May 13 I Friday
2 Kings 17-18
“In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” —Matthew 3:1-2
Thousands of people in Jerusalem and Judea, when they heard the message of John the Baptist, confessed their sins and were baptized by him in the Jordan River. They prepared their hearts to meet God. But there was another group that came out of Jerusalem, and when John saw them, there was a different response. Matthew tells us, “But when [John] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?’” (Matthew 3:7). John used some strong words, basically calling them, “sons of the devil”.
Why was John so worked up with the religious leaders? Because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. In the culture of that time, these religious leaders were the guardians of religion; they were the most devout, disciplined members of the religious community. But they had perverted the Word of God. They had weaponized their theology against the weak, the poor and the vulnerable. They had reduced God to something that they could control and thought that they knew better than God. We know this because in the Gospels, Jesus, who is God among us, was constantly at odds with the Pharisees. They thought themselves superior to Jesus, but they did not know whose presence they were in.
John gave the religious leaders a strong warning: “The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me comes One who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing-floor, gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:10-12). John’s warning points to Jesus Christ who sees through the hypocrisy and pride and will bring judgment upon those who will not repent of their ways and receive Him. Basically, John was telling the religious leaders not to think that God will conform to their ways. It is them who has to conform to God’s way, to repent, reform and reorient their thinking and to inspect the fruit in their life.
As we see the response of the religious leaders, we are brought to a point of reflection on our own response. Are we arrogantly ignoring, offended by this warning, or do we receive it as the voice of God who cares enough to call us back to Him?
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus Christ, You see through my hypocrisy and pride. Help me to conform to Your ways, reorient my thinking and produce fruit as evidence of Your presence in my life. Thank You, Lord.