Read Matthew 3
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 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.’”
4 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. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 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? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 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.”
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.
- What did you lear about God and His character from this passage?
- What can you learn from John the Baptist in Matthew 3? How can you point others towards Jesus today?
- 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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