In the Summer of 2004, my family and I witnessed a presidential motorcade in the City of Erie, PA. I remember it quite well, as the amount of preparation and security that went into this short visit was extreme but necessary. Security measures were put in place months in advance, and a plan for the motorcade’s route was put together. The arrival of the most powerful man in America was a big deal. The president of the United States of America was coming, and the city needed to make the necessary preparations for this visit. We waited in anticipation as a sea of flashing lights from police vehicles came over the horizon, lines of busses, and dozens of black SUVs approached. We stood on the side of the road waiting for the coming of the man of the hour. It was quite a sight, as dozens of black SUVs with secret service agents armed with semi-automatic rifles, guns, earpieces, and helicopters hovering overhead. It was truly awe-inspiring. I remember thinking, “This is all for one man.”
I share this memory with you because when God incarnate came to earth there was not even close to this amount of preparation for his arrival. This account is a good reminder of the importance of preparing for the arrival of THE King, not only for his earthly visit, but for when He comes into our lives as well.
Prepare the Way
Matthew 3:1 – 17
It has been about 25 years since Joseph, Mary, and Jesus went to Nazareth, and now the time has come for John, referred to as “the Baptist,” to appear and fulfill his purpose. Interestingly, John the Baptist appears at the beginning of all four gospels, thus making him an important historical figure in the biblical account because he is the link between God’s saving activity in the Old Testament and Jesus’ saving activity through his ministry, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
John the Baptist – So, who is this John the Baptist? We don’t know much about Him, but we do know this.
John preached about the coming Kingdom of God, or as Matthew calls it, the Kingdom of Heaven, and preached baptism for the repentance of sins. The religious leaders of this time didn’t understand what John’s purpose was and who he was. Today, we will look at five aspects of Matthew 3:1 – 17 that I want to discuss to help us better understand what is happening in the passage and how it speaks to us today.
Since Jesus is God incarnate, the Holy One of Israel, the King, and the Messiah, he did not need to be baptized for the remission of sin since he is sinless. He did not need to be converted, and there was no need for repentance since His Kingdom was coming. So, why does Jesus get baptized? Jesus’ baptism has far more significance than we think. Jesus tells John, “It should be done, for we must carry out all God requires.” Or the NIV states, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” The word “fulfill” continues a theme that started at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus’ conception, birth, and infancy all fulfilled specific and general prophecies. Jesus says he must be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” This most likely means that God’s saving activity in the Old Testament is now being fulfilled with the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry through the death on the cross of Calvary. It is Jesus’ expression of his obedience to God and his plan of salvation revealed in the Scriptures. Thus, this public baptism is an endorsement of John’s ministry and message and links Jesus’ cause to John’s. So, as Jesus goes down into the waters of baptism, he identifies with his people in their need; ultimately, he identifies with the sinful humanity he came to save and, at this point, with the believing remnant of Israel who came to be baptized. Jesus now brings fulfillment to the ministry John began. When Jesus comes up from the water, three things happen…
John the Baptist’s whole ministry (and life, for that matter) was devoted to pointing people to Jesus. He knew his place in life. He had a humble (and vital) spirit to him. He was not about self-promotion; he was about Christ's promotion. He did not have a personal agenda; he had God’s agenda. His purpose was to be the voice calling out in the wilderness that the Messiah had come, and he desired that people be right with God by preaching a message of baptism, repentance, and forgiveness of sins. He wanted to show people a new way of life and an authentic relationship with God through the Messiah (Jesus Christ). May we be like John in this manner.
Jesus’ connection with sinners, demonstrated through His baptism and crucifixion, is a model for His followers. We are called to follow His example by standing in harmony with the less fortunate and being the light in the world, just as He illuminated the world. Like Jesus, who shouldered His cross, we are also tasked with carrying our own. By following Jesus, we adopt a more profound unity with His body, the church. Despite having no entitlement, Jesus imparted upon us boundless gifts. Similarly, we are called to selflessly offer everything, even our lives, for His sake, without expecting anything in return from the world.
 John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 158.
Jeff has been in full-time ministry for thirty years. He currently serves as Executive Director at Anchor House Ministry at SeaPort Manatee in Palmetto, FL and he is a part-time Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Southside in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored A Lent Devotional (A Spiritual Journey to Lent) an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). All three are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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