Gospel – December 8, 2019 – Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
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 coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
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 with unquenchable fire.”
How difficult it must have been for the Pharisees and the Sadducees to present themselves for baptism. Imagine them listening to all the talk of renewal on the streets. They were the leaders and they must have sensed they were missing on something important.
So off they go to the river in all their finery and accoutrements of wealth and power to be baptized by a powerful prophet – only to find a man dressed in camel’s hair clothing with a leather belt to cinch it.
And to be chastised for coming for the wrong reasons.
God knows our hearts. He sees deep into that private place where we hide our worst moments. He wants us to come for the right reason.
That reason is to be cleansed of those worst moments. No more hiding them – turn them loose. Let them flow away with the living waters of forgiveness.
At least that’s what I heard Him say…