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Summary: A commercialized, materialistic Christmas often leaves out the greatest Christmas gift of all. How did John the Baptist prepare for our Savior? Let’s look at John’s preparation for Jesus in Matthew 3:1-12.

A commercialized, materialistic Christmas often leaves out the greatest Christmas gift of all. How did John the Baptist prepare for our Savior? Let’s look at John’s preparation for Jesus in Matthew 3:1-12.

Preaching

Matthew 3:1 “In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was,”

John the Baptist preached that the kingdom was near (Matthew 3:1-2; 4:17). Preaching and teaching are VERY important to the life of the church. Preaching is a public announcement to unbelievers. Teaching is instructing believers to obey what Jesus commanded. That's what Jesus instructed (Matthew 28:19-20).

How Prepare

Matthew 3:2-3 “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!’”

John called for repentance. Is something wrong with our modern world? Repentance is a change of heart about our life’s direction with hope for a new beginning. John wanted to see proof of repentance, fruit. The root cause of all our planet’s ills is spiritual and so is the solution.

Is repentance just a one time thing? Christian life is a continual repentance. Conversion is merely the beginning of a process of change. Our journey begins with small changes. The idea that we do not have perfect knowledge and the humility to learn new perspectives are indicative of ongoing repentance.

John was urgent, the “kingdom of heaven is near.” In military terms, God was establishing a beachhead and would eventually take over. God rules in the lives of those who accept him. The “kingdom of heaven has come near” is the same as saying God is now taking control.[1]

[1] The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary of the New Testament, R. T. France, 2007, Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, p. 102

Preacher in Poor Country Clothes

Matthew 3:4 “John’s clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.”

John was dressed in farmer’s clothes. He emphasized the often overlooked ingredient of repentance, a change of heart. After confession of sin, John ignored Levitical sin offerings, and instead emphasized baptism. His baptism of repentance prepared for a new high priest who would also baptize people with the Holy Spirit.

The Announcer

Matthew 3:5-6 “People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River.”

John heralded an important announcement in the wilderness, at the edge of Roman control. This last of the Old Testament prophets was dressed in simple farming clothing reminiscent of Elijah. Israel crossed the Jordan to become God’s people in this wilderness. It was a fitting place to announce a revival.

Brood of Snakes

Matthew 3:7 “But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath?”

John the Baptist preached a discomforting call to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:1-12). He called some religious leaders a brood of snakes, and to produce proof of a changed heart. In a selfish and corrupt world sometimes a confrontation with truth is needed?

Fruit

Matthew 3:8-10 “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

Social gospel is a modern concept of a social responsibility highlighting love for neighbor. The idea of a social responsibility towards others is clearly evident among those who believe. John the Baptist told the Pharisees to show fruit of a changed heart. One such fruit is how we treat others.

Baptism of Fire

Matthew 3:11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”

The baptism of fire has two possible meanings. The tongues of fire on the faithful at Pentecost (Acts 2), similar to water baptism on the head. It also means the unrepentant who choose hell over heaven are to be thrown into a lake of fire, more like an immersion baptism.

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