About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapter 3
3 verse 1 begins with “in
those days John the Baptist came…”
We learn nothing from these words as to the time frame of when
“those days” were. If you
want to understand these words you need to turn to Luke 3. Luke is
extremely accurate with the mentioning of certain Jewish and Roman leaders
at this time. A detailed study of these men will tell you about what days
Matthew is speaking about, and is somewhere around 27 AD.
thing we need to know about “those days” is that there were many
so-called Jewish messiahs and zealots.
Although John the Baptist never claimed to be a messiah, many
wondered if he wasn’t, and those who didn’t took him as just the next
1 also says that John came “preaching in the
2 tells us what John was preaching. It
wasn’t complicated. He preached “repentance for the
stopping part of repentance includes understanding that you are going in
the wrong direction. So what
John is saying is that his audience needs to recognize that the way
they’re living is not right. They
need to stop and then they need to turn towards that which is right.
Stopping and turning is repentance.
follows repentance. Faith is actually the steps you take in the right
direction after you have stopped and turned around.
This means that you cannot take steps in the right direction if you
haven’t actually stopped and turned around. This means that one can’t
really have true faith without repenting.
problem in much of the Evangelical world today is that we have
de-emphasized repentance. This
is a major problem. Without
the preaching of repentance you are actually preaching a different gospel
and deceiving many people into thinking they’re true born again
the gospels we see the term “
verse 3 Matthew quotes the prophets again.
This time it’s from Isa. 40:3.
Isaiah prophecies about “a voice calling out in the desert.
‘Prepare the way for the Lord and make paths straight for Him’”.
prophecy speaks of John preparing the way for Jesus.
The message of John was “repent”.
If the people who heard John did repent, Jesus’ job would be
easy. The idea is that John
would preached “repentance” , people would repent, then Jesus would
preach “faith”. Now Jesus
did speak of repenting as well, but you see him speaking more of faith.
But to be clear, we must realize that Jesus understood the
importance of both repenting and faith.
These two truths cannot be separated.
the whole idea of John’s ministry was to preach repentance, the people
would repent, so when Jesus came, He’d preach faith to a repented
people. But for the most part the people refused to repent, especially the
Jewish leadership, therefore
they could not believe or have faith.
verse 4 Matthew notes that John’s clothes consisted of camel’s hair
and a leather belt. This coast would have woven from the back and hump of
a camel and was very coarse. The
hair on the belly of the camel was much
more softer and was woven into coats as well, but these were worn by rich
people. Jesus contrasts these
two types of coats in Matt. 11:8. The
Jewish leaders wore the nice coats while John wore the rough ones,
something that prophets often wore.
food consisted of grass hoppers and wild honey.
Note that this honey is wild, meaning he scraped it out of a bees
did Matthew think John’s clothes and food was worth mentioning?
Well, we may not know for sure, but I think we can safely say that
how John appeared to those he spoke to is worth mentioning. John’s way
of living was not normal, even for those days.
He would have looked like an outcast, someone that needed to be
pitied. Still he drew very large crowds from both Judea and
would be important to note the contrast between John the Baptist and the
Jewish leadership in what they wore, what they ate, how they spoke and
taught, and how they lived. God
is not confined to doing things that seem right in the way of the world
and often doesn’t.
5 confirms what I said above in that people came to John from
6 says that these people came “confessing their sins” and then they
were baptized. So we see great
numbers accepting John’s preaching.
We don’t know the percentage of people who believed John’s
preaching but it does seem significant. The question arises when we read
the first chapter of John’s gospel where John tells us that Jesus came
to His own and His own did not receive Him.
His own refers to the Jews. For
the most part the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus.
It was the ordinary person who did receive Him, and these were
probably influenced by John the Baptist.
we see many people repenting because of what John was preaching. These
people would have become followers of Jesus, but many of these people
began to fall away after hearing what Jesus said.
(see John 6:60) Jesus
spoke very strong and hard to take words, and for this reason many of the
Jews fell away.
the people coming to hear John. Some
of these people were Pharisees, Sadducees
and priests. Some of
these men might well have known John in his youth.
Remember, John’s father was Zechariah, a priest.
In Luke 1:8 we see Zechariah serving the Lord as a priest when God
speaks to him concerning the birth of his son John.
God speaking to Zechariah was the first time in about 400 years
that God spoke to the Jewish leadership.
God had been silent until the birth of John.
of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Matthew
tells us in verse 7 that they came out to hear John.
John did not receive them as being important men.
He did not recognize them before the crowds as men that they should
listen to. John called
these men ”snakes”. Snakes
are slimy deceivers. The devil
is seen as a snake. John asks
these men, “who told them to come and escape God’s wrath”.
John had no good thing to say about the religious establishment of
clear that John believed in a time when God’s wrath would be poured out
on the wicked, and that’s why he was calling people to repent.
The coming wrath of God is part of the gospel message.
God’s wrath is what we are saved from.
We are saved from many things when we become a Christian, but the
number one things we are saved from is God Himself that is seen in his
word wrath is actually a stronger word than the word anger.
In some places in the book of Revelation a certain Greek word that
is translated as wrath as in the wrath of God at the end of this age is a
very explosive word. The
thought that is conveyed by this Greek word is that God’s anger can no
longer be kept under control but explodes out over all the earth.
The emphases is on God’s wrath exploding uncontrollably.
This is the wrath John is speaking about here.
God’s wrath is clearly seen in the judgments of the book of
Revelation, despite what some people say.
in verse 8 tells these Jewish leaders “to produce fruit in keeping with
repentance”. What he is
saying here is that “show me by how you live that you have truly
repented”. If your life
didn’t show that you had really turned from your sin in repentance, then
John would not have baptized you.
works of repentance” in a life should be the bases of anyone getting
water baptized today as a Christian. This is not often the case.
Sometimes we rush people into being water baptized.
verse 9 John beats the Jewish leadership to the punch. These men often
claimed great significance being the children of Abraham. They based their
Jewishness on this fact. John anticipated that they’d bring this subject
up, so he cuts them off at the corner. John
tells them that being the physical descendents of Abraham means little.
God could make children out of stones.
Jews equated being children of Abraham as being the same as being children
of God. John is de-emphasizing
this. John says that God could
make His children out of stones. If
He made mankind out of dust, making children out of stone is easy.
always the tendency of man to promote ones heritage over and above that
which we should. As Christians
we do the same. Some might
say, “I’m a Lutheran”. But
merely being part of the heritage of Luther as seen in the Lutheran
denomination doesn’t mean you have the same faith Luther had.
10 is a Scriptural principle. John
says that the “ax is already at the root of the trees”.
He goes on to say that
this ax will cut down any tree that does not produce good fruit. By saying
the ax is already at the root of the tree means that the tree is ready to
be cut down unless it starts producing good fruit pretty quickly.
ax is God’s judgment. The
ministry of John is the beginning of the judgment of
Romans 9 through 11 Paul describes the process in which God put the ax to
the root of the Jewish tree. A
new tree was planted, and that is the people of the New Covenant.
the words “good fruit”. What
really is good fruit? Just a
few verses back John spoke of fruit as a response of true repentance.
So the fruit that John is talking about here is fruit that is a
product of repenting, not a product of legalistic religion, or human
effort. There’s more than
one kind of fruit, but it’s the fruit of repentance and faith that is
verse 11 John tells his audience that he baptizes with water but the One
he is speaking about is much greater than he is and He will baptize with
the Holy Spirit. John knows
his place in the work of the Lord. He
is not greater than Jesus. He
does not act as if he is someone great.
He’s simply a messenger to announce the coming of the Messiah,
something all of us should be like.
all part of the Body of Christ today.
Each of us is joined to someone. Each of us has a part to play for
the good of the body. Each of
us, along with the ones we are joined to have a job to do.
Each job is important and is no more important than another
person’s job. John
recognized this. So should we.
says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit.
This is most clearly seen on the Day of Pentecost when the
disciples received the Holy Spirit. We
need to understand here that the important thing that happened on the day
of Pentecost was not the way in which these people received the Spirit, as
in a baptism. The important
thing was that they actually received the Holy Spirit into their lives.
How they received it was secondary.
people were drenched with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost just as
one would be totally drenched in water when water baptized.
The process of this drenching is only symbolic of what really
happened. The word baptize is only used to give us a clear picture of what
receiving the Holy Spirit is all about.
The problem is that in many areas of the church we’ve made more
out of this baptism than what we should
We’ve made this into an experience, and this experience has
become more important than what really happens, and that’s receiving the
Holy Spirit. The way we receive the Spirit is not the important thing
here. The actual receiving of
the Holy Spirit is the important thing.
added the words “with fire” concerning Jesus baptizing with the Holy
Spirit. There’s many interpretation to what this exactly means.
Some people suggest it points to the tongues of fire on the Day of
Pentecost. Some suggest it’s
the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that burns up our ungodliness.
Others say it is the final judgment.
At this point I’m not convinced to what way of thinking is right.
One thing I know, that when one receives the Spirit, he knows he
has received Him into is life, and the Spirit is like a fire that burns
within. Fire burns. Fire
warms, and fire motivates.
reason why some suggest that this fire refers to final judgment is found
in verse 12. John says that “His winnowing fork is in His hand”. With
this winnowing fork Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff.
The wheat goes into the barn and the chaff is burned.
This is a picture of final judgment.
Yet it is the winnowing fork that is implemented in judgment, not
the fire. The fire is only for
the ungodly after the winnowing fork separates the righteous from the
verse 13 Matthew tells us that Jesus came from
you want a fuller understanding of Jesus’ baptism you can read John’s
account, because he tells the story with more detail than the other gospel
writers. I will only comment on what Matthew points out.
For further comments, you can read my commentary on the Gospel of
verse 14 John tells Jesus that He should be the one baptizing him. This is
understandable. John is the
lesser of these two men. What
an experience this had to have been for John.
You see John in whom he really was here.
He was humble. He
understood his place. Yet
humility is not weakness. John
was very bold, and for that very reason was beheaded.
question might be asked when John knew that Jesus was the Messiah.
Did he know when he saw Jesus approach him that seems to be the
case here. If you read
John’s account you might think that John knew when he saw the Spirit
fall on Jesus like a dove. Just
exactly when John knew that Jesus was the Messiah might well be debatable.
Maybe he saw the Spirit descending on Jesus as He approached him.
And maybe the Spirit remained on Jesus during the baptism and the voice
verse 15 we Jesus tell John that it is proper for Him to be baptize by
John. It was proper because it
“fulfilled all righteousness”. The
question is, “what does this mean”?
of all we need to understand that everyone that John baptized was
repenting of their sin as they were drenched with water.
This was not the case with Jesus.
He had no sin to repent of. Therefore His baptism was different
than everyone else’s. This
in fact for Jesus was actually the beginning of His ministry.
You might call this Jesus’ inauguration ceremony.
John’s account shows this very clearly.
The Holy Spirit fell on Jesus at this point.
It’s not that Jesus didn’t have the Spirit prior to this
because He did. This was an
outpouring of the Holy Spirit on His life for all to see.
This outpouring, along with the voice of God saying that Jesus was
God’s beloved Son confirmed the fact that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
water baptism is the entrance for us into the Christian life, so Jesus’
baptism was the entrance into His ministry.
righteousness thus means that Jesus’ baptism had to be.
It was the righteous thing to do.
It was God’s purpose for Jesus. Living righteously means living
according to God’s purpose and this was all in the plan of God. Jesus
needed to obey His Father in His baptism which was a sign to everyone to
whom He really was. He was not
just the carpenter from
last phrase of verse 15 says, “then John consented”.
Once he heard Jesus’ reasoning, he did not hesitated.
John knew that Jesus had to be obedient and fulfill righteousness
and it was clear that he had a part to play in this fulfillment of
16 briefly describes what John in his gospel account elaborates on.
The Holy Spirit came on Jesus as a dove, the symbol of love and
peace, both of which were inherent in Jesus and His message.
17 ends this chapter with the voice coming from God announcing that Jesus
was God’s Son, and that God loved Him and was pleased with Him.
Once again, this was the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry.
This validated who Jesus was and what He was about to do and say
over the next 3 years.