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Read Matthew 3

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 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.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 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.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Go Deeper

This chapter opens with introducing us to John, the first prophet God calls after the 400 years of silence seen between Malachi and Matthew. He was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, prophesied in Luke 1:17 as one who would “go before the Lord…to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

John the Baptist is a well known person in scripture, but we can oftentimes fly over his story because it’s familiar. Let’s not do that today because there is much for us to learn about him. Even at times when his behavior feels extreme to us, hold onto the fact that John was willing to be misunderstood and disliked for the sake of pointing others towards Jesus. He dedicated his whole life to making himself less and being the lone person to prepare their hearts for Jesus.
So stick with him–there are things to learn!

When it comes to John’s mission, the message of repentance is at the heart of his teaching. First thing for us to note about repentance is that it is not just a feeling but an action. Our intentions don’t matter if they are not followed through with action. That is why John calls out the religious teachers in verses 7-10. Their appearance of repentance and legalistic view of “checking the boxes” isn’t modeling what John is teaching. Repentance isn’t about the appearance, it’s about the heart. Above everything else, repentance is the daily process of acknowledging sin and pivoting the other direction. It’s the response to what Jesus has done.

Within the context of when this message is being taught, it’s important to understand why it was so important for John to focus on repentance. In order to be open to salvation, first there needs to be a right understanding of one’s sinful nature. If you don’t acknowledge that the world is broken and that we ourselves are sinful, then you cannot understand the desperate need for a Savior.

John’s emphasis on repentance is just as important for us now as it was then. The Gospel should continue to be something that is made new to us, knowing that we are always in desperate need of our Savior. And what is best about this message is that Jesus has already come and made a way for us so find joy in knowing that we get to rest in a Savior who has lived and died for us. Having a right view of ourselves allows us to open our eyes to who the Lord truly is. We are able to rest and trust Him when we put ourselves in the right place in relation to God. Find joy in the Gospel today! Though our sin increased, his grace abounds.


  1. What did you lear about God and His character from this passage?
  2. What can you learn from John the Baptist in Matthew 3? How can you point others towards Jesus today? 
  3. Throughout his mission, Jesus himself is willing to be misunderstood for the sake of identifying with sinners, how does this change your perspective for how we are called to live?

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4 thoughts on “Matthew 3”

  1. John, who is often called the forerunner of Christ, is linked to the prophet Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 40:3-5, “Make a way for the Lord through the wilderness. Make a straight, smooth road through the desert for our God. Fill the valleys and level the hills. Straighten out the curves and smooth off the rough spots. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. The Lord has spoken!” These are some of the same words John used to challenge the people of his day. This was either good or terrible news to those who heard the message. It’s the same for us, we either repent, seek forgiveness and receive hope, or we reject his offer, refuse to listen and are condemned for eternity. Prepare means to get ready, not only for ourselves, but for EVERYONE that intersects our life. We get to join the greatest movement in history, that of taking the gospel to everyone everywhere!

  2. Repentance is sincere regret or remorse, to turn away from an action. When you are truly sorry or not going to do an action again you walk away from that or make restitution to whom ever you have hurt, taken from, or made mad. These are my thoughts. The other thought is the Pharisees and Sadducees were most likely kinda like us. We live in America and so that automatically makes us a part of this country. So they were like we grew up with the Torah and knowing God and the laws so that automatically makes us going to heaven. But John so hum no not today, this is the rest of the story. This is so ALL will have the opportunity to have and know God through His son Jesus Christ and to be adopted into His family. WOOHOO!!!I

    Thank You God for wanting ME!!!!! Thank you for my repentance and it being true and worthy for You. I exalt, praise, worship with all that I am to all that YOU are in Jesus name

    1. I agree with your thought on repentance. Partial repentance is not full repentance. It took me a long time to realize this and wonder why I didn’t have joy and peace and withholding of blessings.

  3. When I listened to the BS interview with Matthew West, his comment about how, “he can’t forget that he has an audience of one” has continually rang in my head. I think about John saying and acting the same way here. His audience is one—the One. What a powerful statement and example to live by if we just remind ourselves daily to be holy and humble for God. It’s so completely opposite thinking from the Pharisees and Sadducees who their audience was themselves and their so-called “righteousness”.
    When we remind ourselves of that one phrase how easier would it really be to spread the gospel? To resist temptation and repent?
    Jude 1:24 states, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,” This scripture was discussed in our Bible study last night when we studied temptation. If our audience is one—the One is able to keep you from stumbling or guide you to full repentance and joy.
    The old hymn written in 1887 by W.A. Ogden “He is Able to Deliver Thee”

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