Today’s Bible reading was Matthew, chapter 3, which focuses almost completely on John the Baptist. Although I don’t see it actually written in the Scripture, the life application, study part of my Bible explains that 30 years have passed since the end of chapter 2, which means Jesus is about 32 years old.
John the Baptist was a prophet who preached about repentance and about preparing the way for the Lord. He lived outside Jerusalem, wore clothes made of camel hair, ate locusts and honey (his clothes and his food choices separating him from other religious figures), and baptized people in the Jordan River. He said that his baptism was an outward sign of repentance, but he also said that Jesus, who he said was much greater than himself, would come later and baptize people with the Holy Spirit and with fire. John said that Jesus would winnow the people, judging and separating the good from the bad.
At the end of the chapter, Jesus comes to John, asking John to baptize him. At first, John tries to talk him out of it, saying he isn’t good enough to baptize Jesus, that Jesus should baptize him. Jesus convinces John though, and John baptizes Jesus. When Jesus emerges from the water, God speaks and the Holy Spirit touches Jesus; the Holy Trinity is together.
John also yells at the Pharisees and the Sadducees when they come to be baptized. The Pharisees followed the Old Testament but were more concerned with living under their own laws—and insisting others did as well—than living under God’s laws. They wanted to appear good but weren’t as concerned with being good. The Sadducees did not believe all the Old Testament, only the Mosaic law, and they were very caught up in material values, status, and influence. Neither the Pharisees nor the Sadducees believed Jesus was the Son of God; they were both against him. John the Baptist did not feel they were worthy of baptism as he did not believe in their repentance.
I think I probably learned the most about the Pharisees and the Sadducees from this chapter. I couldn’t have told you anything about either group before this reading, and now I feel I have a basic understanding of who they were.
The two things that stuck out for me from this chapter were the concepts of repentance and of preparing the way for God. Repentance means telling God about your sins and asking for forgiveness for those sins. God will forgive you (for which I’m so grateful). But it goes on from there to also mean that you must then, after confessing your sins, try to live free from those sins going forward. It doesn’t do any good to get baptized and have the outward sign of repentance if inside you’re still the same person.
John also talked about “productive trees” and about God cutting down unproductive trees. John said we need to be productive trees—we need to produce fruit for God. Once we repent, we go forward trying to live better lives. If people see through our actions that we are trying to live a life God would want us to live, then we take a step toward bearing fruit for God. Being generous and helping others bears fruit for God. What’s on the inside has to match what’s on the outside. People should be able to tell from our actions what kind of people we are inside.
All of this can help prepare the way for God. If there is anything that we can do to help others find their way to God, we should try to do that. We should be willing to talk about God, about what we are learning and what we know about God from the Bible and share that with others.
“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 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” (Matt. 3:11-12).