3 For fifteen years[a] Emperor Tiberius had ruled that part of the world. Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod[b] was the ruler of Galilee. Herod’s brother, Philip, was the ruler in the countries of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was the ruler of Abilene. 2 Annas and Caiaphas were the Jewish high priests.[c]
At that time God spoke to Zechariah’s son John, who was living in the desert. 3 So John went along the Jordan Valley, telling the people, “Turn back to God and be baptized! Then your sins will be forgiven.” 4 Isaiah the prophet wrote about John when he said,
“In the desert someone is shouting, ‘Get the road ready for the Lord! Make a straight path for him. 5 Fill up every valley and level every mountain and hill. Straighten the crooked paths and smooth out the rough roads. 6 Then everyone will see the saving power of God.’”
7 Crowds of people came out to be baptized, but John said to them, “You bunch of snakes! Who warned you to run from the coming judgment? 8 Do something to show that you really have given up your sins. Don’t start saying that you belong to Abraham’s family. God can turn these stones into children for Abraham.[d]9 An ax is ready to cut the trees down at their roots. Any tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into a fire.”
10 The crowds asked John, “What should we do?”
11 John told them, “If you have two coats, give one to someone who doesn’t have any. If you have food, share it with someone else.”
12 When tax collectors[e] came to be baptized, they asked John, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 John told them, “Don’t make people pay more than they owe.”
14 Some soldiers asked him, “And what about us? What do we have to do?”
John told them, “Don’t force people to pay money to make you leave them alone. Be satisfied with your pay.”
15 Everyone became excited and wondered, “Could John be the Messiah?”
16 John said, “I am just baptizing with water. But someone more powerful is going to come, and I am not good enough even to untie his sandals.[f] He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His threshing fork[g] is in his hand, and he is ready to separate the wheat from the husks. He will store the wheat in his barn and burn the husks with a fire that never goes out.”
18 In many different ways John preached the good news to the people. 19 But to Herod the ruler, he said, “It was wrong for you to take Herodias, your brother’s wife.” John also said that Herod had done many other bad things. 20 Finally, Herod put John in jail, and this was the worst thing he had done.
The Baptism of Jesus
21 While everyone else was being baptized, Jesus himself was baptized. Then as he prayed, the sky opened up, 22 and the Holy Spirit came down upon him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven said, “You are my own dear Son, and I am pleased with you.”
3.1For fifteen years: This was either A.D. 28 or 29, and Jesus was about thirty years old (see 3.23).
3.1Herod: Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great.
3.2Annas and Caiaphas. . . high priests: Annas was high priest from A.D. 6 until 15. His son-in-law Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18 until 37.
3.8children for Abraham: The Jewish people thought they were God’s chosen people because of God’s promises to their ancestor Abraham.
3.12tax collectors: These were usually Jewish people who paid the Romans for the right to collect taxes. They were hated by other Jews who thought of them as traitors to their country and to their religion.
3.16untie his sandals: This was the duty of a slave.
3.17threshing fork: After Jewish farmers had trampled out the grain, they used a large fork to pitch the grain and the husks into the air. Wind would blow away the light husks, and the grain would fall back to the ground, where it could be gathered up.
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