In those days came John the Baptist:
Jesus and John both virtually silent for 30 years
– except for Jesus’ disputing with teachers in temple, Lk. 2:46
John possibly born and raised in nearby Hebron,
– a city of priests and of refuge in the hill country of Judea, (Jos 11:21; 21:11, 13), about 25 miles south of Jerusalem, and nearly 100 from Nazareth. His father, Zechariah, was a priest, Lk. 1:5.
– through his mother Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, he would have known Jesus or about Jesus while growing up. Mary visited Elizabeth in Judah while John in womb, Lk 1:26-40. Lk 1:36 (KJV) calls Elizabeth a cousin; the Greek term is less specific, relative (as ESV).
John was first prophet of God to speak after roughly 400 years of silence (Malachi, 420 BC – John, c. AD 30)
God calls man to face his true condition: in the wilderness because of his sin.
John came in wilderness.
– Baptism events occurred in Bethabara: house of the ford, place of crossing, passage, Joshua 4; also called Bethany, house of the ship.
– In the wilderness of Judea, among common people, not in Jerusalem among religious leaders
God speaks in the wilderness:
– highlights that man’s true (i.e., spiritual) condition is in wilderness and not in Eden.
– all other life circumstances are an imitation Eden or temporary Promised Land.
– gave the Law in wilderness
– God led, instructed, cared for Israel in the wilderness, Dt. 32:10
– God will make wilderness fruitful. 41:18, 19: I will plant in the wilderness the cedar; Is. 35:1,2: the desert shall rejoice
Elijah: in wilderness, girded with leather about loins 2 Kg 1:8
– time was height of Israel’s rebellion, so in John’s time.
– Contrast Israel’s indulgences with John/Elijah’s deprivation, locust & wild honey
– Focuses on inside, spirit, heart, and not external, flesh
Not fighting, disputing, or “sharing”
But preaching, proclaiming:
– as a herald of a king whose kingdom is coming (“at hand”) from heaven;
– proclaimed, as God’s voice, that a new order is coming unto either salvation and life if embraced or judgment and death if rejected
– call made with urgency and passion: “the voice of one crying” 1:3; startling, awakening, shocking
– preparation is required for the safe reception of coming king: repentance, crooked paths must be straightened
– identifying the true danger and enemy: not Herod, Rome or Israel’s temporal suffering (as bad as they were), but personal sin and eternal death
– identifying the true Sovereign to be heeded: the Messiah declared in OT who is coming
– Christ’s salvation comes by the foolishness of preaching, 1 Cor. 1:21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
Call was to Repent
Metanoia: Change your mind and reform your practice
Problem: fallen human nature says:
– we do not need to change
– problem is not me but with others, environment or circumstances.
True repentance gives one new thoughts/ideas of:
– God, Christ and Man
– sin & holiness
– this world & the next
True repentance produces a change of behavior and way of life
– rejecting or turning from sin
– infection must be drained before body can heal and become healthy
– following after God’s ways
Many confess and are baptized, v.5
– Even came from Jerusalem, 60 miles away
Others, hypocrites are warned for non-repentance
– Abraham’s seed can be made out of stones; his real seed is not physical but spiritual
– Produce fruit worthy of repentance; axiom: true faith produces good fruit
– Roots (allegedly in Abraham) not producing fruit warrant an axe laid (pending judgment) and fire (sanction: back to dust)
A harvest is coming, 1:12
Harvest is a visible event, revealing to all the true nature of the seed
– Baptism unto repentance manifests the true seed, living sacrifice
– Rejection reveals nature of chaff: fit for fire.
– Man, in his heart, either justifies himself unto judgment (rejects baptism) or judges himself unto justification (accepts baptism).
God sees what man actually says within his heart.
Christ’s Messianic status is Revealed Openly
Jesus identifies himself with God’s people in their sinful condition.
– Comes for consecration to fulfill all righteousness: baptized despite John’s reticence
– Jesus fulfills God’s call by His prophet
– Jesus manifests his humanity and humility.
Jesus is identified with his Father in heaven. V.16
– Spirit descends as a dove
– Father declares for world to witness Jesus’s:
— Authority: this is my son
— Blessing/Sanction: in whom I am well pleased
Cp., Lk 3:38 “son of Adam, son of God”