January 8

Text: Matthew 3:7

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “ (NASB)

Many people made the pilgrimage to the Jordan wilderness to hear John’s message from God.  Matthew 3:5 says people came from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan.  Verse 6 says they came to be baptized as they confessed their sins.

These people’s coming involved admitting they had failed God.  They acknowledged errors and failures.  They saw their spiritual needs, and they were not ashamed to admit them.  They saw their need for cleansing, and they confirmed their need.

Remember that these are Jewish people (or converts—proselytes) making the pilgrimages to hear John.  To Israel, cleansing by water was an important spiritual part of relationship with God.  Consider their preparation to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:10, 11), the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:4, 27, 28), and their many mikwehs (immersion pools).   Their association of cleansing with immersion in water made John’s instruction to be baptized seem a familiar divine expectation—certainly not a debate subject!  A water cleansing associated with confessed sins was not seen as unusual.

Please note that motive mattered.  Cleansing was NOT the result of merely “running the correct obstacle course.”  It was not (a) make the journey, (b) listen to John, (c) confess your sins, and (d) agree to be immersed.  It was not merely a matter of “jumping through the right hoops.”  Why one did “the right things” was of essential importance!  More was involved than the motions.

When the Pharisees and Sadducees (their religious leaders) came for baptism, John called them poisonous snakes.  Nothing suggests he greeted others that way.  However, the Pharisees and Sadducees had the wrong motive for coming.  They were attempting to flee God’s wrath, not heal their relationship with God.  They were trying to protect themselves, rather than change who they were.  Their motivation was terribly inadequate!

Suggestion for reflection: What are your spiritual motives? (Read Matthew 23:4-7.)

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