Alright, so a lot has happened between Chapter 2 and Chapter 3. Roughly 30 years of things. So Jesus is most likely about 31/32 at this point in history. Figured I would explain that before we start.
1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,Matthew 3:1 KJV
Ok so here we have John the Baptist. He is not the writer of the book of John. However, he is a member of the priesthood. Josephus, a Jewish Scholar, comments that he is not only an important religious figure to Christians but he is also revered in many other traditions.
So there is actually a lot of information we can gain from this verse. If John the Baptist is preaching in the wilderness that suggests that he had rejected the levitical priesthood. Most likely seeing the sickness that had entered into the Jewish traditions.
This also suggests that people would venture out into the wildness to have audience with him, as people really don’t live in the wilderness willingly. Basically his ministry is powerful.
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Matthew 3:2-3 KJV
Most likely John had heard of the rumors from Bethlahem and seeing the season of the times began ministering that the Messiah is walking among them. At the same time this is most likely why he had to preach in the wilderness. The synagogal high priests would have rejected such notions. John however clearly is telling you Isaiah told of the coming events. Luckily this prophecy is preserved.
1 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
2 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.
3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.Isaiah 40:1-5 KJV
As we can see from here we are given a clear image of what John is doing. He must have seen himself as the herold foretold or more likely was given a direct mission from God to perform this duty. So he went out preaching this message.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.Matthew 3:4 KJV
From here we get an image of John. Every detail in the Bible is given for a reason. So this raises the question, why are these details given? Well, there is a parallel Matthew is making between John and Elijah.
8 And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite.2nd Kings 1:8 KJV
This is a clear parallel that Matthew is making clear by almost directly lifting the scriptual lines. Further we can see this allusion more clearly when you look a bit more into what happened to Elijah.
1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree…1 Kings 19 KJV
We see Elijah fled to the wilderness after revealing God’s truth and slaying the child sacrificing priests of Baal, proving their god to be false. Is this allusion making a suggestion that like Elijah, John revealed the truth about the Messiah and was wanted by the Synagog priests? It makes me question if that is what John is suggesting.
If you notice he is eating clean as well, Locusts and wild honey are sacrimentally clean things to eat. We will discuss that more in the book of Leviticus, where the topic is more relevant.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.Matthew 3:5-6 KJV
So John ministered all over the place sending out his message to the people. Not only that but he was ritually clensing people, Baptizing. One problem, what is a baptism? When did this practice start, and why did he choose to do this?
We have the advantage of hearing baptism as a standard term however, this was not a thing during those times and times previous to this. So let’s look at what this ritual looks like.
So we have submerssion in water, a confession of sins and a ritual clensing of sin, generally Christian’s today do this to represent their “born again” status. So, what historic rituals were similar in the Jewish tradition.
We come upon the Tvilah (טְבִילָה). Now there is two forms of this. One is to wash the hands with a cup. However, the other form is the one that is more interesting to our topic. It is immersion in the Mikveh, which is like a tub of water. This ritual is done for a number of different reasons. The main theme of this however is to make one ritually clean. This is most often observed before Yom Kippur (The Day Of Atonement).
So what we have here in baptism is something similar pointing to a confession of sin being part of the ritual clensing making the Mikveh less dominant and the confession of sin the more important place. The water being an icon of cleaning.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?Matthew 3:7 KJV
Ok so there is a lot to break down here. So first a little background on Pharisees and Sadducees. For our modern convience think of these two as political parties.
They are Jewish ritualists who follow the tradition of the Babylonian Talmud. Legalistic to a fault. This is very much like Ahab’s views. So once again we see a parallel between John and Elijah in the Pharisees. They are also seperatists who believe that gentiles are like cattle (Goyim) to be ruled over. Their idea of the savior was someone who would utterly slaughter the whole world enslaving everyone under the Jewish system. These are not the traditions given by God to the Jewish people. They are very much against God in every way shape and form. During the time they would be considered on the Right on the political spectrum.
The Sadducees are a very much like the Pharisees in that they have no concern for God. In fact they have such little concern they have almost entirely given up on following any of the commands. They are humanistic in their views. They deny any inspiration to the word and simply hold it as old dusty books which really do not apply to their modern sensabilities. They are the political Left of today.
If what I just said bothers you, it should. Keep that in mind when you are watching the current events and ask yourself, are you following God or man. Are you on the right or the left, a republican or a democrat, are you a Pharisee or a Sadducee. Makes that binary choice look a little different now doesn’t it.
Now you may notice he calls them a den of vipers. Well vipers are pretty unsettling alone but a whole den of them, now that is something that will turn anyone’s stomach. Back in Genesis Chapter 3 there is a prophecy about that.
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.Genesis 3:15
At first glance this may not seem relevant. However the people God is talking to is Satan and Adam and Eve. The seed of the woman is the seed of Jesus and by extension of Jewish people who preserved. The seed of the sepent, that is those who practice the mysteries through them they brought Satan’s religioun into the world.
In that subtle comment John is canvasing the Pharisees and Sadducees as followers of Satan not God. Even further there is refrence to a Synagog of Satan which will rise up and prevail in the end times; and be utterly destroyed by God, don’t forget he wins in the end.
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.Matthew 3:8-9 KJV
Another strange statement from John. He is telling these people they are imposters and they are not children of Abraham and that their blood line means nothing to God.
Now it would be easy to just assume the stones mentioned are just river stones or whatever rocks were on the ground at this riverbank. Some people suggest that the stones may be the stone monuments mentioned in Joshua.
2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,
3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.
4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:
5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:Joshua 4:2-5 KJV
So they set up monuments to commemorate the crossing of the Jordan with the arc of the Covenenant. It seems a little bit like a stretch right.
6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?
7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.Joshua 4:6-7 KJV
The lack of context anticipates you asking the question. What are these stones John mentions. These are a testiment to the sons of Israel. How fitting for them to be pointed out to display these are no longer the true sons of Israel but of Satan instead.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.Matthew 3:10-12 KJV
So right now John is warning these Pharisees and Saddusees their time is suddenly about to come to an end. That their root will be cut out from the tree of life. That any tree bearing bad fruit will be destroyed. A coming judgement.
He also tells you that the water baptism is not a complete baptism, it is not sufficiant. This ritual carried on today is for image alone and has no power. It is simply done in memory of John and to emulate Jesus.
What John does tell us here that the one who is to come will perform a complete baptism. A baptism by fire from the Holy Spirit. The Shekaniah shall dwell within. This is what is called being a born again Christian and allow the Holy Spirit to enter us. He speaks of salvation, and permenant forgiveness and removal of sin.
This is also a double ontandra. God promises never to flood the earth with water again. The coming final judgement shall be with fire. So the bad bearing trees will be burned away to nothingness. A baptism which destroys sin from the world.
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?Matthew 3:13
John recognizes that his baptism is insufficiant, and unneeded. Before him is Jesus who was born without sin. The perfect man and the offering unto the Lord. However look at how Jesus answers him.
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.Matthew 3:15 KJV
Jesus is telling him, he is setting an example to those that would follow him. That baptism must be done. This baptism is not for his sake however, but for our own. John knew how unclean he was internally, how pervers the idea of him baptising Jesus was. I can’t imagine the struggle and awkwardness of the moment. We are all naked before the LORD. There is nothing about us he does not know. Can you imagine someone knowing all your darkest deepest most hidden secrets asking you to perform a clensing. Especially when you know full well that he is the clenser, the only one that can clense anything.
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.Matthew 3:16-17 KJV
This is the first time we see the Holy Spirit enter someone. God is showing an example through Jesus that baptism is the recieving of his spirit. However, this baptism was by water, the rest forward is by the fire of the spirit. Not saying I am against Water baptism, what I am saying is that it is ceremony alone, and not needed for salvation. The important part is accepting the Holy Spirit of God within you.
I pray this study is a blessing to you. Thank you for reading.