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 . . . 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.”
A Judge Who Condemns the Unrepentant
Devotion based on Matthew 3:7,8,10
See series: Devotions
Of all the people who came to hear John preach, the Pharisees and the Sadducees should have been the first to take his message to heart. They, after all, were the recognized religious authorities of the Jewish people. They knew God’s law and all his promises to send the Savior. They should have been among the first to recognize the truth of John’s message, confess their sins, and look for forgiveness to the Messiah John was proclaiming.
Sadly, that is not what they did. You can tell from the way John responded when they came to him. Instead of assuring them of their acquittal before God, John warned that their destruction was imminent. Just as a fruit tree that refuses to produce fruit is in danger of being cut down and thrown into the fire, these Pharisees and Sadducees were in danger of falling under God’s judgment.
The Pharisees and Sadducees did not believe that they had any need for repentance. They had convinced themselves that they didn’t have anything that they needed to confess to God. Because they refused to recognize their need for the forgiveness that God offered them in Jesus, they cut themselves off from the acquittal Jesus won for them. For them, Jesus came as a judge who condemns the unrepentant.
The Pharisees and Sadducees stand as a warning for us today. All of us are capable of doing what they did, rejecting the acquittal that Jesus won for us. If we do that, then Jesus becomes for us as well a judge who condemns the unrepentant. That is not what Jesus wants to be for us. He gave his life so that he could be the judge who acquits us. And that is what he is when we continue with God’s help to trust in him for forgiveness.
Lord Jesus, keep me from ever rejecting the forgiveness that you have won for me. Amen.