Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of Matthew takes quite a leap forward from the previous two chapters. It also deals heavily with prophesy, specifically with Isaiah chapter 40. This chapter is a leap forward from the previous two chapters because Jesus is now an adult ready to begin His public ministry. Most scholars agree that He was roughly 30 years old at this time, so we have quite a gap in his early life between chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 3 deals almost exclusively with the role John the Baptist played in the early ministry of Christ.

We know from Isaiah 40 that John the Baptist was prophesied to prepare the way for the Lord. He was a bit of an iconoclast, as he was very outspoken and preached a radical message of the coming kingdom of God. We know of John the Baptist’s early life from the first chapters of Luke. He was a relative of Jesus since Mary and his mother, Elizabeth, were relatives of each other. John knew he had a calling to preach the true word of God in order to prepare the way for Jesus. His message was simple: he urged people to repent of their sins and be baptized. He also knew that he was merely a placeholder. John the Baptist was humble in knowing that Jesus would soon supersede his ministry in every way, and worked hard to deflect all the glory on to God.

7But 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? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And 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. 10The 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 will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. – Matthew 3:7-11

This is a powerful message that John preaches. In this message he states that it is not important who your ancestors are, because that has nothing to do with your salvation. Only your repentance and the fruit that you produce with it. There are two things in this. First, mentioning that being a child of Abraham has no bearing, and that God can raise stones as children of Abraham implies that Christ’s message of salvation for all. Second, the fruit produced with your repentance is just as important. It is not enough that we simply accept this gift, we also must transmit it on to others as well. This is another instance of our mandate once we accept the gift of salvation.

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But John tried to deter him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?"
15Jesus replied, "Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." Then John consented.
16As 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 lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." – Matthew 3:13-17

This paints a great picture of Christ’s humility. He had absolutely no reason to be humble, yet he bestowed a great honor on John the Baptist during His own baptism. This was yet another fulfillment of prophesy, but it is here that Christ’s message becomes clear from the Father. It is in this moment that Christ’s public ministry begins, and that ministry would change the world.


1. How would John the Baptist have been received today?
2. Why did Christ wait so long to begin His ministry?
3. Why was it important for John to prepare the way?

No comments: