Vipers to Fruitful Harvest—Luke 3:7–18

7So John kept saying to the crowds who came out to be baptized by him, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Therefore produce fruits in keeping with repentance! Do not even think of saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. 9Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is going to be cut down and thrown into the fire.” 

10The crowds began to ask him, “What should we do then?” 

11He answered them, “Whoever has two shirts should share with the person who has none, and whoever has food should do the same.” 

12Tax collectors also came to be baptized. They said, “Teacher, what should we do?” 

13To them he said, “Collect no more than what you were authorized to.” 

14Soldiers were also asking him, “And what should we do?” 

He told them, “Do not extort money from anyone by force or false accusation. Be satisfied with your wages.” 

15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John could be the Christ. 16John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But someone mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor. He will gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 

18Then with many other words, he appealed to them and was preaching good news to the people.

““You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  In other words, John was asking: “Why have you come here to the Jordan River to be baptized?”  The same may be asked of us. Why are we here? Who warned us of the coming wrath?  Are we here as vipers, here for sinful, self-righteous, reasons, or are we here to be made the harvest of the Lord? By the Gospel of Jesus…we shall be the joyful Harvest of the Lord.

John the Baptizer calls many a brood of vipers because of their sinful motive for coming to John near the Jordan.  The security detail, those soldiers, where there to surely sent there to keep peace because of the crowds developing. The Pharisees and Sadducees where there mostly out of curiosity and self pride—to find fault with John.  John calls out on their insincerity…you brood of vipers. 

Who warned us of the coming wrath?  God’s word does—and therefore, so do I.  Christ is coming and therefore the judgment is coming. He says: 17His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor.  All of us will be sorted. Those who are not bearing fruit of faith and we who are perfectly happy in our sin and do not want to repent, who ignore the warning of the coming wrath…such are the chaff to be burned.  Chaff is the result of a threshers who would grind the wheat or grain and then toss into the air and the wind or a fan wold blow away the chaff and the good grain would land on the floor.  John says:  “he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” That is the fire that has no end. That is hell.  You are warned. That is why you should be here. To repent of your sins. 

He continues: 9Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is going to be cut down and thrown into the fire.” The orchardist, the caretaker of an orchard of fruit trees, will pick up the heavy axe and takes a backstroke that comes down on the base of the tree. These are the trees you see in a orchard that you can’t find any leaves or life or fruit on them. They are twisted and shriveled and dried up. They are chopped down to be burned. The heavy stroke of the law strikes at the base of the dead tree: “Do you find a false comfort in your fine family history as if that will save you?”  Wham! John says to those who took comfort that they had Abraham as their forefather. He says: Do not even think of saying to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones.  “Are you greedy and stingy with your blessings that you do not generously, gladly, thankfully give to others in true need?”  Wham! “ Do you take advantage of others in business dealings to steal?”  Wham! “Are you unsatisfied with what you get and are not content and complain to God?”  Wham! Trees with bad fruit are deserving to chopped down and burned.  We deserve that as we survey all our own sins. 

We come warned, therefor, of the coming wrath and so we come with repentance. We come to ask God to forgive us. That is why those in the the crowds who were coming out to the Jordan River area, into the wilderness to see John, who were sorry for their sins, come to hear John, believe his good news, and to baptized by John. He preached to them Christ. He pointed them to Jesus, who came to appear to the crowds and John that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world—He pointed out that he, John, is nothing compared to Jesus— not even worthy to untie his sandals.  18Then with many other words, he appealed to them and was preaching good news to the people. 

The good news to them and to you is that Jesus has come, Jesus was born, Jesus is here. Jesus is the Son of God who is holy and spotless. He did not sin. He is righteous. Jesus is the sacrificial lamb of God whose pure body is slain for all of our sins. He died. He was crucified. All his holiness and all his bitter suffering and death is to take away the sins of the world…yes, even all of your sins—all of your bad rotten fruit. It is now gone!  That bad fruit in your life is taken and place upon him who hung on the cross. It is gone forever! You  join the happy believing crowds by the Jordan to hear the good news  from Jesus.

John says: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  He will gather the wheat into his barn,” So many were baptized by John, by the Authority of Christ.  Jesus has baptized you with water and the Spirit and you are purified by the fire of his blood, have his grace and his perfect pardon. You are made alive with faith in Jesus by the Holy Spirit whom he put into you. You are made to be good wheat, his harvest—or a good tree with real good fruit. Your roots are in Jesus whose holiness flows through you for that you are forgiven, you have a new life—you are alive in Christ.

Imagine the joy of these people on hearing of the good news. You know this kind relief. It is the peace and gladness to God of hearing what Jesus has done for you and that he baptized you. No wonder so many travelled far and in wilderness to the Jordan to hear this. That is why your presence here is just as joyful. I am commissioned by Jesus to give you joyous news: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. The most comforting words of that wonderful promise are the words: “he that beleaveth not.” What would only condemn you is not your sins or that you have not done enough to earn heaven…but it is only unbelief— “he that believeth not”.   By the good news you can put your trust in Jesus alone and he has done it all for you.  “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” So rejoice!  You believe in Jesus and are you are saved! What good news, what glad tidings, and also what merry and happy Christmas cheer!

As a new tree of life, because of Jesus your Savior you bear fruit. You are made alive in Christ. As a forgiven Child of God you DO bear good fruit that is proof of your faith. That is why: 10The crowds began to ask him, “What should we do then?” He told them to be generous in Christ with those in need. That is why He told the tax collectors to be honest and fair in their collections. That is why He told the soldiers to be content with their pay and not to extort from people bribes or offer favors for money. That is one reason God tells you to love the 10 commandments—so you know what pleases him….what fruit from you he loves to see and you would love to produce as a thank-offering to your Savior! And what a goal it is for you to grow more and more in this good lovely fruit of faith. 

As a live tree in Christ you are God’s Harvest…and because of Christ, you bear the fruit of joy! 14Sing out, daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, you daughter of Jerusalem. 15The Lord has removed the judgment against you. …17The Lord your God is with you as a hero who will save you. He takes great delight in you. He will quiet you with his love. He will rejoice over you with singing.” Today is the third Sunday in Advent: Gaudet, which is latin for Rejoice…(thus the pink or rose candle is lit today) Joy is a fruit of the people who are the harvest of God, the living trees in Christ who bear fruit of that faith in Christ …4Rejoice in the Lord always! I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Those are truly happy certainties.  Amen.