Gospels / Luke / Mark / Matthew

Matthew 3:11-17, Mark 1:7-11, Luke 3:15-23a

 John’s Baptism & Good News

 Matthew 3 Mark 1 Luke 3
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 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.” And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” 15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.

As we previously discussed (here), John’s baptism was a preparing of the participants heart for Christ’s coming. He now goes into deeper explanation about his baptism and the good news of the coming Messiah. John explains to those hoping for him to be the Messiah that he is only paving the way for that man. John humbly admits that it is not he whom the people should look upon with reverence, but the One who is to come. He describes that he is unworthy even to untie the straps on the Messiah’s sandals. The feet are the dirtiest parts of our bodies, and in those times they were considered untouchable because of the dirt and grime that would accumulate on a person’s foot. No one wanted to touch another man’s feet, but John says that he isn’t even worthy to touch Christ’s feet. In other words: Christ’s dirty feet are too good to accept a prophet’s help of undoing a strap.

John explains that whereas his baptism is to prepare hearts through the confession and repentance of sin; the Messiah’s baptism will decide the fate of each man’s soul. There is a clear defining line here that John lays out. Either you are baptized with the Holy Spirit and sanctified through your walk with God, or you are condemned to the fiery pits of hell. John uses the example of a farmer who comes to his threshing floor with the intent of dividing the useable harvest from the unusable.  Threshing is the process of loosening the edible part of cereal grain (or other crop) from the inedible chaff that surrounds it. It is the step in grain preparation after harvesting and before winnowing, which separates the loosened chaff from the grain by stepping on it or beating it. In essence, the Earth is the threshing floor – it is here where God’s wheat (His elect) are revealed and loosened out from the chaff (those who are perishing) that surround it.

The prophet John explains that this farmer means business; his winnowing fork is in his hand. A winnowing fork is used to scoop up the harvest after it has been loosened and throw it into the air letting the heavier, useable grain fall to the ground while the chaff is blown away by the wind. So Christ is literally working to separate out the believers from the unbelievers. After the separation the wheat is gathered and stored while the chaff is burned up because it is unusable. What an amazing analogy of how God takes precautions and cares for His people, gathering them into His house forever while at the same time sending those who reject Him to everlasting and unquenchable flames. There is no doubt that John was a ‘fire and brimstone’ teacher at that moment, strongly encouraging the people to reach a decision. It is a fact we must face: there is a God and He will deliver justice (and mercy to those who are His).

Jesus’ Baptism

 Matthew 3 Mark 1 Luke 3
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 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,and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”23a Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.

Now Jesus is coming to be baptized by John in the midst of all these witnesses. Why would Jesus need to be baptized if he was not a sinner? Wasn’t John’s baptism a symbol of turning from sin and repenting to ready the heart? In order to understand this we need to understand repentance. Not only does repenting require a turning away from sin, but it would not be complete without a turn toward God’s will for our lives, which is obedience to Him. Each time you repent of a sin you must fill that spot with something else. If you fill it with another sin then you are no further than when you started, but if you fill it with God’s word and commands regarding that sin you are moving forward in sanctification. John, knowing this, asked for Jesus to instead baptize him.

For Jesus, this baptism was a sign to the people that he was submitting to the Father’s will for his life. John had been given a command by God to prepare the people by water baptism for Him. Jesus is at the same time confirming John’s ministry by God and obeying God’s new command for baptism. It is just after this baptism that he is led into the wilderness and then he begins his ministry. This sign witnessed to the people watching that even the Messiah who takes away the sins of the world was under the direction of God Almighty, and Jesus himself identifies the reasoning behind him being baptized: to fulfill all righteousness. Righteousness is often associated with the Law. What is the sum of the law? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” – Deuteronomy 6:4. To love God one must obey what He requires, and for Jesus, God required him to identify with the people he would save as well as obey this new command of preparation. “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” – Romans 6:4. 

As Jesus is leaving the water and praying, heaven is opened and the Holy Spirit descends (like a dove) onto him. While this is happening God speaks from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Imagine the emotion and visual shock these people were witnessing. They heard God speaking, and not only that, they heard God testify to the fact that Jesus was indeed divine. It is a beautiful scene in which we get to see the Trinity coming together to bless and confirm Christ’s ministry, humanity, and deity all at the same time. Luke, the perpetual historian, records that Jesus was approximately 30 years old at the start of his public ministry, which was marked by this event.


2 thoughts on “Matthew 3:11-17, Mark 1:7-11, Luke 3:15-23a

  1. Pingback: Nazarene Commentary Luke 3:21-23 – The Baptism of Christ | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

  2. Pingback: Nazarene Commentary Matthew 3:13-17 – Jesus Declared God’s Son at His Baptism | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

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