Matthew 3 (NASB)
1Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,
2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
3For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
“THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'”
4Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.
5Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan;
6and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8“Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;
9and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.
10“The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11“As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
12“His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Wow. What a message from John. You see the same fire that Jesus later has for the religious leaders who have misused their power and authority. Note John has compassion for the average person, and only has harsh words for their leaders, the ones who should have been leading the search for the Messiah. The religious leaders ended up looking like Herod … interested mainly in self preservation and maintaining their hold on power.
13Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him.
14But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”
15But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him.
Note that Jesus shows the humility and respect for God’s plan that the religious leaders do not. He is not after their type of power, He is interested in humility, and the power to come under others and serve in order to accomplish God’s plan.
16After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,
17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Matthew does not comment on the crowds reaction. How many understood the voice. Certainly Jesus wasn’t the only one who heard more than a rumble. Matthew doesn’t claim to have been here, but he knew John’s message, and the story of Christ’s baptism. Perhaps some of John’s disciples came to follow Christ (we know this from the other gospels) and shared the story among the disciples. How could someone hear this clear endorsement and not want to follow this man? Of course, I must admit that sometimes I know clearly that I should follow Christ’s teaching and don’t. I’m sure it was easy to find people rationalizing it away, if you wanted to. “Oh, sure, it sounded like a voice, but I’m sure it was just …” How often I find myself trying to rationalize away what I want to ignore.
Lord, may I learn to admit that You have spoken and demand my attention. May I stop rationalizing away Your commands, and begin to follow Your Word immediately.