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Seeking to equip people to live as Christian disciples wherever God has placed them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

“Waiting for Another”

Matthew 3:7-10

John is offering a baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  Great crowds are coming to be baptized by him and to confess their sins.  All of this is part of the preparation for the coming of the Lord.  The people do not yet know it but the one whom John is announcing will take away all sin.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees are also coming for baptism.  This would certainly appear to be very commendable on their part.  They are religious leaders and authorities.  One could imagine them saying we don’t need to be baptized.  We have no sins clinging to us.  We are the righteous ones.

However that is not the case.  They are joining with the common people in coming for baptism.  Presumably they are coming also to confess their sins.  In this respect they would appear to be models for everyone else.  One would think John would commend them for what they are doing.

To the contrary John denounces them in no uncertain terms.  He calls them a “brood of vipers!”  He acidly asks, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”  Why in the world is he saying this?  We might understand if they were holding back from John’s call as though they were spiritually superior.  Yet they are “coming for baptism.”

The religious leaders and throughout the New Testament, from the Pharisees to those whom Paul mockingly calls “super-apostles” (II Cor. 11:5) are examples of toxic religion  As Jesus says later they are hypocrites (Matt. 23:). We see this in our own time in the depressing record of sexual abuse in both Roman Catholic and Protestant and Evangelical Churches.

None of us is without sin.  What is so bad about these religious leaders?  We can only infer from what we see later in the gospels that, despite their coming out for John’s baptism, they are examples of spiritual pride.  They offer condemnation not grace.  They plan Jesus’ death.  They don’t bear “good fruit.”  They are negative examples for us.

We need to examine our own hearts this Advent Season.

Merciful and gracious God keep me from the sin of spiritual pride.  May I learn humility through my own failings and may I turn to the grace found only in Jesus Christ.  I pray this in his name, Amen