April 15, 2020
John the Baptist – Matthew 3:1-12 (Part 2)
For sure his lifestyle was similar to theirs (referring to desert holy men). And his message had parallel aspects as well. These Essenes saw themselves as “end-time” heralds of a coming war between “the Sons of Darkness and the Sons of Light”. The end was near. Their urgent task was to call people out of the morally bankrupt towns and cities to become cleansed soldiers in the last battle.
Like the Essenes, John preached “The Kingdom of Heaven has come near”, or, “is at hand”. Repentance was not just a cleansing from past sins, but a preparation for the coming kingdom. And part of that preparation was to “prepare the way for the Lord”. In ancient times work crews toiled sometimes for weeks in the hot sun, smoothing out a path on the stony ground for the chariots and carriages of a royal procession as a king or emperor made a “state visit”. In John’s view the king was coming.
The king needed a “path prepared”. So John set about preparing that path. His message was essentially this: 1. Repent! 2. No excuses — even the claim of Abrahamic pedigree is not enough. 3. Demonstrate your repentance through acts of righteousness. 4. Don’t delay — “the axe is already at the root of the trees”. 5. The king is coming, and his agent will be terrible for those who have not been prepared. “He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost…”, signifying supernatural cleansing, and “with fire”, which will consume all the unrighteous and unjust “chaff” smothering Israel. The “threshing floor” will be swept clean. This king will play hardball.