In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the
Desert of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through
the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for
the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he
was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee
from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matthew 3: 1-8)
Many in the Christian
tradition think of repentance as being synonymous with being sorry and asking
forgiveness for something you've done wrong. However, a deeper study of the word is telling. The word "repent" in Greek is metaneo,
which means simply "think, and then think
Notice here several things
concerning the Pharisees. In the
days of Jesus, the Pharisees were thought of as being separate from society and
as living "sin-free" lives. If
this were actually true, why would Jesus call them a "brood of vipers" and tell
them to repent? If they did not
commit sin, what did they have to repent of? The true meaning of the word, however, points to the idea
that "repentance" is not specifically dealing with turning from, renouncing or
even apologizing for sin. Rather,
in this passage, Jesus, in no uncertain terms lets them know they do not know
as much as they think they do and admonishes them to "produce fruit in keeping with
repentance" - or in other words, "think, and then think again" if you want to
experience the kingdom.
This passage of Scripture
is commonly misunderstood because people simply don't know the true meaning of
the word "repentance." As we read
and study the Bible, we must always do so with an openness to several
1 - WHO is speaking /
writing (what is this writer's background and experience?)
2 - WHO is the RECIPIENT
(who is being addressed and why?)
3 - WHEN was the
particular book or letter written and what was happening at the time?
4 - WHAT was the CUSTOM of
the day; the CULTURE of the people; and the CONTEXT of the Scripture?
When we speak of the need
to "consider the source" we must remember that the Bible was written
exclusively by Jewish, heterosexual men.
Why are these considerations important? Because there will inevitably be biases and prejudices that
inherently determine an individual's ability to speak or write objectively.
If you want to experience the kingdom, repent
and consider the source.