Rest Day Read (SR-63)
Gospel of Matthew 3:1-12
1 In due course John the Baptist appeared; he proclaimed this message in the desert of Judaea,2 ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.’3 This was the man spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said: A voice of one that cries in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.’
4 This man John wore a garment made of camel-hair with a leather loin-cloth round his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.5 Then Jerusalem and all Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him,6 and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins.
7 But when he saw a number of Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism he said to them, ‘Brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming retribution?8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance,9 and do not presume to tell yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father,” because, I tell you, God can raise children for Abraham from these stones.10 Even now the axe is being laid to the root of the trees, so that any tree failing to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown on the fire.11 I baptise you in water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I, and I am not fit to carry his sandals; he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.12 His winnowing-fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing-floor and gather his wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.’
This is a scene from Matthew I wish was captured on video. Can you imagine? Picture the Pharisees and Sadducees faces when they get called out by John. They’d heard the rumors and the mumblings about the madman in the desert, preaching, baptizing in the Jordan and proclaiming the coming of the King. They sensed the drumbeats of a revolution, they sensed a HUGE threat to their status quo religious establishment and they crawled their way out to spy on what was really happening. They weaseled their way into the crowd to bear witness of wrongdoing by the preacher in a camel hair garment who ate honey and locusts. But John had guts, John was powered by the Spirit and laid into the Pharisees and Sadducees with a verbal attack the likes they had never been exposed to before. I love it! The holier-than-now Pharisees and Sadducees probably tucked their red faces between their tails and squirmed like snakes back to the comfort of their homes. John the Baptist! I think him and me would have got along very well.