Luke 3:1-10 (ESV)
1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” 7 He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 9 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Luke’s account transitions the reader back to the story of John the Baptist. When we last heard about John (1:80), Luke recorded that he grew and became strong, and he lived in the desert until his public appearance. Luke begins his biography by reminding the reader that his account is set in the context of history. It was critical that Theophilus (1:4) know for certain that the things he had been taught were accurate, so Luke continually lists people and places and dates as reference points. Now John didn’t sugar coat his message from the Lord one bit. In verse 3, we read the summary of what John taught about: repentance for the forgiveness of sins. God was going to come and his coming would involve judgment. It isn’t enough to be a Jew by birth, a descendent of Abraham. It doesn’t matter what your father or your grandfather did for Jesus. It doesn’t matter what church you attend or whom your neighbors are. On Judgment Day, God will treat people as individuals. God must personally adopt a woman’s soul in order to release her from the punishment her sins have earned. This adoption takes place when she repents and places her trust in Jesus.
John used some harsh language when he addressed those who came out to hear him. He called them “sons of snakes.” They were priding themselves in being sons of Abraham or the chosen people. John said that God didn’t see them as sons of Abraham but as sons of the devil (snakes). In the wilderness where John preached, when a fire broke out in the brush, nearby snakes would flee from the heat. Were these people ready to run from their holes like the snakes to get their lives right with God? Time would tell. We can get comfortable in our little holes too. We can begin to embrace sin and rationalize it by reminding ourselves that we are Christians, so we are fine with God no matter what. It is true that if we are honestly followers of Jesus, our salvation is assured. But at the same time, it’s clear that God will judge sin. Why should Christians cling to things that God hates? Prayerfully consider what you are tolerating in your life today. What behaviors do you know you should turn from but fear to release? Ask the Lord for help. He wants you to get it right, and he will come alongside you all the way.