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Matthew 3

John the Baptizer
1It was at this time that John the Baptizer # 3:1 Or “John the Immerser.” The name John means “Yahweh has graced him.” began to preach in the desert of Judah. # 3:1 This was the desert region west of the Dead Sea including the lower Jordan. The prophet John was of a priestly family and possibly a member of the Qumran community of the Essenes. His message was this: 2“Heaven’s kingdom # 3:2 Or “the kingdom realm of heaven.” The word heaven is found 238 times in the New Testament and hell 23 times. is about to appear—so you’d better keep turning away from evil and turn back to God!” # 3:2 Or “repent.” John was preaching in Aramaic, the language of the day. The word for “repent” in both Hebrew and Aramaic means “to return to God [and leave your sins behind].” This is much more than simply changing your mind; it is a powerful term for turning your life around and coming back to the holy God.
3Isaiah was referring to John when he prophesied:
A thunderous voice! One will be crying out in the wilderness,
“Prepare yourself for the Lord’s coming
and level a straight path inside your hearts for him.” # 3:3 See Isa. 40:3, which is quoted in all four Gospels. The Aramaic has in place of Lord, “Lord Yahweh,” an obvious implication of the deity of Christ. Isaiah’s prophecy is more than a road-construction project. He uses the metaphor of clearing a path as a parable of cleansing our hearts and being prepared in our hearts to receive the Christ.
4Now, John wore clothing made from camel’s hair, tied at his waist with a leather strap, and his food consisted of dried locusts # 3:4 See Lev. 11:22; 2 Kings 1:8; Joel 1:4; Zech. 13:4; Mal. 4:5–6; Matt. 11:14. and wild honey. 5A steady stream of people from Jerusalem, all the surrounding countryside, # 3:5 Or “Judea.” and the region near the Jordan came out to the wilderness to be baptized by him. 6And while they were publicly confessing their sins, he would immerse them in the Jordan River.
7But when he saw many coming from among the wealthy elite of Jewish society # 3:7 Or “the Sadducees.” and many of the religious leaders known as Pharisees # 3:7 Or “separated ones.” The Pharisees and Sadducees were two of the sects of Judaism of that day. coming to witness the baptism, he began to denounce them, saying, “You offspring of vipers! # 3:7 The word viper in the Aramaic is akidneh, which is really a reference to a scorpion. When a male scorpion mates it quickly dies. The mother scorpion dies when giving birth, so every scorpion is born into this world as an orphan without the guidance of a set of parents. The dual meaning is simply this: The Pharisees were indeed cunning as vipers, but they were also spiritual orphans. John implied in using the word akidneh that Abraham died giving them birth and they have lost his guidance. But if the Pharisees would only turn to their true loving Father, Elohim, they would no longer be orphans. Who warned you to slither away like snakes from the fire of God’s judgment? # 3:7 John is telling them they can’t escape the fire of judgment just by getting wet. 8You must prove your repentance by a changed life. 9And don’t presume you can get away with merely saying to yourselves, ‘But we’re Abraham’s descendants!’ For I tell you, God can awaken these stones to become sons of Abraham! # 3:9 There is an interesting word-play in the Hebrew and Aramaic that is lost in an English translation. The Hebrew words for sons (bĕnayyā) and stones (’abnayyā) are similar. God builds his house with sons, not stones. John baptized the people at the place of the crossing of the Jordan during the time of Joshua. After their miracle crossing of the Jordan they were instructed to set up twelve stones, representing the twelve sons of Israel, as a memorial. Perhaps John the Baptizer was referencing those very stones from which God could raise up sons. 10The axe # 3:10 The “axe” becomes a metaphor of the word of truth that judges hearts and nations. is now ready to cut down the trees at their very roots. Every fruitless, rotten tree will be chopped down and thrown into the fire. 11Those who repent I baptize with water, but there is coming a man after me who is more powerful than I. In fact, I’m not even worthy enough to pick up his sandals. He will submerge you into union with the Spirit of Holiness and with a raging fire! # 3:11 The text is somewhat ambiguous as to what fire is spoken of. Some see it as the fire of judgment, yet Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit, who baptized his church in fire at Pentecost. This last clause is a hendiadys and could be translated “He will baptize you in the raging fire of the Holy Spirit!” 12He comes with a winnowing fork # 3:12 This winnowing fork was like a pitchfork that would thresh grain by throwing it into the air so the wind could blow away the chaff. in his hands and comes to his threshing floor to sift what is worthless from what is pure. And he is ready to sweep out his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his granary, # 3:12 See Isa. 41:15–16. but the straw he will burn up with a fire that can’t be extinguished!”
13Then Jesus left Galilee to come to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14But when he waded into the water, John resisted him, saying, “Why are you doing this? I’m the one who needs to be baptized by you, and yet you come to be baptized by me?”
15Jesus replied, “It is only right to do all that God requires.” # 3:15 Or “fulfill all righteousness [complete every righteous requirement].” This was the presentation of the Lamb of God as the sacrifice for sins. It was important that John publicly wash the Lamb of God and fulfill the requirements of the law, proving to Israel that the Lamb that was soon to be offered was spotless and without blemish. There are four baptisms in this chapter: (1) John baptizing with water, (2) Father God baptizing Jesus with the power of heaven, (3) Jesus will baptize believers with the same Holy Spirit, (4) the baptism of fire. Then John baptized Jesus. # 3:15 Jesus would have been about thirty years old, the age when Levitical priests were ordained and qualified to serve. This was his ordination as the High Priest over the household of faith. Jesus’ baptism was a form of dedication. Like Solomon, who dedicated the temple, John now dedicates the temple of Jesus’ body, the dwelling place of God. In a sense, John was the true high priest who was ordaining his replacement. Jesus was not repenting, but offering himself as God’s sinless Lamb. 16And as # 3:16 There are Latin manuscripts and external evidence dating to Jerome indicating that the Hebrew Matthew included this sentence: “A great light flashed from the water, so that all who had gathered there were afraid.” (Diatessaron and Romanos Melodos, First Hymn on the Epiphany, XVI.14.7–10.) Jesus rose up out of the water, the heavenly realm opened up over him # 3:16 See also Acts 7:56. and he saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the heavens and rest upon him in the form of a dove. # 3:16 The dove is a symbol for both meekness and purity. Two gentle animals are pictured at the baptism of Jesus, a dove resting upon a lamb. If you want the presence of the Dove you need to have the nature of the Lamb. The implication is that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus and never left him. 17Then suddenly the voice of the Father shouted from the sky, saying, “This is my Son—the Beloved! # 3:17 Jesus Christ is the Beloved referred to in the Song of Songs (Song. 1:13, 14; 2:3, 8, 9, 10; 6:10; 7:10). My greatest delight is in him.” # 3:17 Or “In him I find my delight.” See also Ps. 2:7; Isa. 42:1. The church historian Jerome affirms that additional words were spoken by the Father: “My Son, in all the prophets I was waiting for you, that you might come and I might rest in you. For you are my rest and my firstborn Son, who reigns forever!” (The Gospel of Matthew for the Hebrews and Commentary on Isaiah Chapter 4. Throckmorton: 14 fn. Nicholson: 43. OMG II: 156 et seq.)

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Matthew 3: TPT





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