John The Baptist
Verse 1 – In those days, John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
John the Baptist was about 6 months older than Jesus. Elizabeth, John’s mother, and Mary were related, either cousins, aunt, sister or some close family relation. “In those days,” means while Jesus was still in Nazareth.
Verse 2 – and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
Almost 30 years had passed since the events of chapter 2. John bursts on the scene telling people to “Repent!” “Stop rebelling against God, and begin following the life that is in God’s Word.” True repentance is a 180 degree turn around from the way a person had been going. There will be an obvious transformation. “The kingdom of God is at hand,” the kingdom of Christ, “The reign of God draws near.”
Verse 3 – For this is he who was spoke of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight.’ ”
We, as Christians, can help prepare a way for people to meet Christ by explaining, who He is, why He came, the forgiveness of sin, and how much He loves them. John did this by preaching before Jesus came on the scene.
Verse 4 – And John himself was clothed in camel’s-hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
This clothing that John wore, was the type of clothing prophets wore (2 Kings 1:8; Zechariah 13:4). This made John different from the other religious leaders, who were greedy and selfish, and preoccupied with winning the praise of the people. John was concerned only with the praise of God. John separated himself from the others to show this message was new. Do others recognize you’re a Christian simply by observing your actions?
Verse 5 – Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him
Verse 6 – and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
I’m sure some showed up out of curiosity, but never the less, they repented and were baptized. Some people may end up in church simply out of curiosity, but when the Holy Spirit pricks their hearts, their lives will be changed.
John used a symbolic action that people could see in baptism for the repentance of sins and forgiveness. It was a renewal of their covenant with God through water baptism.
Verse 7 – But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducee’s coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Two of the most prominent sects of that time were the Pharisees and Sadducee’s. The Pharisees separated themselves from anything non-Jewish. The Sadducee’s believed in Genesis through Deuteronomy alone. They were descended mainly from priestly nobility, while the Pharisees came from all class of people. These two groups dislike each other, but both opposed Jesus.
John criticized the Pharisees for being legalistic and hypocritical, following the letter of the Law but ignoring the true intent. He criticized the Sadducee’s for using religion to advance their political position.
Verse 8 – “Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance,
Verse 9 – “and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
In other words: Your privileges of birth, avail nothing where there is no righteousness of life. They weren’t God’s children simply by being a descendant of Abraham’s. Just as a tree is expected to bear good fruit, God’s people are expected to produce good works. People should be able to see our faith in the way we treat others – actions.
Verse 10 – “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
John compared people who claim they believe God but don’t live for God, to unproductive trees that will be cut down.
Verse 11 – “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
John showed great humility by saying that the one coming after him he wasn’t worthy to carry even His sandals. John was baptizing for the forgiveness of sins, but it couldn’t change a person on the inside, it only made a public commitment. But when Jesus came, He would baptize them with the Holy Spirit fire that would give them an inner transformation. This transformation would affect the heart’s motives and the very soul and would produce rapid and permanent changes in the lives of people. Jesus s would have the power to transform a heart in a way that no other had, ever.
Verse 12 – “His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
“Winnowing fan,” is actually a shovel, fork, of sort, used for throwing grain into the air, so that the chaff is blown away by the wind. The chaff, representing the wicked, will be burned up with a fire that can’t be extinguished.
Baptism of Jesus
Verse 13 – Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
Did Jesus “need” to be baptized? No, in His case, a personal reformation and repentance of sin was not necessary, for He was sinless. This baptism was a solemn rite by which He was set apart to His great office. He represented holiness and purity in that great system of religion that He was about to set up in the world.
Verse 14 – And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
Verse 15 – But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.
Under the Old Testament law, there was no ordinance to be water baptized. The people had never seen this until John introduced it. But Jesus chose to do it as an example to the baptism of John, as to a divine ordinance.
Verse 16 – Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
Verse 17 – And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
These verses show the Trinity, or the doctrine that there are three Persons in divine nature and yet One in essence. In this passage, all three person of the Trinity are present and active. God the Father speaks; God the Son is baptized; God the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus. This is one of God’s incomprehensible mysteries.