Matthew 3:1-12

John the Baptist is in the Judean wilderness preaching to the crowd and baptizing them. John was, in modern lingo, the “opening act” for Jesus.

My mental image of John, from reading the scripture, is that he was a bit of a hippie; very organic, before organic was in vogue, or outside the norm for that matter. He wore clothes woven of camel hair tied with a leather belt; he ate locusts and wild honey. Yet, here he is, preaching to all who come to listen: rich, poor, Jews, Gentiles, etc. One group looking on must have been less than sincere for John addresses them harshly. Maybe they came simply to “watch the show.” Can’t you imagine it? Wild-looking John, preaching and baptizing in the river and the fancy Pharisees and Sadducees looking on piously at the activity.

Straightaway, John calls the Pharisees and Sadducees a brood of vipers! “You can’t just watch; you must prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. You cannot rest on your laurels, children of Abraham. You must produce good fruit or be cast out of the kingdom of God.” Note that John is referring not to works, but fruits. Galatians 5:22-23 lists the fruits of the Holy Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

John baptized with water, a baptism symbolic of death to life without Christ and rising to life anew with Christ. John said that Jesus would come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Jesus wants us to produce good fruits so that we are like the heart of the grain, heavy with substance, not shallow and lightweight like the husk from the grain that will be blown away and burned up in the fire. He wants us to be vessels that are ready to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, to live our lives for God.

Prayer: Lord, let us accept your baptism of the Holy Spirit, and let our fruits of the Holy Spirit burn brightly for all the world to see You through the way we live.

Mark Miller