Matthew 3 is an extraordinary chapter. Following 400 years of prophetic silence, God sent a man named John to stir the hearts of his people and point them to the promised Messiah.
Matthew’s narrative concerning the coming of Christ, the work of His forerunner, John the Baptist, and the state of the religious leaders, remind us how relevant the Word is to our culture and needs.
“John the Baptist Came Preaching”
His message. John preached a spiritual message about the coming of a spiritual kingdom. His focus was not on the political problems or social inequities of the day, but their need to repent. He fearlessly denounced sin and religious error, summoned people to righteousness, and pointed people to the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
His authority. John was sent by God. He was the fulfillment of the prophetic promise. His authority was not of human origin, but divine decree.
His character. John was humble. Not self-exalting. But rather self-abasing. Yet, he was bold, courageous, and undetered in his ministry. He didn’t promote himself, but exalted the one who would come after him, who was greater.
John serves as a wonderful example for preachers today. While our customs, dress and diet is different, we would do well to emulate his attitude, character, boldness, humility and dedication to his message, ministry and the Master.
“The Pharisees and Sadducees Came”
Their character. The Pharisees, often called hypocrites by Jesus, were the legalistic literalists of that day and the Sadducees were the liberals, who denied the resurrection, angels, and demons. Both had their own agendas and opposed Jesus because of their self interests and preconceived prejudices.
Their need. They bragged about being “Abraham’s seed” and put more emphasis on their physical ancestry, relying on human relationships more than their spiritual relationship with God. They needed God. They needed Jesus Christ. They needed salvation.
Our need 2,000 years later is the same. If we’re not careful we can put more stock in our national pride, ethnic heritage, or political positions and forget that Jesus Christ is truly the answer to this world’s ills. All the social reform, economic success, or governmental regulations will not save a single soul.
“Jesus Came from Galilee to John to be Baptized”
The Bible teaches that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Ax. 2:38). Since Jesus was sinless, why was He baptized?
Bible commentator, Warren Wiersbe suggest six plausible reasons.
1. Obligation. The text says “to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’ life was about pleasing the father (Jn 8:29). This was one way in which He demonstrated it.]
2. Consecration. Since the Old Testament priests were ceremonially cleaned before being anointed, Jesus’ submission to water baptism was a symbol. Then the Holy Spirit came to signify it.
3. Commendation. While the religious leaders rejected John’s baptism, Jesus demonstrated his acceptance and approval of John’s ministry.
4. Proclamation. This was a way for Jesus’ to be officially introduced to the Jewish nation as the coming Messiah (Jn. 1:31).
5. Anticipation. This water baptism at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry was a precursor to another baptism at the conclusion of his ministry–the baptism of suffering for us on the cross (Lk. 12:50).
6. Identification. Jesus identified with the sinful people He came to save. We’re reminded in this act how his humanity relates to our fears, needs, and hopes.
This chapter reminds us of the importance of preaching, the warning of religious hypocrisy, and the example of Jesus that we need to follow today.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman