Matthew 3:1-17 - Outline of Matthew (MENU page)
3:1. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying,
The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
3:4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins;
and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
In those days...- ie., While Jesus lived at His family home in Nazareth (Mat 2:23; Luk 2:51,52).
John the Baptist- his ministry is also described in Mark 1:1-9; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:6-8,15-37
repent- ie., turn from your sins to serve God.
His message was directed at God's people.
the kingdom of heaven...- This expression is used only in Matthew's gospel.
The meaning is almost identical to 'the kingdom of God' (as used by Mark and Luke, eg., Mark 1:15; Luk 4:43). Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, may be following the Jewish custom of showing reverence for the name of God by using another term in its place. However, the expression 'the kingdom of God' does occur rarely in Matthew. A comparison suggests that in Matthew, 'the kingdom of heaven' refers to God's rule over men on earth; while 'the kingdom of God' speaks of eternal and spiritual aspects of His dominion. (cp. 'kingdom of God' in 6:33; 12:28; 19:24; 21:31).
 
The 'kingdom of heaven' is revealed in three aspects in Matthew:
  1. as 'at hand'- in the Person of the King, who having been presented to Israel, was rejected.
    'At hand' suggests that...
    -- the King is present, but passing by.
    -- the Kingdom is imminent, no prophecied event prevents its coming.
  2. in seven 'mysteries'- relating to the working of God on earth during the present period,
    between Christ's first & second comings (ie., during the Church age). Mat 13:10,11
    These seven mysteries are presented in seven parables in Matthew ch. 13.
  3. as it will be, at Christ's second coming and the establishment of His earthly Kingdom.
    eg., Mat 25:31,34
the voice crying... prepare ye the way of the Lord- quotes Isaiah 40:3, cp. Mal 3:1.
In Isa 40:3, the HB word for 'the Lord' is 'Jehovah.'
John announced His first coming, to the nation of Israel.
Yet, these prophecies await completion at His second coming. See Isa 40:1-5; Mal 3:1-3
raiment of camel's hair...- cp. the description of Elijah, in 2Kin 1:7,8.
John is the last of the OT prophets. In concert with them, He pointed toward Israel's Messiah. For he was moved by the same Holy Spirit who spoke through Elijah. Mal 4:5; Mat 11:7-14
3:5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
3:6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism,
he said unto them, O generation of vipers,
who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
3:8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
3:9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to [our] father:
for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees:
therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
then went out to him...all...- John's audience represented the full spectrum of Israel's people.
-- those who recognized their sin, and repented.
-- self-righteous religious people who were unaware that God's wrath applied to them.
Pharisees- a sect of Judaism which held to orthodox doctrine and practise.
They revered the scriptures, but regarded traditional rabbinic teachings as their final authority.
The name means 'separate.' Their lives were outwardly characterised by strict observance of the Law of Moses as interpreted and amplified by their traditions. But inwardly they were corrupt. John, and later Jesus, declared that they were hypocrites.
Sadducees- a sect of Judaism, which held theological positions in opposition to those of the Pharisees.
- The name, which means "the righteous," is thought to have been derived from the name of Zadok the priest, who fulfilled David's desire in elevating Solomon to the throne, at the time of Adonijah's attempt to usurp power for himself (1Kin 1:32-45). The sons of Zadok continued to enjoy political power in association with succeeding kings. In the time of Christ, the Sadducees were an aristocratic priestly party with political connections to the ruling powers. Herod favored them with positions as officers and judges (Act 5:17).
- They denied the supernatural working of God, the Holy Spirit, or angels (Act 23:8).
- They denied the possibility of resurrection for the dead (Mat 22:23).
- They accepted only the first five books of scripture, written by Moses.
O generation of vipers...- John's words were cutting because their hearts were cunning.
The Pharisees and Sadducees held prominent positions of religious and political power.
Their concern was with preservation of their earthly power. They came to hear him, because it was politically wise to be where the popular religious action was. But their lives showed no evidence (fruit) of the inner change which God was seeking.
axe... to the root- This phrase speaks of judgment. cp. Mal 4:1
Bad fruit comes from a bad root. No fruit comes from a dead root. cp. Isa 5:1-7; Eze 15:2-6
To bear good fruit, a man must be rooted in the Lord. cp. Psa 1:1-3; Jer 17:7,8
3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance:
but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear:
he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and [with] fire:
3:12 Whose fan [is] in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor,
and gather his wheat into the garner
{store house};
but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
baptize- GK= baptizo, to immerse, to submerge.
In the NT, this word refers to true identification with the thing to which one is baptized.
baptize with water unto repentance- John's baptism was an external symbol
of a person's inner desire to turn from sin, in order to serve God.
John, a mortal man, could administer the symbol. Only Christ could administer the reality:
he shall baptize... with the Holy Spirit- the Holy Spirit joins believers to Christ,
in a vital connection to the true root. cp. 1Cor 12:13; Gal 3:27,28; Joh 15:1-5
he shall baptize... with fire- fire speaks of judgment upon sin.
For those who are joined to Him, He purges away sin that we may serve Him. Joh 15:2; Mal 3:3
But unbelievers, identified only with sinful flesh, are consumed under His wrath. Psa 1:4-6
3:13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
3:14 But John forbad him, saying,
I have need to be baptized of thee
{cp. v.11}, and comest thou to me?
3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer
{ie., allow} [it to be so] now:
for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered
{allowed} him.
to fulfil all righteousness- What does this mean? Why did Jesus need to be baptized?
Others were baptized 'confessing their sins' (v.6)... 'unto repentance' (v.11).
But Jesus had no sin, and no need of repentance. Heb 4:15
Jesus was baptised to show-
  1. His identification with sinners. cp. Isa 53:12; 2Cor 5:21
    His baptism foreshadowed His death & resurrection which would 'fulfill all righteousness.'
    Christ spoke of His death as His baptism. Mat 20:22
  2. His identification with God's purposes.
    His submersion, in water, symbolized death to His own will as a man. Joh 4:34
    His emergence, from the water, symbolized that God's Spirit would energize His life. Joh 5:30
    His total submission and complete obedience, to the Father's will, would culminate in His death. Php 2:7,8; 1Pet 2:21-24
  3. His identification as God's Son, the One Anointed of God to fulfill His purposes. (v.16,17)
    See John's testimony in Joh 1:29-34.
3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:
and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him,
and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying,
This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
the Spirit of God... a voice from heaven...-
Note that God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are seen together here. The Godhead is united, with one purpose. Yet, each member of the Trinity has a distinct role in the work of salvation.
This occasion marks the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry.
Compare the ceremony by which an OT priest entered into ministry. Ex 29:4-7
(The washing corresponds to baptism. The anointing with oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The beautiful priestly garments, with the mitre and gold crown bearing the inscription "Holiness to the LORD," correspond to the Father's attribution.) Ex 39:27-30
This is my beloved Son...- Lit., 'This is my Son, the Beloved.'
This statement, if originally uttered in Hebrew, may also allude to His being the son of David, whose name is a superlative form of the HB word 'dowd' ('beloved') and means 'fully beloved.' cp. Mat 17:5; Mat 22:42-46
     God the Father, here identifies the One by whom He would accomplish the work of salvation for His people. Who can begin to fathom the depths of the Father's love for God the Son? Isa 42:1-7
Before God, only those who are identified with His Son are 'accepted in the Beloved.' Eph 1:3-7

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