The Advent of Matthew (02) - Matthew 3:1-12

Date: 12/4/2016
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Type: Sunday Sermon
Organization: All Saints
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Matthew 3:1–12  - Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!’” 4 Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

John came preaching. This is Matthew’s emphasis. He announced the message of the nearness of the kingdom of the rule of God from heaven. The prophets, especially Isaiah, foretold of One who would be the Forerunner. This “anticipator” of Messiah would address Israel from the wilderness. John grooms himself in the style of Elijah. 2 Kings 1:8  describes Elijah: “‘He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.’ And he said, ‘It is Elijah the Tishbite.’” Remember Elijah’s ministry in the Omride dynasty when most of Israel were involved in false worship and there was a “royal” attempt at turning the worship of Yahweh into Baalism. The people needed to recognize the corruption of their system/temple. Thus, John led a remnant Israel “beyond the Jordan”  in “a symbolic exodus from Jerusalem and Judea” (Colin Brown). John likely stood in the Jordan with a hyssop branch ritually sprinkling the crowds traversing the Jordan to enter the land as a renewed Israel. “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming” (3:7), John denounced the religious leadership of Israel of both the conservative and liberal varieties, calling them the baby snakes of Satan. They needed to repent and not claim their ancestral merit. Matthew prophesies the cutting down of the fruitless tree of Israel (21:43). He compares his own work of water baptism with the coming One’s baptism with both the Holy Spirit and fire, fulfilled in both Pentecost and judgment.

Gregg Strawbridge Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as receive a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more