In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’” John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire. Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?” But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him. After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Matthew 3
Because of Jesus, There is Great News! I Can Enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 👑☁
Overall Commentary: 🌎
Approximately 30 years have passed between the end of chapter two and the beginning of chapter three. Rome has turned the kingdom of Palestine into a Roman province and is now ruled by governors. We will meet the current governor, Pilate, soon. What is even more important is Jesus is now 30 years old and about to begin His public ministry. However, before beginning His ministry, just like any other King, His arrival is being announced by a herald. This is no ordinary messenger. This is John the Baptist. John is like no other person in human history. Jesus said there is no one "born of woman" who is greater than him. John comes on the scene and makes history. Even secular historical books of the time record the existence of John. He celebrates the Great News that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand and everyone can be part. John is such an interesting figure that I have dedicated a different blog article to only him. Click here to read.
Verse-by-verse commentary: 🧐
Preface- The Inauguration of Jesus' ministry. The Kingdom of Heaven has begun. The King has entered His Kingdom and then bids us to come.
In those days- approximately 30 years have passed.
Judean wilderness- a desert plateau in between the small towns and locations.
Preaching in the wilderness- This was likely because he lived out there and also because it was illegal for occupied countries to gather in large crowds within city limits. This was to keep down possible riots because most Roman outposts are sparsely occupied.
Repent- The great word means to be going one way, change your mind as to which way you should go, and go in the opposite direction. The message John is giving is also a message that was not uncommon for the Essenes who lived in the area. They were a Jewish sect that believed the nation needed to repent and come back to its roots. They also believed the Kingdom of Heaven was coming. Therefore they viewed the entire Old Testament through the lens of end-times doctrine. It is no wonder John had this message to share. Many scholars believe he would have joined this group after his parents died. It is thought his parents died when he was young due to the Gospel of Luke says John was born when they were both old.
Old Testament reference- Isaiah 40:3
Coarse camel hair and a leather belt- There are two things to note. First, this is how Elijah from the Old Testament was described. That is important because John was prophecied as the return of Elijah. This was also common attire for poor desert dwellers. This also means John was purposefully not trying to impress the city elite.
Locusts and wild honey- This is mainly important for two reasons:
- Many see this as proof that John had taken a Nazarite vow. This would mean that, like Samson, he has certain stipulations as to what he could eat and drink.
- This also means that even though he was a poor desert dweller, the continued to abide by the customary clean dietary laws. Locusts are still eaten by poor people in the Middle East today.
Baptism- Baptism was not first used by John. Jewish people would baptize non-Jewish people who wanted to join Judaism. The difference was they baptized themselves. John is not inviting them into a religion, but into the Kingdom of God.
Pharisees and Sadducees- These were, by far, the two dominant religious/political power groups of the time. The Pharisees were strict in belief and were much more numerous. The Sadducees were more liberal in their beliefs, tended to be more wealthy, and had more political power due to their alliances with Rome. Jesus was debating and dealt with them throughout His ministry.
John is confessing that Jesus' ministry will be much greater than his. He baptizes with water, but what Jesus does will change people from the inside out. Many scholars believe the reference to "fire" is not talking about Acts 2, but talking about the ability of Jesus to both burn away sin and make someone pure.
The Jordan River is not far from Nazareth and is known to be dirty water. Lol Today, there are still a few different places disputed as the precise location of Jesus' baptism.
This was not because John was unwilling but felt unworthy of the King.
Jesus is setting the one and establishing the way to righteousness and entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Like a Dove- a dove is a symbol of peace. This does not mean the Holy Spirit a dove or in the form of a dove, but this was a symbol.
These final two verses are a wonderful example of the Trinity in action. We also hear the words I think are echoed in the heart of the Father every time one of His children enter into His Kingdom. In Christ, we can know we are dearly loved by God.
Baptism Celebrates the Great News That...
I can experience NEW LIFE in the Kingdom of Heaven through Repentance.
I have talked to many people who have told me being a Christian simply doesn't work. They tell me they tried and it simply wasn't for them. Almost always it happens to come down to how they "got saved." I'm not entirely sure it matters if you repeat a prayer after someone, read words off a page, or say a prayer in your way. What matters is what is going on in your heart. The Greek word for repentance means to be going one way, realize you need to be headed another way, then make a U-turn to head in a different direction. This is what repentance is. It is going in a new direction. Salvation doesn't work because many people only do it halfway. The first is realizing they are going the wrong way. They are a sinner in need of a Savior. That is an awesome realization because you cannot get better until you realize you need to. The true miracle of salvation is God is willing to forgive you of all your sin and take the driver's seat of your life so you can head in a new direction. This is what baptism represents. It symbolizes we have not only stopped going the wrong way toward destruction, but we are not heading toward life, hope, and freedom. This is why baptism is a celebration. I once was dead, but now I'm alive. I once was blind, but now I see.
I can experience LASTING HOPE in the Kingdom of Heaven through My Identity in Christ.
It doesn't matter how much information we know. We will never live above what we believe. This is important because the two most important things we will ever believe are the truth of God's Word concerning who He is and who we are. Knowing who you are in Christ is the key factor of how much freedom you walk in while in this life. God's Word has so many promises about us. If truly knew what God thought of you, I sincerely do not believe you would have another bad day. The hope is that God tells us who we truly are and then helps us become that every day. It's like being crowned king of a kingdom while only a baby. While you are a baby, you are not yet ready to rule. That doesn't mean you are not crowned. It just means you need to grow up. That's all of us. Once we enter the Kingdom of Heaven through salvation, God tells us to know we are in Him. Then He helps us grow into it.
I can experience THE POWER of the Kingdom of Heaven through the Holy Spirit and Fire.
John was quick to tell those listening that his baptism was to show repentance. But, when the King comes, He would bring the Holy Spirit and Fire. That is exactly what Jesus does. When we receive Jesus as our Savior and King, our spirit comes alive. The Holy Spirit makes His home in our hearts and we are never alone again. He walks with us and leads us toward freedom. He is our everlasting friend. He also brings fire. This fire does two main things. The first thing this fire does is purify us. Salvation washes away all our sins and we are adopted into the family of God. The second thing this fire does is makes us pliable and able to work in our walk toward freedom. Before salvation, our will is stubborn and our addictions are all we have to cope with our broken places. Because of Jesus, we no longer have to walk in darkness and brokenness. He leads us toward freedom and wholeness day by day.
It's easy to see why John was so excited to share the Good News of repentance, with the symbol being baptism. It represented the doorway into a new life, lasting hope, and the power of God.
The Greatest News Ever is I have passed from Death to Life and Entered into the Kingdom NOT made by Human Hands. I have entered the Kingdom of Heaven.
Questions for Reflection
- Are you planning to download and try the new RightNowMedia resource?
- Take time to share your salvation and baptism story.
- Have you ever thought about what it means to be in the Kingdom of Heaven?
- Have you thought about what an amazing moment baptism is? Explain.