But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Matthew 3:7
We can only wonder what motives brought the Pharisees and Sadducees to leave Jerusalem and travel all the way out to see John the Baptist. John said that their coming to be baptized by him inferred their seeking to escape the “Wrath to come” by repentance of sin and renewal of life.
Whether these Jewish leaders genuinely saw the need for the repentance that John’s Baptism represented is problematical. Perhaps they went as many Roman Catholics, on pilgrimage to a so-called Holy site. Maybe it was to give the appearance of great sanctity and religiosity. We can only hope some went in sincerity.
It could be also true that because the mass of the people left their employments and went to be baptized by him ,that the Jewish religious leaders could not bear to be outdone and have the common people show more religious devotion than they did.
Jesus himself talking about the Jewish reaction to John’s ministry said that;
He was a burning and a shining light: and you were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. John 5:35
We know that the Pharisees and Sadducees occupied the opposite extremes of Jewish religious life. They only banded together for dealing with common threats to the religious and political status quo.
They had sought John’s credentials for doing as he did (Matthew 1:25), and he made it very clear that he was not the Messiah.
(It is interesting to note that during the period that Jesus and his disciples baptized (John 3) that there is no mention of the Pharisees or Sadducees coming to be baptized by Him. Although they often came and asked Jesus to tell them his authority for doing and teaching as He did and a miracle for heavenly confirmation.)
This is pure speculation but it seems to me that John the Baptist fitted more into the Jewish idea and framework of a prophet and his ministry. He was the new “Elijah” who they had long waited for. He very much conformed to the Jews idea of a prophet even down to his manner of dress and diet.
People have always attached great superstitious reverence for the monastic and ascetic ie. austere, self denying, religious lifestyle. While many have followed this path during human history they have often done it to bring themselves a reputation for sanctity and in search of religious merit.
John the Baptist however was the very opposite. Indeed although he received the attention and favour of the multitude, he went out of his way to shun the adulation. Rather he pointed to the one who was coming, the true light of the world and the Lamb of God, by comparison of whom he was a mere nobody.
John condemned the practices and superficial religion of the Pharisees and Sadducees as vehemently as did Jesus. Yet we hear of no persecution or seeking to entrap him as they attempted with Jesus during His ministry. Indeed it was not until he “crossed” King Herod in his adultery, that John was eventually arrested and beheaded.
Jesus on the other hand was hounded from the beginning. I think it was fair to say that Jesus no way conformed to Jewish expectations. That He had miraculous gifts and teaching ability was obvious. The people followed him like shepherd- less sheep, (but what did they know)?
Despite all this the Jewish religious leaders rejected and crucified Jesus. He was the Messiah they did not want. He was leading on a path and they did not want follow. Ultimately they were more interested in freedom from the Romans and World domination than the forgiveness of sin and the establishment of the true church encompassing both Jew and Gentile, worshipping God “in spirit and in truth”.
John had he sought to, could have set himself up as a false messiah but in his faithfulness and devotion to God, he set the example that ministers of the gospel and Christians generally must follow, by exalting Christ and him alone as the hope and Saviour of the World.
War and Peace?
I have been reading some books that talk about the Japanese invasion of China and the Asia Pacific during the Second World War.
By all accounts they were bloody, ruthless and barbaric in what they did to captured soldiers and civilians, young and old, male and female. The untold suffering they caused has forever tainted Japan’s reputation in the world.
So many years later Japan is technologically advanced seemingly peaceful.
My question is where did this propensity for violence go? Did the war and intervening years since, teach them the error of their ways and bring about a miraculous change, or is it still deep down in them somewhere, waiting to burst out?
The Japanese are not unique among the peoples of the earth. The fallen nature of man in given circumstances is capable of expressing itself in great hatred and mindless violence when not restrained by law and self control.
We all in some degree must watch over ourselves in order to avoid harming others physically, psychologically and spiritually. “There but by the grace of God go I.”
Some may speak of the inherit nobility of man and his eventual arrival at perfection but it is only through Christ’s redemption and repentance for sin and by daily living in union with His indwelling Spirit that we can hope to deal with our sinful ,violent and hateful tendencies.