I apologize that this is late- I have been laid out with a cold for two days straight.
…yelling doesn’t make a thing any more possible.
What if John the Baptist was wrong? He was baptizing people from all over the region and saw the Pharisees and Sadducees coming… but in this pericope, they never speak. What if John lost his ever-loving mind over Jews who had changed their minds?
To put it mildly, he did.
He called them a “brood of vipers,” asking them who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? He is, in effect, shaming them for living these largely sinful lives and trying to get redemption at the last minute.
But did it accomplish anything?
Did the Pharisees and Sadducees walk away humbled at their behavior? Did they act any differently after their baptism than before? Did John’s rant of shame do any good whatsoever?
He thinks that The Messiah is coming to baptize with Holy Spirit and fire, putting the good people safely into a barn and torching what’s left of the threshing floor so that everything burns to the ground and we can just start over with all good people… rather than having to get out there and help the ones that will do better when they know they can.
John got part of the message right- he is not worthy to carry The Messiah’s sandals. The part he got wrong is why. Jesus was not coming to earth as a professional Jewish Superhero who was going to smite all those who sinned against God. He saw no reason not to forgive people at the last minute. Jesus never met anyone he didn’t think was worth something… worth a lot, actually, no matter what they’d done prior to meeting him.
John the Baptist thought that The Messiah was coming to reconcile all our sins…. to put us in our places… to make the miserable and the pious claim their fates.
But the one we’re waiting for, the one far greater, keeps no such ledger.