And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:9 NIV)
Everyone was coming to John the Baptist at the River Jordan. Why? This is what Mark tells us: And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4 NIV) People were coming to John for the baptism of repentance. John was telling the people that the Messiah, the king they have been waiting for, is coming. He comes to forgive them of their sins.
This is in essence what John was telling the people; when this king comes, he will forgive you of your sins. However, you need to prepare yourselves for this king. You need to repent. You need to get your act together and prepare your hearts for him. You need to say that you mean it when you come to him for the forgiveness of your sins. To show that you really mean it, I, John, will now baptise you. Just as you are baptised (immersed) in water and cleansed, this king will baptise (immerse) you with his Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will clean you from your sins.
However, together with the crowds, the Jerusalem temple leadership were also coming to John for this baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John could see that they did not really mean it when they came to him. They wanted to preserve their religious traditions and add John’s baptism to their list of accomplishments. They were faking their repentance. They insisted that because Israel is descended from Abraham, a major figure in the Old Testament, they are already accepted by God. In this sense, they did not need the forgiveness of this new king because they are children of Abraham.
Who is this new king whom John is talking about? It is Jesus whose birth we celebrate during the Christmas season. Jesus is John’s distant cousin. Jesus is a human being. Jesus is also God who has come down to earth. God has come. God has come to forgive people of their sins.
This is how John reacts to them, to the Jerusalem temple leadership of his day.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:7-9 NIV)
With Jesus, God is creating a new people. John looks at the stones at the River Jordan. He points to these stones. I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. As God comes in the person of Jesus Christ, God is raising up new children for Abraham. God is extending his blessings to people outside physical Israel. All kinds of people can now become the children of Abraham; tax collectors, sinners, soldiers, Roman centurions, lepers, blind people, women and children; all kinds of people. People can now come to Jesus and be forgiven of their sins.
What happens when they come to God? Each one of these “stones” is precious to God. God is the God of Israel. God is the God of the church. He can take stones and turn them into the children of God. He cleans each stone as he finds them. He remakes all of them into the children of Abraham. They become the children of God. God does this one person at a time. God has come. God has come to remake us one person at a time.
During this Christmas season, when you go into the Fireside Room for the Coffee Hour after the Sunday morning worship gathering, please have a look at the top of Christmas tree in the Fireside Room. There is an angel doll at the top of the Christmas tree. Brenda is part of our church family. One day she found this angel in the garbage. It is was full of dirt and looked done. Yet Brenda saw the potential in this angel. Brenda rescued this angel from the garbage. She took her home. It took a long while to clean this angel. She cleaned her with a toothbrush and warm soapy water. It took Brenda 2 days to clean up this angel. She did it and presented it to us so that we can put her on the top of our Christmas tree in the fireside room. This angel is now part of our church decorations for the Christmas season. Brenda picks up an angel doll from the garbage and turns it into a decoration for the Christmas tree.
Through Jesus, God raises up new children from stones to become the children of Abraham. Through Jesus, God raises up new children from stones to become the children of God. Like this angel in the Fireside Room, Jesus can pick us up from the garbage and clean us up. He might not use a toothbrush and warm soapy water. Jesus comes to bring us forgiveness of sins. It will certainly take more than 2 days to clean up. It will take a lifetime.
Jesus has cleaned us. Jesus is cleaning us now. Jesus will clean us in the future. Jesus sees the potential in us. He wants to make sure we look as good as this angel doll in our fireside room. We are all God’s work in progress.