From Snakes To Humans
Along the Jordan River, John was baptizing a multitude of people who came to him for repentance and the remission of their sins. We would think that any minister with a multitude of people would be more than happy. “Look at all the souls being saved!” And with such crowds coming to him, that he would tailor his message to keep them coming. Perhaps give them comfort, encouragement, or even stroke some egos so that he could afford something more than camel skin clothes and a locust and wild honey diet.
Yet, John doesn’t give words of consolation, happiness, nor flattery. In fact, he immediately insults everyone; not just the Gentiles, Samaritans, or unclean sinners who may be in the crowd. The Baptizer insults everyone, even the most honestly kind-hearted seeker of truth and righteousness among them. And his words are quite harsh. “Brood of vipers.” John is calling the entire multitude who is coming for the baptism or repentance for the remission of sins the children of snakes. He is saying that their parents are snakes as they are their children. To the Jews, snakes are the lowest of creatures as it was the serpent that deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. To be called a pig is bad enough as it is an unclean animal. But, a viper, a snake was the very emblem of evil its self. And here it is, this cheap clothes wearing, bug eating country preacher with all of these folk coming to him and could make him rich in tithes and offerings and he has the very nerve to call all of them the worst name you can call anyone in society?
As harsh as it may seem, John’s words applied to them all. Obviously we can see this applying to prostitutes, pimps, and tax collectors for their wickedness. Certainly Gentiles and Samaritans as they were not a part of the seed of Abraham. But, the ordinary Jews among them, even the ones who try to do right, are counted no worse nor better than either group. The best among them still harbor sensuality and greed in their hearts and minds and speak them even if they do not act upon them. The best among them is still irreverent to God as if he doesn’t exist and uses His name only for personal gain. John the Baptist understands how corrupt the human condition is to the point where even the best of the multitudes fail to be human. Indeed their parents and those before them have set the pattern of their lives. All of them, no matter who they are or think they are, are snakes.
Of course, that does not apply to us today, does it? I mean, we are not like the Miley Cyrus’s, Lil’ Waynes, and other celebrities that flaunt wicked lifestyles. We are not running the streets, committing crimes, or laying up with whomever and whenever. Okay, we might think of doing something we shouldn’t. But, at least we don’t do those things. Even if we did, we’ll just say, “My bad God. I won’t do it again.” (at least until next weekend). And even if we did that back in the day, that was back in the day. We are all good now that we go to church. At least we aren’t Jews who still don’t believe in Jesus, or Muslims terrorist woman beaters, or these New Age people practicing witchcraft. We are saved, sanctified, born again, baptized believers in Jesus Christ and are filled with the Holy Ghost. We are not snakes, are we?
This word from John the Baptist applies to us all as a reminder for us not to think too highly of ourselves. That we should be well aware of our capacity to live as evil snakes rather than men and women created in the image of God to live in communion with Him.
It is easy for us to condemn the foul behavior of others. But, what if we were in the same boat they were in? Suppose you couldn’t find work with bills to pay and babies to feed. Under the right conditions, you just might think that selling a little something on the side to get caught up won’t hurt nothing. Suppose there was a problem in your marriage and then that other man or woman offered his or her self to you? Maybe you could see that other person somewhere away from prying eyes. Just because a seed of sin has not been planted doesn’t mean it can’t grow. It just hasn’t been put in the right dirt yet. It is only because of God’s grace, we have not fallen in the right dirt. Because like everyone else, we carry the same seed of sin that can and will grow into the toxic weed of death. So, just because we are here on a Sunday morning does not mean we are completely unable to be where we don’t belong Monday thru Saturday. In fact, we could go to the wrong place right after we leave this place today.
Somewhere along the line, we have lowered the expectation of our humanity. We don’t always act on our sinful thoughts nor do we frequently speak about them. But, we hold on to them as daydreams and fantasies. And we sin in our minds using the same excuse as those who sin in word and deed. “I’m only human.” With that statement, we are saying that human beings are helpless to temptation and can’t help but to do wrong. But 2,000 years ago, this excuse became invalid. Jesus came to the earth fully God and also fully human. He overcame the same temptations that confront us. He overcame death by His death because the Godly Light of His life conquers all darkness and evil that results in death. Because of the life-giving power of the Gospel, the expectation of our humanity is to live free from sin. To make excuses for our sins is to deny our ability to be fully human and reduce ourselves to being snakes. We can dress up, clap our hands, and give our best praises all day long. But, as long as we deny the expectation to live as sinless as the God-Man Jesus, we can not be God’s image human. We can only be belly crawling, dust eating snakes.
No, even the best of us sin and fall short of God’s glory. Even the best of us are snakes. But, the good news is that being a human or a snake is a choice. Hear these words of the Savior in Mark 1:15, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Make the constant commitment every day and every hour not to eat the dust of wickedness and crawl on our bellies with low expectations of our humanity. But let us strive for the higher calling of following the Good Shepherd who leads us to green pastures, lets us drink from still waters, and restores our souls. We must be humble enough to see that we are fully capable of every sin imaginable. But, we are called to live in the holy example of the God who became man so that we could be one with Him. Therefore, let us move from snakes to humans.