1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea announcing, 2 “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” 3 He was the one of whom Isaiah the prophet spoke when he said:
The voice of one shouting in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way for the Lord;
make his paths straight.”
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. 11 I baptize with water those of you who have changed your hearts and lives. The one who is coming after me is stronger than I am. I’m not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.”
When we meet John the Baptist in today’s scripture he’s ready to step into public life announcing, “Change your hearts and lives!” I’m not sure why John thinks anyone will listen to him if they didn’t listen when the ancient prophets gave the same message.
As I read this passage I was reminded of my mother saying “Wait until your father gets home. Boy, are you going to get it!”
John seems to be issuing veiled threats, just like my mother. I can’t believe the Sadducees and Pharisees felt threatened into a change of heart by someone dressed in camel’s hair and eating locusts.
A change of heart seldom comes easily. For me, I must understand that there are real consequences to not changing. Recently I received a wake-up call when I developed a pain in my hip. It wasn’t a veiled threat, it was very real, and I guess that’s why I finally listened: “Change my habits or suffer the consequences.” I’ve had a change of heart that is impacting both physical and spiritual areas of my life.
By Kathleen Stolz
For Pondering & Prayer
What is one area of your life that is needing a change of heart? What is one step you can take toward making that change?
John the Baptist’s message was not a new one, but it was one he felt strongly must be shared with everyone. What is one message that you feel strongly about sharing with others?