“Then Jerusalem, all Judea and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to
yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. Matthew 3:5-10(NKJV)
John the Baptist came from the wilderness preaching about repentance and when the Pharisees and the Sadducees came to his baptism he called them a brood of vipers. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious and political authorities of the Jewish people from 152 BCE. Though conflicts existed between these two sects because of their differences in beliefs, they had one thing in common – they believed in God. Sadducees believed in the literal interpretation of the law and did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. They were also against the ORAL LAW written by the Pharisees as the interpretation to the TORAH (written law). The Pharisees believed that God gave Moses the knowledge of what these laws meant and how they should be applied but the Sadducees were against this. Despite their differences, they were the religious leaders of the Jews at the time (Pharisees were more prominent) and the people saw them as the accurate expositors of the law.
John the Baptist called these experts of the law of God a BROOD OF VIPERS – people who taught the Jews what to do and showed them what they had to do to enter the kingdom of God. He asked them, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” This means that these so-called experts of the law were going to experience the wrath of God as all the people who did not repent of their sins. These people were leaders who taught the people what to do from the law but they were still going to suffer the wrath of God. Why? The answer is that they were a vipers. John the Baptist used this word figuratively to point out that they were cunning, wicked and malignant men. Jesus, on numerous occasions, described the Pharisees as hypocrites, who prevented people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven. Let’s take a look at why both Jesus and John the Baptist described them as a brood of vipers.
- They were hypocrites: They told the people what to do but they did not do it themselves. They lived double lives – they portrayed a different life on the outside but involved in secret sins. They recited long prayers in the synagogues to show the people that they are truly experts of the law. This is what made them vipers – they did what they did not to please God but to be praised by men (Matthew 23:3-5,25-28)
- They were wicked: They prevented people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 23:13). This is what the enemy did to Adam and Eve. He deceived them and made them think they were going to receive wisdom from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Likewise, the Pharisees deceived the people and led them to hell. They also won proselytes and made them worse than themselves.
- They wanted to be recognized by people as elite: They made long prayers in synagogues, gave alms to make a show and fasted for all to know. They love the best seats in the synagogues and at feasts. They wanted to be seen by everyone as the leaders of the people (Matthew 23:5-7).
- They neglected the more important matters of the law (Matthew 23:23)
All these things they did showed who they really were. They could not produce fruit worthy of the repentance for which they went to John the Baptist. They were the interpreters of the law and hence should portray this not only on the outside but also in their hearts. These brood of vipers did not accept the message of Jesus. They plotted time and time again to arrest him. They wanted to halt the gospel of God. They were inciting people against Jesus by calling him a prince of Beelzebub. These are all part of the works they did which made them a brood of vipers. They prevented God’s will but pretended to be doing God’s will. They are the exact copy of the enemy of God – Satan – and will end up just like him (in hell). Jesus says in Matthew 23:14 that they will receive greater damnation.
BONUS: Christians need to repent in their hearts and minds and show forth fruit of their repentance because as John the Baptist said “even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. Christians need to shun hypocrisy and repent of all works of the enemy. You may know the Bible, you may be prayerful but if you have secret sins and faults, you are a viper destined to wreck the good work of the Lord and end up in hell.
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