Reading: John 3:7-12
Verse 12: “He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Today we read the second half of this week’s John 3 text. Verses 1-6 come tomorrow. Maybe that seems backwards. But sometimes we need to see the problem before considering the solution.
John has been preaching and baptizing in the wilderness along the Jordan River. Some of the religious leaders come out to see what’s going on. These men of high piety and fine robes are curious about this wild man. He is wild indeed! Upon seeing these fine men, John lashes out, saying, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Talk about a gut punch. He then tells them that claiming Abraham won’t save them. Upper cut! And, oh yes, the ax is at the roots of the tree – right there at your ankles. Quick jab! John finishes them off with this explanation of the wrath to come: “He will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” This sweeping right hand blow ends the encounter without a word from the Sadducees and Pharisees.
John cut right to the chase. He was direct and decisive. We smile or grin as we imagine this scene unfolding. Yes, we do. Until we realize that these words are in Matthew 3 for our benefit, not for the religious leaders’ benefit. We like others to think us “religious.” We enjoy our comforts. Don’t dig too deep, though. The reality is that we all have plenty of chaff in our lives – probably enough to start a small blaze! So we must ask ourselves: What religious facades do we hold up? How and why do we seek to practice religion instead of living out a real faith?
Good questions to sit with until tomorrow, when we delve into John’s call to repent. Happy wrestling!
Prayer: Lord God, make clear to me those things that you’d like to burn from my life with your refining fire. Give me the courage to see them and then the conviction to offer them up to you. Amen.