Matthew 3:1–12 Uncompromising message by the submissive servant

Matthew 3:1–12 Uncompromising message by the submissive servant Preparing The Way Of The Lord (3:1-12)

Who was John the Baptist? After four hundred silent years, God was speaking through a new prophet who called people to repentance and promised someone greater to come.

  • John was a Levite. His father Zechariah was a Temple priest of the line of Abijah, and his mother Elizabeth was also descended from Aaron (Luke 1:5).
  • Jesus Christ and John the Baptist were related. Their mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, were cousins. (Luke 1:36).
  • John the Baptist was born 6 months before Jesus Christ (Luke 1:36). He died about 6 months before Jesus Christ (Matthew 14:10-12).
  • The angel Gabriel separately announced the coming births of Jesus Christ and John
  • Servant of God who made himself available
  • Prophet greatest of all / Jesus says he was the prophesized returning Elijah
  • preached in the wilderness of Judea – Mt 3:1
  • had a successful ministry – Mt 3:5-6
  • cut short by his imprisonment – Mt 4:12
  • All four gospels mention John’s ministry
  • His ministry prepared people for the coming of the Messiah



  To fulfil the prophecy of Malachi – Planed ahead of time

a. Concerning the sending of Elijah – cf. Mal 4:5-6

b. John came “in the spirit and power of Elijah”, he was not reincarnated Elijah. Jn 1:19

According to Josephus – Herod Antipas thought that John might become a political threat because of his many followers. The socioeconomic situation of Jesus’ day was bleak.

Consequently, there were reprisals from the peasant class on the wealthy elite and landed aristocracy. Political leaders considered fringe movements—of which John was considered to have been a part—with suspicion.

The fact that he had amassed such a large following and resided in the wilderness only further intensified Antipas’ anxiety.

The message – prepare the way

    1. People Preoccupied with immediate desire for freedom from Romans
    2. Short lifespan with harsh laws
    3. Focus on eternal purpose / too often we look at here and now

Life style of the servant

    1. Food that was simple / eat to live not live to eat
    2. His dress code (Not smart or smart casual but working class poor)
    3. Secluded to focus on God not lost in complexity of life

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist (3:4). John’s description is strikingly similar to the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).

Goat or camel hair was often woven into a thick, rough, dark cloth, which was used as an outer garment or cloak, particularly by nomadic desert dwellers.

It was so dense that it was waterproof. It was proverbially the garb of poorer people, in contrast to those in the royal court.

Sackcloth symbolized distress or self-affliction, John’s garment of camel hair visualizes the repentance to which he calls the people.

The Gospel writers portray the wilderness as a place of safety and rescue. The wilderness contrasts the city or more urban areas, where many thought sin which would incur God’s judgment predominated.

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea (3:1). John probably appears in the barren desert area in the lower Jordan River valley and hills to the west of the Dead Sea.

Robbers, displaced peasants, and religious separatists often sought refuge in these places.

His food was locusts and wild honey (3:4). Locusts and wild honey were not an unusual diet for people living in the desert.

Locust is the migratory phase of the grasshopper and was allowable food for the people of Israel to eat, as opposed to other kinds of crawling / flying insects (Lev. 11:20–23).

Even in the most desolate areas they are abundant. Often collected, dried, and ground into flour. (Make do with what is available)

Protein and fat were derived from locusts,

  • While sugar came from the honey of wild bees.

1. When people came to be baptized, he expected to see fruits in keeping with true repentance – Mt 3:7-8

a. He expected compassion for the poor – Lk 3:10-11

b. He expected honest business dealings – Lk 3:12-13

c. He expected fair treatment, contentment with one’s wages – Lk 3:14

2. He told them not to trust in their heritage or ancestry – Mt 3:9

a. No Grandchildren for God / only children of God

b. God could raise up children to Abraham out of stones

3. Drew their attention to the upcoming judgment – Mt 3:10

a. The “axe” (God’s judgment) was at the root of the trees

b. If no good fruit would be cut off

Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Pharisees and Sadducees These two groups were opposed to one another but appear united in their opposition to John

You brood of vipers (3:7). “Brood of vipers” (cf. 12:34; 23:33) is a reference to the dozen or more small, dangerous snakes that can emerge at birth from a mother snake.

Vipers are proverbial for their subtle approach and attack, as was the original serpent

Pharisees, Sadducees, a mix between a religious faction and a political affiliation.

1. The name Pharisee is probably derived from the Hebrew/Aramaic perušim, the separated ones, alluding to both their origin and their characteristic practices. They tended to be politically conservative and religiously liberal and held the minority membership on the Sanhedrin:

They held to the supreme place of Torah, with a rigorous scribal interpretation of it.

•   Their adherence to the oral tradition, attempt to make written law relevant to daily life.

•   They had a well-developed belief in angelic beings.

•   They had concrete messianic hopes,

  • The Messiah would overthrow the Gentiles and restore Israel with Jerusalem as capital.

•   They believed in the resurrection of the righteous when the messianic kingdom arrived, with the accompanying punishment of the wicked.

•   They held strongly to divine providence, yet viewed humans as having freedom of choice, which ensures their responsibility.

•   As a lay fellowship or brotherhood connected with local synagogues, the Pharisees were popular with the common people.

2. The Sadducees were a small group with aristocratic and priestly influence, who derived their authority from the activities of the temple. They tended to be politically liberal and religiously conservative and held the majority membership on the Sanhedrin

They held a conservative attitude toward the Scriptures, accepting nothing as authoritative except the written word, literally interpreted.

  •  They accepted only Torah (the five books of Moses) as authoritative, rejecting any beliefs not found there.
  • Denied the resurrection from the dead, the reality of angels, and spirit life.
  • They produced no literature of which we are aware.
  • They had no expressed messianic expectation, which tended to make them satisfied with their wealth and political power.
  • They were open to aspects of Hellenism and often collaborated with the Romans.
  • Removed from the common people by economic and political status.

The kingdom of heaven is near (3:2). “Kingdom of heaven” is interchangeable with the expression “kingdom of God.” “Kingdom of heaven” Hebrew malkut šamayim, found abundantly in Jewish literature.

Out of reverence and not wishing inadvertently to blaspheme the name of God (Ex. 20:7)

Jews from an early date avoided as far as possible all mention of the name of God. “Heaven” is one of the usual substitutions.

  1.  Their assessment – security of their inheritance (Pharisees and Sadducees)
  2. Deluded that we are better than others – racism
  3. Misunderstand what God is after / long term plan for all humanity

Reliance upon Abraham extends beyond the Pharisees. Jews in the Second Temple period thought of themselves as already righteous—not necessarily as a result of their keeping the law, but because of their identification as children of the covenant promises God made to Abraham.

  1.  Repent and be baptized with the Holy Sprit
    1. Recognize the gravity of our crimes
    2. Recognize the need for change don’t try harder / surrender to God

Work of the Holy Spirit in us clean and equip for the final destination

  • The only way to victory is to let God take over
  • The only way to sustainable walk with God is Holy Spirit continuous work in us


1. A call to repentance – Mt 3:1-2

a. changing of the mind / sorrow for one’s sins /  desire to do what is right

b. turn from sin and turn to God

“Repent” is an expression that always has been given to God’s people as a challenge to turn around. “Repent” in the original Greek is metanoia, meaning “to change your mind.” You are going in one direction; turn around and go in another direction

A proclamation of the coming “kingdom of heaven” – Mt 3:2

a. “kingdom” in Jewish thought meant “rule, reign”

b. “of heaven” implies the source of such rule; – cf. Mk 1:14-15

c. The rule / reign of God was getting revealed

John preached a call to repentMt 3:2,8

b. Jesus expected the call to repentance to be proclaimed in His name to all nations

c. And so His apostles proclaimed the need to repent – Ac 2:38;

Unless we repent, we do not understand what it means to be true disciples of Jesus Christ!

Suppose your preacher got up next Sunday morning and said, “O generation of vipers”! I imagine that the deacons would be looking for another preacher!

3:11 more powerful than I / sandals I am not worthy to carry Foot care was considered slave’s work;

John the Baptist has already shown the Pharisees and the Sadducees that he is unimpressed with their status or “apparent” piety. The coming Messiah is vastly greater even than John—what will Jesus think of them?

Messiah God’s chosen one—for a time, like Moses or David, or forever, like Jesus—who will restore His people to right relationship with Him; meaning “anointed one.”

baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire The repentant will receive the baptism associated with the Holy Spirit, but the non-repentant will receive the baptism associated with fire. As in v. 10 and 3:12, fire refers to divine wrath.

1. He spoke of Jesus as One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit – Mt 3:11

1) Which occurred at Pentecost – cf. Ac 2:1-21

2) The result of which affects all who are saved – Tit 3:5-7

3:12 winnowing.: the good, solid grain remains by its own weight, while the dry, empty chaff is blown away because it is unsubstantial (see Isa 64:6b; compare John 12:47–48).

threshing floor Eschatological (theology of last things) imagery portraying the world as a threshing floor, in which the wicked are separated from the righteous (Isa 41:15).

‎In the ancient world, farmers used threshing floors to separate grain from its inedible husk (chaff) by beating it with a flail or walking animals on it—sometimes while towing a threshing sledge.

Sledges were fitted with flint teeth to de-husk the grain more quickly. Other workers would turn the grain over so that it would be evenly threshed by the sledge.

2. He spoke of Jesus as One who would separate the “wheat” from the “chaff” – Mt 3:12

a. Jesus’ work would divide the good from the bad – cf. Mt 13: 47-50

b. His work would even cause division within one’s family – cf. Mt 10:34-39

God will ultimately have to give his judgement on us. Today is day of mercy and Grace. We have the option to repent, accept sacrifice of Jesus and be saved. So that when the day of judgement does come we will be counted as saints.

He spoke of Jesus as administering judgment – Mt 3:12

  • Jesus later depicted Himself as judge – Mt 26:31-46
  • He spoke of how His words would judge us in the last day
  • It is true that Jesus came the first time to save the world,
  • He is coming again, this time to judge the world! – 2Th 1:7-10

3. John’s message is for today

a. Church should not to be acceptable to this world

b. Bear fruits in keeping with true repentance

Story of desperate father who wanted to talk to the President about his sons desperate need, he unknowingly made friends with Presidents son, when he visited the White house and attempted to enter the oval office he was stopped by the secret service. At that time the son who was now friend of the desperate father took the old man by the hand and walked into the office this time secret service man simply stood to one side letting the father gain audience with the president. And president’s son insisted that his father should help the old man in need and resolve the difficulty he had with his own son.


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