Last week, I led a Bible study, with my church, at the local rescue mission. From the week prior, we had decided on continuing on to Matthew 3. So I dove into the chapter and came up with the following from my studies.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[a]
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But 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? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And 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. 10 The 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[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As 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 alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
First, you’ll notice that the sections are divided under two subject headings:
- John the Baptist Prepares the Way
- The Baptism of Jesus
I was immediately struck by the thought of, just who is John the Baptist? Where did he come from? What is his relation to Christ? This caused me to search out John the Baptist’s story throughout the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). Which led me to come up with the following outline:
- Luke 1:5-25 (The birth of John foretold to his father. John’s father is made mute.)
- Luke 1:39-45 (John leaps in his mother’s womb when he is near a pregnant Mary)
- Luke 1:57-66 (John is born and his father can speak again.)
- Luke 3:7-18 (John preaches like Christ, which is to say counter-culturally and with authority.)
- Luke 3:20 (John is locked up in prison.)
- Luke 7:18-23 (Even though John baptized Christ, he doubts who Christ is, and sends his disciples to confirm it.)
- Finally, Mark 6:17-29 (Tells the story of how John died due to the whims of a woman.)
What we learn about John the Baptist is:
- He was not apart of the religious elite. However, his Dad did serve as a priest for a time. So perhaps John knew some of the Pharisees and Sadducees talked about in 3:7.
- He was an outsider. Proof that God can use anyone/ usually uses those deemed socially “undesirable” to further His message.
- He was one who laid the groundwork for Christ’s counter-cultural teachings.
- He was one who was raised up for a season to do God’s work. Very interesting that Christ knew about John being in prison and yet he did nothing to come rescue him. Christ knew that John would die and yet did nothing. Shows that our plans are not always God’s plans.
- He was also one who doubted who Christ was…which reminded me Christ’s disciples doubting who He was.
As I was reading through a study Bible, I came across a note that talked about John’s clothing/ eating habits (Matthew 3:4). The note said that John’s clothing/ eating habits were something that was common at the time among poor people (I always thought the guy was just strange!). Another interesting note that I read was in regards to baptism:
Did John invent baptism? (3:11)
No, but John’s baptism, however, was unique. After Judah’s exile to Babylon in 586 B.C., Jewish rabbis used baptism as a rite of cleansing. John redefined this sacred use of water as a one-time public sign of repentance.
As I read about Christ’s baptism, one word came to mind, obedience. Jesus did not have to be baptized by John but did so to “fulfill all righteousness”.
In the end, John the Baptist was a guy just like you or me. God chose to use him for His glory and lay the groundwork for His Son. You and I, as Christians, are called to continue that mission of laying the groundwork for Christ until His return. May it be soon.