Matthew 3: 1–12
Years later, John the Baptist started preaching in the desert of Judea. He said, “Turn back to God! The kingdom of heaven will soon be here.”
John was the one the prophet Isaiah was talking about, when he said, “In the desert someone is shouting, ‘Get the road ready for the Lord! Make a straight path for him.’”
John wore clothes made of camel’s hair. He had a leather strap around his waist and ate grasshoppers and wild honey.
From Jerusalem and all Judea and from the Jordan River Valley crowds of people went to John. They told how sorry they were for their sins, and he baptized them in the river.
Many Pharisees and Sadducees also came to be baptized. But John said to them:
You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? Do something to show that you have really given up your sins. And don’t start telling yourselves that you belong to Abraham’s family. I tell you that God can turn these stones into children for Abraham. An axe is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into a fire.
I baptize you with water so that you will give up your sins. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His threshing fork is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in a barn and burn the husks in a fire that never goes out.
Matthew’s people are suffering; they are being cast out of the Temple; they are told that they are no longer Jews. The Temple never did accept Jesus after his death and resurrection; his followers are now outcasts. Matthew puts the words of his frustration into the mouth of the Baptist.
Matthew’s words give us an understanding of the early church; its fears and its trials. He speaks up against those who have tormented them. Now that we are the ‘organised church’ which side of Matthew are we standing on. Whose message are we listening to?
At this time of Advent we listen to John The Baptist calling us to ‘turn again’ – we all, always, live in need of God’s grace – do we turn with joy that we are called or with a need to prove ourselves worthy of His promise?
Maybe the only important thing is that we do turn.