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Matthew 3:1-3, John the Baptist, part 1

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The beginning of this sermon ( ) was not recorded due to technical difficulties. Very little was cut off. Below is the sermon notes/transcript for the missing portion.

Matthew 3:1-6

Lord willing, we will begin this morning in Matthew chapter 3. So turn there if you would please. Previously in Matthew, we examined the Old Testament history that looked forward to the coming of the Messiah in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. We examined the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus. We have looked at Joseph, Mary, Herod the Great, and the Wise Men. The end of chapter 2 ends the incarnation and birth account, which firmly establishes that Jesus is the Christ, that promised Messiah of Old, the promised Savior and Redeemer, and the rightful heir to the throne of David. In him, all are of the promises fulfilled concerning the Covenant of Grace.

Chapter 3 starts the narrative of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

To pave the way for that ministry God sent a messenger, John the Baptist.

Today we will begin looking at him and how his fulfillment of prophecy gives further witness to Jesus being the Christ, the anticipated Messiah and King.

We will also see God using John to proclaim the Messiah’s Kingdom of Grace, whereby the Gospel is more fully revealed.

Matthew chapter 3, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, 2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, 6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mt 3:1–6.

Let’s go back to verse 1.

Verse 1, “In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea”.

In those days is kind of vague. It does not specify any specific date. They are certainly days after the birth account– approximately 30 years after Jesus’ return from Egypt and settlement in Nazareth recorded in chapter 2. “In those days”, in this context, most likely refers to the beginning of the days of our Lord’s earthly ministry. At the beginning of that ministry came John the Baptist.

John’s ministry did not meet the ideals of the finely dressed Pharisees and religious leaders. Verse 4 tells us that John “… had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.”

He preached outside of Jerusalem, in the wilderness. These were badlands, with barren and rocky soil. The region was between the hill country of Judea to the west, and the Dead Sea and lower Jordan to the east. This region included an area around portions of the Jordan river, where John baptized. (Hendriksen, 196)

For a predominantly Jewish-Christian audience, this usage of “wilderness” would have stirred up many thoughts of things from the Old Testament.

For most readers, it brings to memory the wilderness wanderings after the Exodus from Egypt. It was in that wilderness that God prepared the people to enter the promised land. It is where God spoke to the people through Moses, where God gave the law, and where God gave the people of Israel types and shadows pointing forward to the Messiah.

Turn with me to Ezekiel chapter 20, verse 33. The Jewish-Christians may have also associated the wilderness with prophecy from Ezekiel and Hosea. These are Messianic passages.

Ezekiel 20:33–37, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out, will I rule over you: 34 And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. 35 And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. (there is condemnation and judgment of sin) 36 Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord GOD. 37 And I will cause you to pass under the rod (he will show mercy and grace), and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant:” That is the Covenant of Grace. John Gill said of the “bond of the covenant”, “it designs that which makes the covenant firm, sure, and lasting; which are the everlasting love of God, from whence it springs; his unchangeable counsel, according to which it proceeds; his solemn oath, that it shall never be removed; his faithfulness, which will not suffer it to be made void; and his power, which will accomplish every article of it; and the blood of Christ, which ratifies and confirms it.” (John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament, vol. 6, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1810), 101.).”

Turn to now Hosea chapter 2, verse 14.

Hosea 2:14–15, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. 15 And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt.”

Unto those who are called, it is revealed their own spiritual wilderness, a desolate place that is wrought with sin. The law was given to Israel in the wilderness, and with that law brought the knowledge of sin and it brought death. “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15:56). In Hosea the Lord said that he will speak comfortably unto her. Once God calls a person into the wilderness, revealing their sin, he speaks words of comfort– to the sinner is spoken the Gospel of Peace and to them is given life. And upon conversion, that sinner that was lost has been found, and they are led into the vineyard, a garden where they can walk with the Lord in sweet communion, and there rest in the hope of the promises of God.

Let’s go back to Matthew chapter 3, verse 2. Verse 1 told us that John was preaching in the wilderness, and this is what he was preaching. Verse 2,

“And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In the Greek, the word “preaching” in verse one means to proclaim. The sense of it is to announce, or herald in important news– this is to make known publicly. John is publicly proclaiming and announcing that people need to make ready for the kingdom of God– and you do that by repenting. Those whom the Holy Spirit brings under conviction of sin will be given repentance, and they will turn from their sins.

Repentance is a change, it is a change of the heart and mind. Repentance brings about regret for one’s former ways, sorrow and remorse for sin. Repentance brings change– it turns a person away from sin and towards Jesus as Lord. Repentance also produces fruit, as John proclaims a few verses later in verse 8, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet (worthy or proper) for repentance:”

The repentance spoken of John here is a conversion. Some commentators believe that repentance should be translated as conversion. But truly, you cannot have one without the other, without repentance there is no conversion. Repentance is a conversion of ones heart and mind– away from sin and toward Christ.

The turning from sin to Christ produces fruit that is worthy to show that a person no longer lives for sin– but they live for Jesus Christ; and he lives in them by his indwelling Spirit who produces fruits as evidence of a conversion.