7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but d he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and f fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
- Why did the Pharisees and Sadducee come to John?
- I believe it is because they saw the people were going out to him, and they were curious and concerned. Curious about this new teaching, and concerned for their well-being. Perhaps, if this were something legitimate, they could latch on to it, cling to its coattails. If not, perhaps they could squash it, stop it from drawing people to it. Whatever their reasons, John saw through their appearance. So much so, that he calls them a "brood of vipers." Quite the insult for a Jew. If you recall, it was a snake that started this whole mess by tempting Eve in the garden. Was John saying that these religious leaders were as guilty as that snake? I think so. Look at all of the other admonitions toward them, such as blind guides, sheep without shepherds, etc. They came to protect themselves and "God's people." At least, they is what they thought.
- What was John's message to them?
- John told them that they must "bear fruit in keeping with repentance." He told them they must change. Listen to their talk, so full of pride and their position. So full of self and religion. But John tells them to repent, change. It is not about you, oh Pharisee and Sadducee. It is about God. You cannot stand proud in front of God, only humble. Stop depending our your position and lineage, and start depending on Him! No longer are we motivated by the guilt of disobedience, but are motivated by the joy of obedience!
- Why cut down a growing tree?
- Notice that when John says that the tree will be cut down, it is not because it has died, but rather because it is not producing good fruit! "But out church is growing!" But is it producing good fruit? Growth without fruit shows a lack of purpose, a lack of maturity. Growth alone does not equal goodness.
- Why did John baptize?
- For repentance, to bring about change. Not just in the lives of individual people, but for Israel. Their is this pattern, that people will draw close to God for a while, then fall away. Somehow, I think we have forgotten about this pattern. This message of repentance still rings true! Transformation! But not through external obedience, but internal devotion. Not by tithing or church attendance or correct doctrine alone, but by loving God for who He is, and not what He has given. The Pharisees took pride in their position and gifts, and rejected those who were "sinners." Jesus embraced the sinners and rejected the Pharisees, yet we continue to live in the pride of the Pharisees, scorning those who come to church and do not fall in line with us.
- What is baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire?
- The Holy Spirit is the comforter. Fire is a purifying agent. It is the perfect combination, trial and comfort! Except some of us will opt for external comforts, which will be consumed by the fire. Some will seek, as the Pharisees did, conformity over unity. Some will seek obedience over mercy. Some will take comfort in their own righteousness instead of relying on the righteousness that comes from God alone. Some will even deny the comforter His role and seek the comforts of the world. Could this be a form of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
- The gathering of the wheat.
- Once the wheat is gathered, it will be put into the barn as good fruit. The chaff, which was once part of the wheat, has now been separated. It too is in a pile, but it is the useless part of the fruit, and will be burned up. Face judgement. Eternal destruction. Poof!