Pastor to the baptismal candidates: You brood of vipers!
Luke 3:7 “John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
John’s name means ‘Yahweh is gracious’ so it is strange that the first thing we read of what comes out of his mouth is ‘You brood of vipers!’
Luke says he said this to the crowds. Matthew says he said it to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus would repeat the term to the Pharisees later.
Why did he say that?
I talked with a friend yesterday who is attending a baptismal service.
Can you imagine today the Pastor calling the baptismal candidates forward with the announcement, “You brood of vipers!”?
John’s identity and his words seem so at odds.
Should the church follow suit and slander those outside the church?
Or did it have a meaning that we are unaware of?
Jesus told his disciples to be as wise as serpents. So it is all a bit confusing.
Jesus used the serpent as a powerful symbol of healing in John 3:14-16.
So here is the question: why did John call those coming to be baptised ‘brood of vipers’? Why did he slander them?
Maybe it wasn’t slander!
- John doesn’t call them vipers but children of vipers (the Pharisees/Sadducees – religion)
- The religious rejected John and would reject Jesus for they believed they didn’t need to repent and were warning the people against him. ‘Who warned you ..?’ (Who did you listen to?)
- Adult snakes do not take care of their baby snakes. The babies are born and then left. They don’t live as families.
So maybe John wasn’t being slanderous to the baptismal candidates.
To those coming to him with repentance and for forgiveness he says to them:
You need to depart from your history (Religious duty/oppression). Jesus would say later ‘Do not say we have Abraham as our ancestor’ (no one can call upon their previous generation to bring them into the kingdom whether Jew or Christian)
Who warned you to ignore my message? Come away from them!
Now that’s a good message.