Matthew 3:1–17 (NKJV, also appearing in Mark 1:2-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:19-34)
3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’ ”
4 Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
The work of John the Baptist comes into play here in Matthew 3. He appears on the scene as a wild man, dressed in camel’s hair and eating wild honey and locusts. He declares a message of repentance and prophecy concerning the One who is to come. He baptized those who would repent in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto 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 fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
John drew a great deal of attention, so much so that the Jewish leaders came to see what was happening at the Jordan River. When John saw them, he rebuked them for their hypocrisy and entitlement. He told them of the judgment that was to come. He then prophesies of the coming outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will come from the Messiah who will follow him. John testifies of his own unworthiness compared to the Christ, who will judge mankind and will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
In a surprise to John, Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized. As He approached John, He spontaneously called Him “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” This prophetic word and realization moved John to resist at first, then John allowed Him. John saw the Messiah before him as he was baptized, and God the Father affirmed Him with a voice from heaven. The Holy Spirit came down from heaven and settled on Jesus in the form of a dove. This powerful image and auditory message from heaven confirmed Jesus as the Son of God. While He would be rejected and opposed for the rest of His life by the religious establishment, Jesus was here affirmed as the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Savior Son of God, and John had a powerful role in making room for Jesus on earth.
What does this mean for us today? Whatever small role you may feel that you play in the plan of God for salvation, no matter how unworthy or unqualified you may feel, God can and will use you to further His cause and win the lost through Christ. Your work is important! Your ministry is valid as God calls you. Answer the call and be the one to make way for Jesus in this world. No matter how large or small your ministry may seem, it is a vital part of making room for Jesus on earth. Be a forerunner, be a voice in the wilderness. Jesus wants to use you for His glory and purpose. You matter!
Artwork from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxu48iXbK9Y