Summary: The way in which we prepare demonstrates the importance of the One who comes
While attending a convention in Indianapolis on mass evangelism, D.L. Moody asked his song leader Ira Sankey to meet him at 6 o'clock one evening at a certain street corner. When Sankey arrived, Mr. Moody asked him to stand on a box and sing.
Once a crowd had gathered, Moody spoke briefly and then invited the people to follow him to the nearby convention hall. Soon, spiritually hungry people filled the auditorium, and the great evangelist preached the gospel to them.
Then the convention delegates began to arrive. Moody stopped preaching and said, "Now we must close, as the brethren of the convention wish to come and discuss the topic, 'How to reach the masses.'" Moody graphically illustrated the difference between talking about doing something and going out and doing it.
1. Last week we learned the importance of being ready to greet Christ. God wants his people to be ready, so he sends a prophet named John to prepare them. John’s mission is to bring people to an awareness of sin and their need for a Savior, preparing them for the Messiah who is coming soon.
2. You can tell something about the caliber of an expected guest by the preparations made in anticipation of his arrival. OYBT Mt 3, as we meet God’s prophet John (aka Baptist) and learn something about his lifestyle, his mission and his testimony.
II. JOHN’S LIFESTYLE (1, 3-4)
1. Biographers describe their subjects’ appearance only if they have good reason. For instance, Mark and Matthew describe John but not Jesus. John’s location, clothing and diet depict a radical servant of God whose lifestyle challenges the religious order of his day.
A. John’s location implies the coming of a new exodus (in Jesus). The OT prophets predicted that said exodus would begin in the wilderness (Hos. 2:14-15, Is. 40:3).
i. Wilderness should not be translated desert. It may be a sandy or stony waste, or land simply undesirable for crops or animals.
ii. The wilderness of Judea gets little rainfall and its slopes are steep. Hence it is known as wilderness. Jewish people of John’s day acknowledge this as the appropriate place for renewal movements, prophets and Messiahs.
iii. We should not overlook that the wilderness is also the natural place for fugitives from a hostile society (e.g. Heb. 11:38; Rev. 12:6)
B. John’s clothing resemble the typical garb of the poor, befitting a wilderness prophet cut off from society’s amenities. More importantly, his garb evokes images of Elijah the prophet (2 Ki. 1:8).
C. Malachi promised Elijah’s return (4:5-6), and though Matthew does not view John literally as Elijah (17:3, Lk. 1:17), the tone of his gospel suggests he believes John fulfilled Malachi’s prophecy of Elijah’s mission.
D. John’s diet demonstrates his commitment. Poor people in antiquity eat locusts, and honey (the sweetener in a Palestinian diet) is readily available to the poor. Nothing unusual here, necessarily.
i. Here’s the rub: locusts sweetened with honey constituted John’s entire diet. Matthew explains that John lives simply, with the barest forms of sustenance.
ii. This was not the only lifestyle to which God called his servants; however, Matthew believes he called some to it, and the testimony of their lifestyle challenges all disciples to consider whether they have staked everything on the kingdom.
III. JOHN’S MISSION (2, 5-7)
1. John chooses not to spend time with the spiritually elite, nor surround himself with other believers, in a sort of spiritual comfort zone. John is on a mission—to prepare people for the coming Savior. His message is easy to understand: turn away from your sins, for the kingdom of heaven is near (i.e. you must be ready to meet Christ when he comes).
2. His lifestyle probably has much to do with people following him (5), and his message fuels their interest; after all, 400 years has passed since God last sent a prophet to Israel.
3. John’s faithfulness produces results. People from the entire region came to hear his message. Moved by the urgency of his words, they (confess) their sins and are baptized by him in the Jordan River. God builds a revival in the Judean wilderness at the hands of his servant John.
4. Suddenly the religious elite show up: the Pharisees and Sadducees. They want to be baptized. Their desire is not from hearts of repentance, but rather to avoid “missing out on something”, especially something as serious as John’s claims about the kingdom of Heaven.
A. He rebukes them sharply, calling them brood of vipers (lit. “offspring of snakes”), hardly a term of endearment. He exposes their motives before the multitudes, saying “who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Oh boy, them’s fightin’ words…)
B. John’s words and actions are meant for those who will fully repent via change of attitude, heart and actions that prepare them to meet Christ when he comes. The self-righteous zealots before him know nothing of such behavior, and are not about to admit they’re need of salvation.