Matthew 3: Fire is Coming
July 6, 2021
- Matthew 3 is literarily, theologically, and contextual rich
- Matthew 3 is dense with purpose, message, and action
- Baptism of repentance
- Clearing way for Messiah
- Promise of Holy Spirit (purification and judgment)
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, [Turn away and Return] for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
- “Repent” is the first word in:
- John the Baptists gospel
- Jesus’ gospel
- 12 disciples gospel
- Preaching instructions Jesus gives
- First “alter call”
- First word from Paul’s message after conversion
Four Things Repentance Is:
*Repentance is NOT a “feeling” or “telling God sorry.” Feeling and emotion is a byproduct of conviction that leads to repentance; BUT the byproduct of repentance is good fruit!
- To from Sin
- To to God
- To produce
- Repentance is not something you must do to come to God, but describes what coming to God looks like i.e. I cannot “return” to Colorado but remain in California just as I can’t “return” to God but remain in sin
- for the forgiveness of sin
- Repent and you receive forgiveness versus (God forgives/loves you, so repent)
- I repent because I’m loved produces a different Christianity then I repent because I’m wrong. I repent because I’m wrong, God forgives me and I then feel loved (one produces narcissistic Christians and the other produces humble Christians)
*As it flows, it seems John’s message is “Repent,” but that’s only in response to His real message that the “Messiah is near”
Kingdom of Heaven
- Matthew uses term “kingdom of Heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” to not offend Jewish believers (they would use word “HaShem” to supplement God’s name. Started around 3 B.C)
*We will discuss this more next week, so we will hold on a deep dive now
3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
Matthew assigned John to Elijah
- 2 Kings 1:8 – Elijah called Israel to Repentence
- Hairy man
- Wore a leather belt
- Malachi 4:5 – God is sending a messenger ahead of Messiah
- Matthew 11:14 – Jesus states John was the Elijah that was to come
- Matthew 16:14 – Many at the time thought Jesus was John the Baptist, Moses, or Elijah too
- Matthew needs to separate them out to make clear roles and who is who
Why does Matthew care to associate John to Elijah? Because like the Messiah, Israel awaited in eager anticipation for the Messenger ahead of Him i.e. Elijah.
5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
- Because so little scripture is attributed to John the Baptist, we miss how significant and successful he was
- The double “all” or “all/whole” signify that not literally all, but more than many
- His ministry was long lasting and far reaching
- Acts 18:25
- Acts 19:3
- Josephus wrote more about John the Baptist than Jesus
To 1st century Jews, Baptism was:
- to Impurity
- Already present at temple ceremonial practices
- Baptism was meant for the “washing” of impurities or uncleanliness – NOT atonement for sin
- Sin Atonement required a blood sacrifice
Note: Jew’s viewed “sin” simply as idolatry . Impurities or being “unclean” is a byproduct of sin (Jesus fixes the sin problem, the Holy Spirit fixes the Impurity problem). See Colossians 3:5
- A Public
- They baptized “while confessing” (participle states while being baptized unlike English translation that suggests a baptism after confession)
- The baptism was not “making a vow” with God, but acted as a public confession of sin, impurity, or promise
- Complete into that confession/association (A statement that I’m ALL IN)
- Baptismo/Mikveh/Baptize = Immersion.
- Independent act of
- There was no “dunker,” only an administrator. The actual baptism was based on the personal, individual act and will of the one getting baptized
*Our baptisms, similarly, are a confession for and identification with the victories of Christ!
- Ephesians 4:4-5, “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” just as Jesus was “One sacrifice once and for all”
CONTEXTUAL NOTE: Only baptisms outside of temple ceremonial washing was with Gentile converts to Judaism.
*The significance with the revival of baptism is that Jews are formally recognizing that they are “AS far from God” as Gentiles. REMEMBER context and point of Matthew…if Jews required repentance and recognition that they are “as far” as gentiles in preparation of the Messiah, then why is association to gentiles absurd now?
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
Sadducees and Pharisees
- These two groups represent Jewish authority in 1st century Judaism
- Temple System
- Remember: Who was supposed to be the servants of the temple?…..Tribe of Levi!
- Dominant Jewish power in Christ’s time
- Largely political
- Largely worldly
- Denied resurrection
- Denied spiritual warfare (angels, demons, etc.)
- Followed Greek view of “Fate,” not Jewish view of sovereignty
- Synagogue system
- After destruction of temple, Sadducees lost most their power and Pharisees assumed control of Jewish teaching/practice
- Believed one was MADE righteous by following the law
- Saw themselves as righteous for their adherence to law
- Often misinterpreted the law
- Held many teachings/commentaries in equal standing as the law
- Were hypocrites in practice and often missed the spirit of the law
- Both factions were rivals and often at odds against each other
- John demonstrates that the Sadducees and Pharisees showed up to “repent” via their religious context
- They wanted to show the people that they were ready for the Messiah
*John reminds them that true repentance is by fruit and action…a fruit they have not demonstrated
9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Fire is Coming to do TWO Things:
*Similarly, someone full of life in Jesus will produce the good fruit of the Spirit while those who are dead will ultimately be destroyed. The Spirit Jesus brings is “Fire” to humanity. Without Jesus, you are an impurity. With Jesus, you are pure. The Spirit will destroy all impurities of humanity and purify the righteous!
*You cannot purify without destruction i.e. God cannot fix anything without detruction
*Example: Porta-potty toilet water
*To purify oneself you must destroy oneself (See Colossians 3:5)
Problem with prosperity gospel is there is no expectation for suffering. God does not want you to suffer, but He wants you to be holy, which requires destroying many elements of your life!
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
- “Fulfill all righteousness”
- Righteousness within Judaism is synonymous with faithfulness. To be righteous is to be faithful
- Mikveh was a big portion of the covenant process
- Beginning High priest duties
- Marriage covenant
- Ultimately, Jesus is entering into covenant by means of confession to the purpose He was sent…the salvation of man.
- “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased”
- See Matthew 2:15 and Hosea 11:1.
- “baptism in the Jordan River”
- We’ve talked a lot about Matthew identifying Jesus to Israel…here Matthew does it again
- Think back to when Israel crossed the Jordan…what did that moment signify?
- As discussed last week, Jesus was a refugee in exile, then in hiding. Now Jesus shows up in Judea as a proclamation “I’m not hiding anymore!”
*Here, Jesus is formally accepting and confessing His purpose and ministry (entering into covenant with God and Us) and whom God in return affirms (Pre-resurrection confirmation of sorts). Like Israel many years before, Jesus to is now crossing the Jordan on conquest for this purpose! God said I set aside for you these people, land, and glory, but like Israel, you have to go take it! Simply, this means Jesus is about to go “Get Some!”
*Many believers remain camped on the far side of the Jordan, but refuse to begin their own conquest in ministry or against personal sin.
Guided Questions for Discussion
- How have you defined repentance? Does it match John the Baptist’s definition to turn away from sin, return to God, and produce good fruit?
- John, Jesus, the disciples, Peter, Paul, etc. all start their gospel message with Repentance, do you start your gospel message with repentance when communicating to others (Example: Do you start with God’s love)? How do we draw people to repentance to effectively share the gospel message?
- John makes clear true repentance is not an emotion or “feeling sorry,” but is verified by producing good fruit. Does the fruit of your life demonstrate a life of sincere repentance?
- Does the prominence of John the Baptist surprise you? How could that have hindered, and helped, Jesus’ ministry?
- Does understanding the Sadducee (temple) and Pharisee (Synagogue) dynamic help you understand more context to which Christ’s ministry enters?
- How do you view your own baptism? Does it differ from Mathew 3?
- Fire consumes, destroys, but also purifies. Does this biblical analogy offer clarity to the role of the Spirit? Role of Jesus? Your role as a disciple?
- Jesus enters the scene with an identification to His purpose to address the sin problem with a public confession to be all in for the forgiveness of sin. Similarly, have you made an identification to your purpose for the gospel? Have you confessed that purpose? Are you all in to that purpose?
- Matthew 3 ends with a sense of a “calm before the storm.” As Jesus “crosses the Jordan” to begin His conquest, have you truly crossed the Jordan or are you camped on the other side?