Matthew 3 (NRSV)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
John’s message was a call to repentance.
Some people think that repentance is mostly about feelings, especially feeling sorry for your sin. It is wonderful to feel sorry about your sin, but repent isn’t a “feelings” word. It is an action word. John told his listeners to make a change of the mind, not merely to feel sorry for what they had done. Repentance speaks of a change of direction, not just a sorrow in the heart.
3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
Our Lord Jesus was the coming Messiah and King, and John the Baptist was the one crying in the wilderness, and through his message of repentance, he worked to “prepare the way of the Lord.” We often fail to appreciate how important the preparing work of the Lord is. Any great work of God begins with great preparation. What preparation is the Lord working in your life right now? Another way of saying this might be — What problem are you dealing with now? The Lord is using it for your good and for His eternal purposes! And that may just be worth singing and dancing about!
HERE is an exuberant “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” from Godspell, the film, 1973.
4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Baptism was practiced in the Jewish community already in the form of ceremonial immersions; but typically, it was only among Gentiles who wished to become Jews. For a Jew in John’s day to submit to baptism was essentially to say, “I confess that I am as far away from God as a Gentile and I need to get right with Him.” This was a real work of the Holy Spirit.
7But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 9Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10Even now the ax is lying at 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 one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Godspell — A Musical Based upon the Gospel According to St. Matthew, by Stephen Schwartz and others; opened off-Broadway in 1971.
The Baptism of Jesus
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
“In accordance with the symbolic significance of the rite as denoting death to an old life and rising to a new, Jesus came to be baptized in the sense of dying to the old natural relations to parents, neighbors, and earthly calling, and devoting Himself henceforth to His public Messianic vocation.”
–F. F. Bruce
16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
about baptism —
Certainly when the devil sees baptism and hears the Word sounding, to him it is like a bright sun and he will not stay there, and when a person is baptized for the sake of the Word of God, which is in it, there is a veritable oven glow. Do you think it was a joke that the heaven were opened at Christ’s baptism? Say, therefore, that baptism is water and God’s Word comprehended in one. Take the Word away and it is the same water with which the maid waters the cow; but with the Word, it is a living, holy, divine thing.
Is it possible for an unbaptized believer to be saved? Yes, definitely. Should every believer be baptized? Yes, definitely.
The old Irish when immersing a babe at baptism left out the right arm so that it would remain pagan for good fighting!
HERE is “Baptism” sung by Randy Travis.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.