“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.” – Matthew 3:1 (NASB)
John the Baptist comes from a long line of prophets who “make ready the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:3). He joins the ranks of Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. He often sounds like Malachi and Micah in his denunciation of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
John calls them a “brood of vipers” and urges them to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:7-8). The words suggest the religious and political leaders have not listened to the prophets of prior years. Rather, they have continued to rob God (Malachi 3:8-12) and to act unjustly, unkindly, and proudly (Micah 6:8).
John has no patience for them, but he shouldn’t be expected to. As a prophet, his role is to call people to repentance and make ready the way of the Lord. Sometimes, that role calls for blatant confrontation—shining a glaring spotlight on the ugly, putrid darkness that fills people’s hearts.
And yet, we know John and the other prophets acted with patience and kindness. Elijah and Elisha, for instance, both aid the starving and destitute. The prophets respond to people as individuals, the same as Jesus does. Their words and actions change in response to the situation and the person’s heart. We are called to do the same. Jesus has come, but he will come again. Until that time, we act as Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), calling people to repentance and making ready the way of the Lord.