We are studying Matthew 3:1-12 for Sunday, December 27 – studying, that is, when we are not preoccupied with whatever Christmas plans we are carrying out this week. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are a few questions that might help us think about the text:
John the Baptist seems to have been a popular figure, attracting a large following. Why, do we think? What would have a made a message like “repent – change your ways – the kingdom of heaven has come near” appealing to people in his day?
Do we think that message would be equally appealing in our day? Why, or why not?
[More personal] What do our answers to the questions above seem to say about us? Do they show us anything about what we think about “people in general” or about “people these days,” for instance? How would we describe the person with this outlook?
What does John mean by calling the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers”? Do we get the impression that he wants them to repent, or not? Why?
What would repentance entail – what would have to change – for these people? How do we know that? [For instance – are there places in the text we find clues? Or, is this based on things we’ve read, or been told, or what?]
[More personal] What does our own repentance entail? What needs to change, do we think? How do we know that? [Again – what are our sources for these standards?] In what ways do we see ourselves as similar to the Pharisees and Sadducees in this text? In what ways do we see ourselves as different from them? What are the implications of that pattern?
Several of John’s statements are potentially dire: an axe is poised to cut down trees that don’t bear fruit; a farmer is ready with a winnowing fork to separate wheat from chaff; there will be unquenchable fire. What do we think John is talking about here? Why do we think that?
[More personal] What are our responses to the picture of reality painted by John the Baptist in this text? What thoughts arise, what feelings, what questions, what resolutions, etc.? Why is that, do we think?
How similar does Jesus’s message seem to John the Baptist’s? How different? In what ways? What do we notice about that? Think about that? Why?