Lent Devotional: Matthew 3:1-12

by Jonathan Haefs

Matthew 3:1-12 (click here)
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. (Matthew 3:1-2 and 7-9)

Have you ever been forced to apologize?

I imagine that happened to all of us as children. As much as I hated it then, I make my kids do it now. And it is so easy to tell when they mean it and when they are just going through the motions.

All you have to do is look for the fruit of repentance.

Is repentance being communicated not just through their words, but through their tone of voice and their body language? Even more importantly, do they immediately repeat the action, or do they truly reconcile and go forward pursuing the good of the one they had wronged. Do they bear the fruit of repentance?

All too often we can reduce repentance to mere words. A formal apology. But the words are merely like a seed. They are the first visible evidence of repentance and once planted, those words should grow and bloom and bear fruit.

This is what John the Baptist points out in Matthew 3 when the Pharisees and Sadducees come to him for baptism. He can clearly see that they are merely going through the outward motions of repentance because they are void of any true fruit. They believe that nothing about their life actually has to be transformed because they have all the externals right. They are of the right lineage, they go through the right ceremonies, and keep all the right traditions.

Yet, they do it all for their own glory. They do not bear the fruit of repentance. A transformed heart that pursues the good and glory of the one they had wronged… namely God himself!

All of our sin is ultimately against God, and true repentance bears the fruit of a life transformed to be about God and his glory! This is the true fruit of repentance brought about by the transformational power of God himself! Is this fruit evident in your life? Is God growing this fruit in you?

I must ask myself if my repentance is like that of the Pharisees… like that of my childhood… some external ceremony I have felt forced into… or is my repentance a true seed of faith planted in my heart… a seed of turning from myself and turning to trust in the Lord… is my repentance true repentance?

All I have to do is look for the fruit of repentance.

*All previous devotionals may be found at 
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.