The Herald And The Baptism

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:1–17, ESV)


Matthew moves quickly through the background, birth, and where Jesus lived to John the Baptist. John The Baptist is a striking figure who emerges preaching the gospel of the kingdom and calling his hearers to repentance. He draws quite a bit of attention for his intensity and his message. John's ministry was the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied before the coming of the Lord. 

“A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
— Isaiah 40:3

John’s appearance is rough and certainly not fashionable. There were certain similarities between this prophet and Elijah. This voice was strong, direct and people listened to his message. Some in the Jewish community began to wonder if God had finally broken his silence after four hundred years. This man's clear call arrested the people's attention while many heeded the message resulting in the confession of sin, repentance, and baptism in the Jordan River. 


It is not only the pagan that needs to repent, and John did not mince words when he described the religious leaders as "a brood of vipers" for whom the judgment of God was prepared. He challenged their empty religion and called them to repentance. One's nationality has never been able to save them so John takes these leaders to task and tells them that God can raise up Jews from rocks if he so chooses. John warns them good fruit is the evidence of grace, and so those that do not bear such fruit must expect judgment and condemnation. His call to repentance is one of water, but he explains that the one coming would "baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire." He declares that the one to come after him was so great that he was not even worthy to be his servant. The message is direct, but the servant is humble. God is a consuming fire, and he must act resolutely toward sin. 


After this introduction to the last of the prophets, Jesus then comes from Galilee to John for baptism. John is resistant to Jesus' request because he recognizes Jesus' authority and mission. Jesus addresses this concern by explaining that his baptism will fulfill righteousness. John submits and baptizes Jesus. As Jesus comes up from the water, the three persons of the Godhead are physically manifest in this incredible moment. A voice speaks from heaven. It is the voice of the happy Father from heaven to his beloved Son. Jesus is the Son, but not by adoption. Jesus is begotten and has the same nature. The Father verbally expresses his delight in all that the Son does. While this takes place, the Spirit of God descends like a dove to rest on Jesus. And now, Jesus, who will impart the Spirit to others, receives the Holy Spirit himself in a fresh anointing that marks both the commencement of his public ministry and the Father’s equipping of Jesus for that ministry. Condescension, love, and grace combine at this moment as Jesus, the God-man, clothes dripping while standing in Jordan, receives the blessing from on high.