John the Baptist prepares the way (part two) – Matthew 3:3-12 – 03/02/2016
Matthew 3:3 (ESV) 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.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 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? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 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. 10 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. 11 “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. 12 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.”
This is a series in the Gospel of Matthew which looks to visit the text from the Gospel of Matthew on a line by line and verse by verse teaching and Lord willing we will get through the full book of Matthew, this is part of a New Testament bible study series that you can read all other studies in this section on this link.
Let’s start our bible study in verse three of chapter three.
V3 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.’”
In the last article we dealt with an introduction of John the Baptist and who he was and now John introduces himself by quoting Isaiah 40:3 and in the previous few paragraphs we get an idea of who John was genealogically and Matthew draws this comparison (also made in John 1:23) and John was clear in his mission. His mission was that as a prophet, to warn and to prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Messiah. To create an understanding of their sin as a forerunner to Jesus, John knew his role as the warm up man and not the main event.
The idea of make his ways straight comes from what would be done for a visiting monarch or visiting royalty that the route that would be travelled would be prepared and be mended to make sure that the visit and journey was as smooth as possible. The hearts of the people were like the wilderness that John was preaching in, they had to be prepared and smoothed out and I have seen it with my own life and own eyes that often times the one who prepares the hearts and sows seeds is not the one who harvests.
V4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
John had a rather odd attire, personality and diet; (he literally lived off what God provided in the wilderness – locusts and wild honey) he dressed and spoke like an Old Testament prophet He took his fashion sense straight from the books of Isaiah, here is Old Testament confirmation of this…
2nd Kings 1:8 (ESV) They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
He was prophesied as coming prior to being born by Malachi…
Malachi 4:1 (ESV) “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the LORD of hosts. 4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
Now you understand why great care is told to tell the story of his birth! John knew who he was, what was promised and why he was on the mission he was on. If we had the attitude that John had of Jesus first – I second and just think for one second how more effective our ministries would be for the Lord. Often times we struggle because we feel entitled to some kudos in the role of the ministry. The more I do ministry and the more articles I prepare and the more lessons I teach I realize that it is not about me but the one I am following.
The last part talks about the fruit of John’s ministry, John was blessed by God and was given fruit in his ministry as evidence of his obedience. People were realizing that the words he were speaking were from God, they were convicted in their hearts and were confessing their sins and more importantly they were willing to put that conviction into action and actually make a life change. John convicted these people of their sins and they responded by the outward sign of faith in baptism, and this became so famous that it reached the ears of the ones who were the religious establishment. Let’s see how John deals with the religious establishment…
V7 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? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 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. 10 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.
Talk about putting a target on your back! John takes on the ones who are perceived as being the “holy ones” with a righteous anger that came straight from heaven. As much as they were different groups in that the Pharisees and Sadducees and had huge theological differences, they came together to see who this new guy was who was convicting them of their sins. The Pharisees believed in the Law and the righteousness that gave you a local and moral spirituality and be seen as being closer to God by doing so. The Sadducees were more worldly and normally the Pharisees would not be teaming up with them but this new threat to the status quo had to be looked at, perhaps they were seeing if they could align this popular prophet to their tribe or cause?
John responds as they arrive calling them snakes, he mocked their genealogical arguments that they were righteous because of a lineage of birth as opposed to personal repentance or sacrifice. Even if they had come to be baptized to look as if they were prepared for the coming messiah we see that John concluded that like everything else they did that it was to put on a religious show and reminded all who were there that the important. John wanted to see that they had repentance on their hearts as well as their lips.
He reminded them of the wrath to come and who it was from. God was about to send his son to preach words direct from the Father and that this Messiah would come and shine the light of God into their lives and tell them of some really uncomfortable truths. They will not survive that wrath and the only way to sustain is to flee from it. He lastly uses the analogy of an axman, getting ready to chop out the unrepentant branches of that olive tree and graft in those who would repent (see Romans 11 for the culmination of that picture) John then advises why he was baptizing…
V11 “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. 12 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.”
And John again states that he is not the main attraction and when you are in ministry it is very easy to be lifted up and people to hold you higher than you should be held up. John remembers his place and states that he is not worthy to perform the tasks of the lowest servant in a house. What a heart to have and it certainly challenges me about my heart when I take on tasks that I have been allowed to do for the Lord, he culminates that and shows his heart in his words in John 3:30 when he says that “He must increase and I must decrease” and we have to remember that in ministries where you are giving a public recognition, that it should not be about you but the Messiah you serve! John brought them to a place of repentance but he was not the one who would save them.
John finishes by telling those in attendance about the judgment that is coming and to be prepared for the Messiah and his coming because he was going to come in judgment. John brought the water baptism but the messiah and only the messiah was the only one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, if you have been following along in our series “the ACTS files” then you would see the fulfilment of that prophecy that was first stated in the book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:14)
He speaks of the wheat and the chaff, the wheat would be the harvest that is useable by the Lord and pure and he will purify those who were pure, not by their own efforts but by the grace of God and the repentance of their hearts and the chaff are the ones who choose to live in their wickedness and never repent. Chaff is the unusable, inedible residue that the agricultural people used to separate from the good stuff using a form and allow nature to blow it away from the stuff that was kept as good. A question to ask yourself is are you wheat or chaff?
Lord willing, in our next article in Matthew we will continue to look at John the Baptist and we will see that John gets a visitor wishing to be baptized and despite protestations by John, he allows him to be baptized I love this scripture because prophetically and theologically it is such a great passage of scripture that I pray that you are able to join us as we go through the bible, line by line and precept by precept.
God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.