In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.(Matthew 3:1-10)
It is very helpful to remember that Jesus and John the Baptist came unto Israel, exactly forty years before the worst calamity ever to befall the nation in all of it’s calamitous history. Romans surrounded Jerusalem, in 70 ad, killed 1.5 million people, glutted the world’s slave markets with Jews, and utterly destroyed the holy Temple.
Israel was taken out of political and national existence for almost two millennia, all in fulfillment of the words of Moses and all of the prophets.
For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without seraphim:(Hosea 3:4)
Moses predicted the scattering in the “Song of Moses” which God gave him to teach all of Israel. Notice the Vineyard theme, that in spite of all of God’s preparation, the ‘wine’ of Israel’s fruit was bitter poison;
I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:… For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.(Deuteronomy 32:26-33)
What happened to Israel in 70 ad was an apocalyptic calamity, the worst that ever befell Israel. Worse than the Babylonion invasion, which featured the destruction of the Temple and 70 years of captivity and exile. Israel would be wiped out as a political entity, and never be seen again until 1948 ad!
Jesus and John the Baptist came, forty years before it, preaching repentance to a people who thought that they were guaranteed salvation by virtue of their physical relationship to Abraham. The Roman “Axe” was laid to the root of the tree, Judgment was coming upon the nation, and the Jews were deluded and unaware, badly led by “blind leaders” leading the blind into the pit of Hell.
Thus Jesus and his forerunner John the baptist were “end-times” preachers, urging the complacent and deceived nation unto repentance and renewed faith.
Those who listened to John’s preaching had crossed the Jordan, out of the land, then in response to the preaching of the Baptist, they went back into the Jordan again and came again into the Holy land, signifying a new spiritual Exodus. They were wanting to start all over again, as the people of God, and to be prepared to receive the Messiah.
Jesus would refer to the parable of the Vineyard, investing it with new and deeper meaning, to his own (and our) generation. We will take a look Jesus’ use of the parable, in the next article.