The Preaching of John the Baptist
1 In those days (a)John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the Wilderness of Judea [along the western side of the Dead Sea] and saying, 2 “(b)Repent [change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret past sins, live your life in a way that proves repentance; seek God’s purpose for your life], for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 This is the one who was mentioned by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
4 Now this same John had clothing made of camel’s hair and a [wide] leather (d)band around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.(B) 5 At that time Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the (e)Pharisees and (f)Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the [divine] wrath and judgment to come? 8 So produce fruit that is consistent with repentance [demonstrating new behavior that proves a change of heart, and a conscious decision to turn away from sin]; 9 and do not presume to say to yourselves [as a defense], ‘We have Abraham for our father [so our inheritance assures us of salvation]’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children (descendants) for Abraham.(C) 10 And already the axe [of God’s judgment] is (g)swinging toward the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “As for me, I baptize you (h)with water because of [your] repentance [that is, because you are willing to change your inner self—your old way of thinking, regret your sin and live a changed life], but He (the Messiah) who is coming after me is mightier [more powerful, more noble] than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to remove [even as His slave]; He will baptize you [who truly repent] with the Holy Spirit and [you who remain unrepentant] with (i)fire (judgment).(D) 12 His (j)winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear out His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat (believers) into His barn (kingdom), but He will burn up the chaff (the unrepentant) with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan [River], to be baptized by him.(E) 14 But John tried to prevent Him [vigorously protesting], saying, “It is I who need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus replied to him, “Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for us (k)to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John permitted [it and baptized] Him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he (John) saw the (l)Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him (Jesus),(F) 17 and behold, a (m)voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased and delighted!”(G)
a. Matthew 3:1: Considered the last of the Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist was the son of Zecharias (Zechariah) the priest and his wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were related (Luke 1:36), and Mary may have been with Elizabeth at the time John was born (Luke 1:56). John the Baptist is not to be confused with John the Apostle who along with his brother, James, was among the twelve disciples of Jesus.
b. Matthew 3:2: Jews believed they would automatically be granted entrance into the Messianic kingdom, so this new teaching that repentance was required was very difficult to accept.
c. Matthew 3:3: A ruler or nobleman traveling in the wilderness would have a crew of workmen preparing and clearing the road ahead of him. In spiritual terms, the message was clearing the way for the arrival of the Messiah by preparing the hearts of His followers.
d. Matthew 3:4: This band (sash, girdle) was about six inches wide and had clasps or fasteners in front. It was used to carry personal items such as a dagger, money or other necessary things.
e. Matthew 3:7: The Pharisees identified with the common people and had control over them. They were prominent legalistic leaders in Judaism who were experts in Mosaic Law and its rituals and traditions. They believed in the resurrection of the dead, immortality of the soul and in the existence of angels and spirits.
f. Matthew 3:7: The Sadducees were aristocratic members of a priestly group (religious party) who controlled the temple. They denied the possibility of a resurrection and the existence of any spiritual beings apart from God. Although the Sadducees were in the minority, they were leaders of the Sanhedrin, controlling the Jewish High Court.
g. Matthew 3:10: Lit laid at.
h. Matthew 3:11: The Greek here can be translated in, with, or by.
i. Matthew 3:11: Another view of “fire” purports that the text refers to the fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit, not judgment. According to this view the fire indicates that the believer is purified as in the refining of gold. Fire burns up the impurities and the gold (the believer) survives (cf 1 Cor 3:12, 13; James 1:3). The Holy Spirit promised here has been associated with Pentecost, purification, testing, and judgment. Each person who accepts Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5-8).
j. Matthew 3:12: A tool roughly resembling a pitchfork, used to separate grains of wheat from the chaff by throwing the wheat into the air, and allowing the wind to blow away the lighter chaff.
k. Matthew 3:15: This act of baptism identified Jesus with sinners whose sins He would ultimately bear, and to whom His righteousness would be imparted.
l. Matthew 3:16: The descent of the Holy Spirit identified Jesus in His humanity for His ministry as the Messiah.
m. Matthew 3:17: This is the first instance recorded in the Gospels of the Father speaking audibly to His Son. Also see Matt 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35; John 12:28.