7 Then seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to be baptized he said to them: “You offspring of poisonous snakes, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”
8 Now produce fruit worthy of repentance.
Those of us who are preachers always consider carefully how to begin each sermon, or teaching session.
Hopefully our object is always to point people to Jesus, and bring honour to Him.
We know that the first words that we speak can either engage people’s attention, or cause them to have deaf ears.
It is not just what we say, but the way in which we speak. We know that even the most well thought out sentences can be of no use if they are not infused with the direction of the Holy Spirit.
In these days it is probably unlikely that many would consider calling our congregated people an offspring of poisonous snakes. It may be true that such an opening may gain people’s attention, but it would most likely lead to a very antagonistic response, or even people walking out.
The offensive nature of such words may shorten a preacher’s ministry amongst those people; if it is a visiting preacher, such words would probably not result in an invitation to return.
Why did John use such offensive words by calling the Pharisees and Sadducees the offspring of poisonous snakes?
Before answering that it is again amazing that the spiritual elite had made the journey from Jerusalem to the river Jordan to listen to John; it is astounding that both sets of people, who prided themselves on being meticulous in keeping God’s Law and the traditions of the elders, were coming to John. They appear to be repenting of their sins and getting baptized. Baptism was mostly only for those Gentiles who were converting to Judaism, and not for Jews.
However, John turns on them with these startling words.
We must remember that John was a prophet, the first one for more than four hundred years. No doubt the whole nation was excited at the prospect of a prophet being amongst them, someone who would bring them God’s word, someone whom they probably thought may be the forerunner to the coming of the Messiah.