Repenting your sins is all well and good; I can’t get behind the naked threats in Matthew 3, though. Take Matthew 3:12, “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Even if you accept that the chaff in question really have done evil, how does that justify burning them with unquenchable fire? It reminds me of the “lock them up and throw away the key” philosophy that the United States has followed for the last three decades.
Matthew 4 is more to my taste: I particularly like the bit where the devil says to Jesus that God will look after him if he does something stupid, and Jesus’s response is “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (from Matthew 4:7). Even if you believe that you’re the chosen one, that’s no excuse to press your luck, or to abuse that privilege! On its own, I’m not so thrilled with “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (from Matthew 4:10), but in the context of having the Devil asking you to worship him and be rewarded with vast riches and power, it’s a pretty good response. And then there’s Jesus’s going around and healing people right and left; it’s certainly hard to find that as anything other than wholly admirable!
This post has not been revised since publication.