Repentance, as I shared yesterday, has to do with turning a new direction and starting a new way of life.
From John’s perspective, he was encouraging people to repent and prepare…prepare for the coming Kingdom (which would be brought from Jesus, who was coming).
However, when John looked up and saw Pharisees and Sadducees coming toward him, he was not buying it. He knew that they weren’t coming in ‘repentance’! They were, I’m sure, confident that they did not need to repent–of anything!
While John welcomed and baptized everyone who was coming, these people he confronted–we read about it in Matthew 3:7-10 “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Why was John so rude to them? Because he saw through them! They weren’t coming in repentance. They weren’t coming to prepare themselves for the coming of the King and the Kingdom. They were checking out a rival. They were protecting their turf. They had no interest in repentance–they thought of themselves as righteous! He knew their hearts–they would immediately go to their pedigree and lineage, their qualifications and ‘office’.
He questioned them, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath”? What ‘wrath’?
The wrath of God which was reserved for all those who justify themselves and refuse the grace of God, through Jesus! Those who trust in their religion, their background, their own ‘righteousness’.
As Isaiah the prophet had said,
“All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to our sins.” (Isaiah 64:6-7)
So, what can WE learn from John’s approach to the Pharisees and Sadducees?
We need to make sure that we are not trusting in our own goodness in any way, and that we understand–we are not forgiven because of growing up in the Church, doing the ‘right thing’, being ‘respectable’ or anything else. We are saved from the wrath of God because of His GRACE, through faith in Christ, alone! (See Ephesians 2:8-9).
Repent. Prepare the way. Give up any sense of ‘Self-Righteousness’…and then we will ‘bear fruit in keeping with repentance’. What would that be? Humility, Gratitude, Love, Grace, Compassion, a genuine Desire to Know and please God…
Ask God to show you: Are you trusting in your goodness, religion or self-righteousness, or are you trusting in Jesus, alone?