4 John wore clothes made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.
5 People from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, and all around the Jordan River came to him. 6 As they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 7 Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John. He said to them, “You children of snakes! Who warned you to escape from the angry judgment that is coming soon? 8 Produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives. 9 And don’t even think about saying to yourselves, Abraham is our father. I tell you that God is able to raise up Abraham’s children from these stones. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be chopped down and tossed into the fire.
Matthew 3:5-10 CEB
-Rev. Melissa Fain-
Every time we pick up a bible and begin reading, we are adding to the text. It is impossible not to. Perhaps we are imagining what the scene looks like. Perhaps we are adding inflection to the words. We could be visualizing how a biblical character is standing or moving. Our brains naturally fill in the gaps. It must, because rarely do we get any clue on the adjectives describing the scene. As I mentioned before, it was probably one of the things lost as the Word moved from oral tradition to written text.
So there are things I am considering as I read Matthew 3. There are questions I think we need to at least consider. Questions that give us no clear answers, but add a layer of possible context to what we are reading.
What happened between Zachariah discovering his wife was pregnant, and John being in the wilderness?
Being a Priest was a birthright. The high priests could trace their linage back to Aaron, the first high priest. Zachariah was the real deal, and so was his son: John. Something epic happened in John's life to make him give up the "easy" path of becoming a priest, and follow the difficult path of being in the wilderness. Here is what I believe:
If this is true, it gives an added depth to the anger and resentment of the Priests throughout the bible. Jesus is not only a false prophet in their eyes, he's the one who unhinged John and got him killed. It adds a layer of humanity we often throw aside when it comes to these "children of snakes."
What is the point? You can choose to accept my theory or throw it out the window. The point is to first understand there is more going on in the story than we are privy to. We are not given a complete picture, and we must fill in the blanks in some cases. Second, it's to see the humanity in those we have labeled our enemy. God loves us all. God loves Leviathan, and God loves the children of snakes. God loves the people who turn away the children of snakes. We are at the point today where we need to be a community that brings the Body of Christ together, not hack it apart even more. Today I suggested how the very people who would eventually call for Christ's crucifixion were acting in a concerned and loving way. How much more difficult could it be to see how those with a different opinion than our own could also be acting from a human way?