7 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?
8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
9 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.
10 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.
In the top verse, it shows John highly disgruntled with the Sadducees and Pharisees. (I like to take note there that he's "disgruntled" with the religious leaders, not the non-believer, nor the athiest, nor the agnostic, but the religious - those who should know better; who should know God and His truth better.) I just Googled the definition of both, and what I learned was, these two "peoples" opposed one another. I thought they were both religious leaders who had their hearts closed to everything but their own opinion, therefore making them on the same team, just about. But, nope, they opposed each other.
"Religion" always seems to be opposing something or someone, doesn't it, rather than opening its heart and arms to embrace and assist. As far as I can see, with Jesus, what He greatly opposed was the closed-off arms and hearts and minds of the "religious" - of those who should know better; who should know God and His truth better.
Anyway... more on that as we go walk through Matthew in further blogs. For now, back to -- Where was I...?
...I could be mistaken, of course, but what I saw in the definition of the Pharisee was that they seemed to believe in an after life, but the only way to get there is through their own works. And the Sadducee denies the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels. Yet, here they are coming to check out what Jesus has to offer? John seems to think they were coming as a way to 'flee from the coming wrath', and that says to me they wanted some of what John was offering, too. But John didn't welcome these religious leaders in a very friendly manner, did he? Rather, he told them to "produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
If I take 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 to heart, and into consideration, (and on being reminded that the top commandments are based on LOVE) I tend to believe the fruit worthy of repentance is not works, is not opposition, is not the traditions of man, but love. I am not saying works is not important in the church - there is a lot to be done; I mean, someone has to prepare the coffee, right? But if it's not done in love then surely it must be done in vain, and if done in vain it's not done in the name of Jesus, and if it's not done in the name of Jesus, then surely it's not "fruit in keeping with repentance" and if not fruit in keeping with repentance then surely it is fruit in danger of being "cut down and thrown into the fire"...?
If we have not love, if the fruit we produce and the works we do is not done in Jesus' name, who comes in His Father's name, who is LOVE, then surely what we do is worthy of 'the fire' - no matter what church we plant our feet in...?
I am so not saying that to condemn anyone - especially not the non-believer. I rarely write for the non-believer's sake. My "audience" - as far as I'm concerned, is the believer. Even so, I'm not here to condemn the believer, either, but to simply share that:
13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 If I give all I possess to the poor and
give over my body to hardship that I may boast,
but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13)