John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 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]
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ 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.
11 “I baptize you with[b] 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[c] 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.”
John the Baptist is an example of a person, driven and convicted by what he believes. His presence was foretold in Isaiah 40:3 around 700 b.c. and three of the gospels quote this verse in Isaiah (note, Matthew was written around 70 a.d. around 800 years after Isaiah). John the Baptist would be seen as a lunatic today, just like the people you see on the streets holding up a sign saying “The END is near, REPENT” wearing rags and eating whatever they can find. I think that the general population sees John in the same light durring this time, but he still draws a following of people from Judea, Jerusalem and the region of the Jordan to be baptized. John the Baptist was never short of words about Christ’s time and just how important His coming would be.
There are two key concepts that I want you to focus on from this passage. First, when John saw the teachers of the law, he rebuked them because they thought they were living life in a good fashion but they were missing a key concept; repentance. John tells them he baptizes with water for repentance. The Pharisees and Sadducees thought they were born and educated into the Kingdom but they are mistaken. This is important because you need to know, unless you repent your sins and really believe and follow Jesus, you are living in false hopes. Never let yourself think that what you are doing is enough, if you have not put all of your alignment in Christ, you are falling short, just like those John speaks of. The second point is about the importance of Christ. In history, there has never been anyone who could really justify our shortcomings. Never in the Old Testament or anywhere in human history is there a man who is said to bare the burden of all humanity on their shoulders. John recognizes that he can only tell people of there need to repent and baptize with water, but it is Jesus alone who can forgive sins and baptize with the Holy Spirit. Being a “good person” does not matter; thinking the right thoughts or going to church does not matter. You will fall short if you think you can make your way into God’s grace. You need Jesus to intervene.