“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 KJV)
The third chapter in Matthew paints an interesting picture of the crowds that came to John the Baptist. Verse five even goes so far as to mention that most everyone in the whole region came out to him. Is it not great when you discover a pastor or teacher that is really worth traveling to hear? Someone who is really doing something powerful such that people come out in droves! Yet, we do not see recorded very much of what those lessons entailed. In fact, we are told that what was said was rather plain. Key words like “repent” and be “baptized”. Perhaps the simple message is the best anyhow. Nevertheless, he has something fiery to say to the Pharisees and Sadducees and he speaks up on the spot.
What does John mean by, “who hath warned you”? Who do you suppose had “warned” all the rest of the people that came from miles around to be there? When we hear news of a darkening future, we generally want to do something about it. Usually either change course or check on the storage supplies. We do that because something inside us reminds us of our insufficiency and we either need to stock up or clean up. What if there is no conviction of guilt, insufficiency, or lack whatsoever? We show up to a message on repentance and find ourselves taking a quick survey of just how popular this speaker is and making plans of our own to win an audience of this size one day. John is very perceptive to what the Holy Spirit is saying within him and calls these people out on their way in before they can even be distracted by their own plans.
Would the phrase “who warned you” not be the single best question to ponder if that was your attitude in attending? Would it also remind you that it is God’s Holy Spirit that calls and convicts us first? If we come to Jesus in any other self seeking spirit, then can we expect to even begin to hear what He has to tell us? Even trying that only makes the process more difficult. Not that Jesus cannot handle difficult circumstances, difficult people, and large amounts of baggage. We still need to come to that point of asking ourselves on whose conviction, on whose direction, and on whose authority am I here? “Who warned you” is the best upfront question John could have asked. It was a question like that which enabled those who did repent to best understand what John was trying to point out.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29 KJV)