February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“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. 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. 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.’”—Matthew 3:7–10 (NIV)
John is about to get baptized and a group of Pharisees and Sadducees show up, but why? And why does John respond the way he did? He didn’t even allow them to say a word. We’re led to believe they must have come to get baptized themselves. Perhaps, it’s one more religious practice they’d like to check off their self-righteous list. After all, it’s too early in his ministry for them to be protesting him.
There are some similarities and a lot of differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. They were both religious sects within Judaism and comprised the ruling class of Jews in Israel. They honored the Law and had political power. In fact, the Sanhedrin (the Supreme Court of ancient Israel) had members from both groups. However, the Sadducees were the more elitist out of the two groups. They were wealthier and had more influence in political affairs than the Pharisees. They were also friendly with Rome and tolerated its laws. On the other hand, the Pharisees represented the working class and were more relatable to the common man. The two groups also heavily disagreed on doctrine and their view of Scripture. For instance, Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection of the body or the afterlife, whereas, the Pharisees did.
Spoiler Alert: Despite their theological differences, Pharisees and Sadducees unite to conspire to kill Jesus.
The Sadducees weren’t the only ones who were in constant conflict with the Pharisees. In fact, the Pharisees are mentioned all throughout the four Gospels in having the most disputes with Jesus. In their pride, the Pharisees kept the Law, were self-righteous, and believed they held the key into heaven. But, in reality, they were constantly misrepresenting the Law, they held their traditions to be just as important as Scripture, and, as we all know, they were the pure definition of the word hypocrite.
Now, knowing all of this, it now makes sense why John reacted the way He did. He’s preparing the way for the Messiah and these men wanted to appear like they were ready to receive Him. In reality, they were far from it and John could sense this. As John warns them, the ax is at the root of the trees and it’s about to cut all of them down unless true repentance happens and good fruit is produced. John the Baptist’s message is clear: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2 NIV). It’s also interesting how both sects cling on to the name of Abraham. They wholeheartedly believed their heritage and Abraham’s merits would save them, but we know the only Savior is Jesus, the Messiah they’d been waiting for.
How does this passage speak to you in the 21st century? Are you chasing after influence, control, and/or riches? Do you believe you never do anything wrong and show pride in how you walk out your faith? Do you believe you’re better than your neighbor?
These days, we see Christians fall into the path of idolizing power, money, and themselves. Brothers and sisters, it’s not difficult to slip into this trap. We must fight hard to keep our focus on the One who can save. Money will not bail us out. Success on this earth doesn’t mean anything in heaven. Our good actions or our popularity will not save us . . . only Jesus can.
Pause: God sees everything (El Roi). He knows when we’ve stuck our hand in the cookie jar when we weren’t supposed to. Is there anything in your life you need to ask forgiveness for? The time is now to repent—to ask for His forgiveness and to completely turn away from sin.
Practice: Meditate on John 15:1–17. Also, check out this past summer’s teachings on Good Fruit.
Pray: Lord, thank You for giving me the chance to repent. You’re a good Father who loves me even when I’ve failed immensely. Please forgive me. “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge” (Psalm 51:1–4 NIV). Amen.
Alessandra (Ally) Velsor has been part of the Calvary Chapel staff since 2009. Because her family owned various restaurants growing up, she determined to do something else and got a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication. But… never say never…
She served in The Grill at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for 14 years as a server, restaurant manager, and catering manager. She’s currently serving as the cafe supervisor in the Plantation campus. She met her husband, Kenny, working at The Grill and married him in 2011. They have two amazing children Joshua and Sunny.