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The Ministry of John the Baptist

In those days John the Baptist came into the wilderness[a] of Judea proclaiming, “Repent,[b] for the kingdom of heaven is near.” For he is the one about whom the prophet Isaiah had spoken:[c]

The voice[d] of one shouting in the wilderness,
Prepare the way for the Lord, make[e] his paths straight.’”[f]

Now John wore clothing made from camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his diet consisted of locusts and wild honey.[g] Then people from Jerusalem,[h] as well as all Judea and all the region around the Jordan, were going out to him, and he was baptizing them[i] in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees[j] and Sadducees[k] coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit[l] that proves your[m] repentance, and don’t think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’[n] For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is laid at[o] 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 water, for repentance, but the one coming after me is more powerful than I am—I am not worthy[p] to carry his sandals! He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.[q] 12 His winnowing fork[r] is in his hand, and he will clean out his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the storehouse,[s] but the chaff he will burn up with inextinguishable fire!”[t]

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John to be baptized by him in the Jordan River.[u] 14 But John[v] tried to prevent[w] him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?” 15 So Jesus replied[x] to him, “Let it happen now,[y] for it is right for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John[z] yielded[aa] to him. 16 After[ab] Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the[ac] heavens[ad] opened[ae] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove[af] and coming to rest[ag] on him. 17 And[ah] a voice from heaven said,[ai] “This is my one dear Son;[aj] in him[ak] I take great delight.”[al]

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 3:1 tn Or “desert.”
  2. Matthew 3:2 tn Grk “and saying, ‘Repent.’” The participle λέγων (legōn) at the beginning of v. 2 is redundant in English and has not been translated.
  3. Matthew 3:3 tn Grk “was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying.” The participle λέγοντος (legontos) is redundant and has not been translated. The passive construction has also been rendered as active in the translation for the sake of English style.
  4. Matthew 3:3 tn Or “A voice.”
  5. Matthew 3:3 sn The call to “make paths straight” in this context is probably an allusion to preparation through repentance.
  6. Matthew 3:3 sn A quotation from Isa 40:3.
  7. Matthew 3:4 sn John’s lifestyle was in stark contrast to many of the religious leaders of Jerusalem who lived in relative ease and luxury. While his clothing and diet were indicative of someone who lived in the desert, they also depicted him in his role as God’s prophet (cf. Zech 13:4); his appearance is similar to the Prophet Elijah (2 Kgs 1:8). Locusts and wild honey were a common diet in desert regions, and locusts (dried insects) are listed in Lev 11:22 among the “clean” foods.
  8. Matthew 3:5 tn Grk “Then Jerusalem.” In the Greek text the city (Jerusalem) is put by metonymy for its inhabitants (see E. W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech, 579).
  9. Matthew 3:6 tn Grk “they were being baptized by him.” The passive construction has been rendered as active in the translation for the sake of English style.
  10. Matthew 3:7 sn Pharisees were members of one of the most important and influential religious and political parties of Judaism in the time of Jesus. There were more Pharisees than Sadducees (according to Josephus, Ant. 17.2.4 [17.42] there were more than 6,000 Pharisees at about this time). Pharisees differed with Sadducees on certain doctrines and patterns of behavior. The Pharisees were strict and zealous adherents to the laws of the OT and to numerous additional traditions such as angels and bodily resurrection.
  11. Matthew 3:7 sn The Sadducees controlled the official political structures of Judaism at this time, being the majority members of the Sanhedrin. They were known as extremely strict on law and order issues (Josephus, J. W. 2.8.2 [2.119], 2.8.14 [2.164-166]; Ant. 13.5.9 [13.171-173], 13.10.6 [13.293-298], 18.1.2 [18.11], 18.1.4 [18.16-17], 20.9.1 [20.199]; Life 2 [10-11]). See also Matt 16:1-12; 22:23-34; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-38; Acts 5:17; 23:6-8.
  12. Matthew 3:8 sn Fruit that proves your repentance refers to the deeds that indicate a change of attitude (heart) on the part of John’s hearers.
  13. Matthew 3:8 tn Grk “fruit worthy of.”
  14. Matthew 3:9 sn With this statement John warns his hearers that physical descent from the patriarchs (Abraham) will not suffice to save them from the coming eschatological wrath of God.
  15. Matthew 3:10 sn Laid at the root. That is, placed and aimed, ready to begin cutting.
  16. Matthew 3:11 tn Grk “of whom I am not worthy.”sn The humility of John is evident in the statement I am not worthy. This was considered one of the least worthy tasks of a slave, and John did not consider himself worthy to do even that for the one to come, despite the fact he himself was a prophet.
  17. Matthew 3:11 sn With the Holy Spirit and fire. There are differing interpretations for this phrase regarding the number of baptisms and their nature. (1) Some see one baptism here, and this can be divided further into two options. (a) The baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire could refer to the cleansing, purifying work of the Spirit in the individual believer through salvation and sanctification, or (b) it could refer to two different results of Christ’s ministry: Some accept Christ and are baptized with the Holy Spirit, but some reject him and receive judgment. (2) Other interpreters see two baptisms here: The baptism of the Holy Spirit refers to the salvation Jesus brings at his first advent, in which believers receive the Holy Spirit, and the baptism of fire refers to the judgment Jesus will bring upon the world at his second coming. One must take into account both the image of fire and whether individual or corporate baptism is in view. A decision is not easy on either issue. The image of fire is used to refer to both eternal judgment (e.g., Matt 25:41) and the power of the Lord’s presence to purge and cleanse his people (e.g., Isa 4:4-5). The pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost, a fulfillment of this prophecy no matter which interpretation is taken, had both individual and corporate dimensions. It is possible that since Holy Spirit and fire are governed by a single preposition in Greek, the one-baptism view may be more likely, but this is not certain. Simply put, there is no consensus view in scholarship at this time on the best interpretation of this passage.
  18. Matthew 3:12 sn A winnowing fork was a pitchfork-like tool used to toss threshed grain in the air so that the wind blew away the chaff, leaving the grain to fall to the ground. The note of purging is highlighted by the use of imagery involving sifting though threshed grain for the useful kernels.
  19. Matthew 3:12 tn Or “granary,” “barn” (referring to a building used to store a farm’s produce rather than a building to house livestock).
  20. Matthew 3:12 sn The image of fire that cannot be extinguished is from the OT: Job 20:26; Isa 34:8-10; 66:24.
  21. Matthew 3:13 tn “River” is not in the Greek text but is supplied for clarity.
  22. Matthew 3:14 tc ‡ The earliest mss (א* B sa) lack the name of John here (“but he tried to prevent him,” instead of “but John tried to prevent him”). It is, however, clearly implied (and is thus supplied in translation). Although the longer reading has excellent support (P96 א1 C Ds L W Γ Δ 0233 0250 ƒ1, 13 33 565 579 700 1241 1424 M lat[t] sy mae bo), it looks to be a motivated and predictable reading. Nevertheless, in light of the strong external support for “John,” it is only slightly more likely that the autographic wording of this verse lacked his name.
  23. Matthew 3:14 tn The imperfect verb has been translated conatively.
  24. Matthew 3:15 tn Grk “but Jesus, answering, said.” This construction with passive participle and finite verb is pleonastic (redundant) and has been simplified in the translation to “replied to him.”
  25. Matthew 3:15 tn Grk “Permit now.”
  26. Matthew 3:15 tn Grk “he”; the referent (John the Baptist) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  27. Matthew 3:15 tn Or “permitted him.”
  28. Matthew 3:16 tn Here δέ (de) has not been translated.
  29. Matthew 3:16 tn Grk “behold the heavens.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated because it has no exact English equivalent here, but adds interest and emphasis (BDAG 468 s.v. 1).
  30. Matthew 3:16 tn Or “sky.” The Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) may be translated “sky” or “heaven,” depending on the context. The same word is used in v. 17.
  31. Matthew 3:16 tcαὐτῷ (autō, “to/before him”) is found in the majority of witnesses (א1 C Ds L W Γ Δ 0233 ƒ1, 13 33 565 579 700 1241 1424 M lat mae bo), perhaps added as a point of clarification or emphasis. It is lacking in א* B sys,c sa Irlat CyrJ; SBL. NA28 includes the word in brackets, indicating doubts as to its authenticity.
  32. Matthew 3:16 sn The phrase like a dove is a descriptive comparison. The Spirit is not a dove, but descended like one in some sort of bodily representation.
  33. Matthew 3:16 tn Grk “coming”; the notion of coming to rest is implied in the context.
  34. Matthew 3:17 tn Grk “and behold.” The Greek word ἰδού (idou) has not been translated here.
  35. Matthew 3:17 tn Grk “behold, a voice from the heavens, saying.” This is an incomplete sentence in Greek which portrays intensity and emotion. The participle λέγουσα (legousa) was translated as a finite verb in keeping with English style.
  36. Matthew 3:17 tn Grk “my beloved Son,” or “my Son, the beloved [one].” The force of ἀγαπητός (agapētos) is often “pertaining to one who is the only one of his or her class, but at the same time is particularly loved and cherished” (L&N 58.53; cf. also BDAG 7 s.v. 1).sn The parallel accounts in Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 read “You are” rather than “This is,” portraying the remark as addressed personally to Jesus.
  37. Matthew 3:17 tn Grk “in whom.”
  38. Matthew 3:17 tn Or “with whom I am well pleased.”sn The allusions in the remarks of the text recall Ps 2:7a; Isa 42:1 and either Isa 41:8 or, less likely, Gen 22:12, 16. God is marking out Jesus as his chosen one (the meaning of “[in him I take] great delight”), but it may well be that this was a private experience that only Jesus and John saw and heard (cf. John 1:32-33).

Nazarene means, “tender, green, or living branch.” Jesus is the living Branch, the branch of David that extends the reach of the tree of Israel eventually to foreigners and outsiders.

Around the same time, a man called John[a] began to travel, preach, and ritually wash people through baptism in the wilderness of Judea. John preached a stern but exciting message.

John: Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is near.

John’s proclamation fulfilled a promise made by the ancient prophet Isaiah, who had said, “There will be a voice calling from the desert, saying,

Prepare the road for the Eternal One’s journey;
    repair and straighten out every mile of our God’s highway.”[b]

John wore wild clothes made from camel hair with a leather belt around his waist—the clothes of an outcast, a rebel. He ate locusts and wild honey.

Sometimes when people see John they are reminded of the last time God’s people had wandered in a wilderness—after the exodus from Egypt. John is all about wilderness. He preaches in the wilderness, and he wears clothes just like the prophet Elijah had worn. They think perhaps John is inaugurating a new exodus. Actually, that is a pretty good way to think of it. The Anointed One, whose way John comes to prepare, will call humanity away from comfort and status; He will call His followers to challenge their assumptions and the things they take for granted.

People from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and indeed from all around the river Jordan came to John. They confessed their sins, and they were baptized[c] by him in the Jordan.

But John is not exactly warm to all those who come to him seeking cleansing.

He told some Pharisees and Sadducees who came for the ritual baptism,

John: You children of serpents! You brood of vipers! Did someone suggest you flee from the wrath that is upon us? 8-9 If you think that simply hopping in the Jordan will cleanse you, then you are sorely mistaken. Your life must bear the fruits of turning toward righteousness. Nor are you correct if you think that being descended from Abraham is enough to make you holy and right with God. Yes, the children of Abraham are God’s chosen children, but God can adopt as daughters and sons anyone He likesHe can turn these stones into sons if He likes.

To be made right with God, one must truly repent. It means to turn completely away from sin and completely toward God.

10 Even now there is an ax poised at the root of every tree, and every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and tossed into the fire. 11 I ritually cleanse you through baptism[d] as a mark of turning your life around. But someone is coming after me, someone whose sandals I am not fit to carry, someone who is more powerful than I. He will wash[e] you not in water but in fire and with the Holy Spirit. 12 He carries a winnowing fork in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor; He will gather up the good wheat in His barn, and He will burn the chaff with a fire that cannot be put out.

13 And then, the One of whom John spoke—the all-powerful Jesus—came to the Jordan from Galilee to be washed[f] by John. 14 At first, John demurred.

John: I need to be cleansed[g] by You. Why do You come to me?

Jesus: 15 It will be right, true, and faithful to God’s chosen path for you to cleanse Me with your hands in the Jordan River.

John agreed, and he ritually cleansed Jesus, dousing Him in the waters of the Jordan. 16 Jesus emerged from His baptism;[h] and at that moment heaven was opened, and Jesus saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon Him, alighting on His very body.

Voice from Heaven: 17 This is My Son, whom I love; this is the Apple of My eye; with Him I am well pleased.

Footnotes

  1. 3:1 Literally, John who immersed, to show repentance
  2. 3:3 Isaiah 40:3
  3. 3:6 Literally, immersed, to show repentance
  4. 3:11 Literally, immerse, to show repentance
  5. 3:11 Literally, immerse, in a rite of initiation and purification
  6. 3:13 Literally, immersed, to show repentance
  7. 3:14 Literally, immersed, in a rite of initiation and purification
  8. 3:16 Literally, after being immersed, Jesus came up from the water.

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

In those days John the Baptist came to the Judean wilderness and began preaching. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.[a] 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!’”[b]

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. 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.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize,[c] he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? 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. 10 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.

11 “I baptize with[d] 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.[e] 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.[f] So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened[g] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Footnotes

  1. 3:2 Or has come, or is coming soon.
  2. 3:3 Isa 40:3 (Greek version).
  3. 3:7 Or coming to be baptized.
  4. 3:11a Or in.
  5. 3:11b Or in the Holy Spirit and in fire.
  6. 3:15 Or for we must fulfill all righteousness.
  7. 3:16 Some manuscripts read opened to him.

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

(A)In those days (B)John the Baptist came preaching in (C)the wilderness of Judea, (D)“Repent, for (E)the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[a] For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

(F)“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
(G)‘Prepare[b] the way of the Lord;
    make his paths straight.’”

Now John wore (H)a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was (I)locusts and (J)wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, (K)confessing their sins.

But when he saw many of (L)the Pharisees and (M)Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, (N)“You brood of (O)vipers! Who warned you to flee from (P)the wrath to come? Bear fruit (Q)in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, (R)‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from (S)these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. (T)Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 (U)“I baptize you with water (V)for repentance, but (W)he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you (X)with the Holy Spirit and (Y)fire. 12 His (Z)winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and (AA)gather his wheat into the barn, (AB)but the chaff he will burn with (AC)unquenchable fire.”

The Baptism of Jesus

13 (AD)Then Jesus came (AE)from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 (AF)John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, (AG)the heavens were opened to him,[c] and he (AH)saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, (AI)a voice from heaven said, (AJ)“This is my beloved Son,[d] with whom I am well pleased.”

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 3:2 Or the kingdom of heaven has come near
  2. Matthew 3:3 Or crying: Prepare in the wilderness
  3. Matthew 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him
  4. Matthew 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

John the Baptist Prepares the Way(A)

In those days John the Baptist(B) came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven(C) has come near.” 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.’”[a](D)

John’s(E) clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.(F) His food was locusts(G) and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized(H) by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers!(I) Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?(J) Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.(K) And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’(L) 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.(M)

11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance.(N) 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(O) and fire.(P) 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.”(Q)

The Baptism of Jesus(R)

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.(S) 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,(T) and he saw the Spirit of God(U) descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven(V) said, “This is my Son,(W) whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”(X)

Footnotes

  1. Matthew 3:3 Isaiah 40:3
  2. Matthew 3:11 Or in
  3. Matthew 3:11 Or in