Rattling off ominous predictions of imminent doom, John warned that Jesus’ advent would mark the end.
The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire — Matt. 3:10, 12 NIV.
Jesus failed to live up to his billing. The meanest thing he ever did was overturn the tables of the money changers in the temple. When it came to violent confrontation, he meekly handed himself over to death — hardly the expected judgement.
But no, John didn’t miss the mark. The threatened judgement DID fall, and the wrath of God DID execute implacable justice.
It’s just it didn’t fall on the guilty. It fell on Jesus.
That horrible death of Jesus. The ax fill on the root, on the root of Jesse. The burning scorched Jesus.
Jesus was the soldier who threw himself on the hand grenade to save his buddies, you and me.