Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Bethany Bullet - December 7, 2010

Matthew 3:1-12
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord, and make straight paths for him.’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

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.

“I baptize 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 baptize 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.”
+ + +

  • Maybe John the Baptist is being too harsh? He does come on awfully strong don’t you think?
  • It is not like he was dealing with those who were ‘dealing’ right? He isn’t attempting to promote spirituality to those who were peddling flesh.
  • These aren’t gangsters or mobsters or even seekers - “Hey, you’re not being sensitive enough to my needs.”
  • They aren’t dangerous terrorists, angry atheists, or protesting environmentalists - “Get out of the river and quit eating those bugs.”

These are professional church workers. This is the council of presidents of the Jerusalem Synod with a delegation of the Seminary professors of Concordia Capernaum. These individuals are the leaders of the church. All they have done is show up to see John’s show and they get blasted before they utter a word.

“Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath - you brood of vipers?”

Preaching about not coming to church to the Christmas and Easter crowd isn’t necessarily all that helpful. If on one of the few times you show up to worship, you get judged, condemned, and questioned about not being in church - rather than welcomed and rejoiced over then that might not achieve the intended result. This maybe isn’t the best outreach methodology that John the Baptist could have employed, don’t you think? I know some of you know people who haven’t worshiped regularly in some time. Should you see someone like that this holiday season I sure hope you say, “It is good to see you. I hope you come back soon.” Rather than, “Where the heck have you been to, belly crawling slither’er?”

“Brood of Vipers”
that’s pretty strong stuff; especially when you consider the facts at hand. These men went to worship, they offered sacrifices, they tithed, they prayed daily, they read and memorized scripture. They talked, studied, and wrestled God’s word and His actions in the world. They were members of the church, not just first generation either. They were sons of charter members and graduates of congregational schools. Why does John lash out? Why so strong? “Snake bit, creepy crawlers – venomous horde.” John may have an issue; perhaps he is too comfortable with his image as a rabble rouser.

Or could it be that they have grown too comfortable with being themselves? More importantly, have you? Here you are, reading a message delivered in church this past Sunday. Maybe you even heard it and are reading again today? There are lots of vipers in this world – rapists, pornographers, murderers, bank robbers; why pick on the church goers? Why lash out at us? Could it be that like those who journeyed to John the Baptist all those years ago and we who have journeyed here this morning have grown too comfortable with ourselves and our sins?

We had a theft on campus a while back. One day as some who knew were talking about it, it became clear that they were very upset that someone stole from God.

  • “Stealing is wrong but stealing from God…”
  • “You mean taking from grandma is less offensive than taking from Father?”

Sin is sin, yet some sin we’re not as upset by. Usually it is our own! We left that conversation with someone saying something to the effect, “I guess if we saw all sin as being against Him we’d be more outraged by it.” Especially our own! Have we grown too comfortable with our guilt?

So if you are John do you alarm the vipers or charm the vipers? You know what John’s Cousin does to the viper – crushes its head! The original snake, Satan himself, crushed under the foot of Christ.

+ In that step Christ squashed that which coils round your heart and mine, the serpent serum known as sin.
+ In that step Jesus, who was bitten in exchange but rose triumphant at the last, came to forgive us and to lead us to penitence of our sin even that of being too comfortable with it.

The wrath of which John warns his hearers has fallen fully, on the One and only Person who never sinned and was so uncomfortable with that He continually called people from it.

Today, He, through John, calls us from sin anew.

Repent. Turn from sin…turn to Him again and again, today and tomorrow.


(The above link is to the Book of Concord, Small Catechism with the link leading to “Confession.”)

Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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