesus he announces will baptize some of them with the Holy Spirit, but others with fire. The first he will bring into God's garner like precious wheat; the others he will burn as worthless straw.
Who are you? The religious Pharisee or the skeptical Sadducee? I hope you are the repentant sinner. If you are, in the next 3 minutes you will find company. Good company.
"And the Lord gave me an answer, and said
Put the vision in writing and make it clear on stones,
so that the reader may go quickly.". Habacuque 2:2
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