John the Baptist prepares a way for Jesus
1While Jesus still lived in Nazareth, a man called John the Baptist was speaking a message from God. He was doing this in the wilderness in Judea. 2He told people, ‘You have done many wrong things. You must turn away from them and change how you live. Do this now, because the kingdom of heaven has come very near.’ #3:2 A kingdom is the place where a king rules. The kingdom of God is where God rules. When Matthew used kingdom of heaven in his book, this was his way of saying kingdom of God. Heaven is God's home. The Jews did not speak God's name because he is so much greater than everyone else.
3God's prophet Isaiah spoke about this man John long ago. He said:
‘Somebody's voice is shouting in the wilderness:
“The Lord will come soon, so prepare a way for him to follow.
Make the paths straight for him.” ’ #3:3 Isaiah was telling people about a man called John. John told the people to get ready for King Jesus to come. People mend roads before a king travels along them. Isaiah used this as a picture. It helped the people to understand how to prepare themselves for Jesus.
4John wore clothes made from the hair of a camel. He also wore a belt made from leather. His usual food was large insects and honey from the wilderness. #3:4 Judea was part of Israel. A camel is a large animal that lives in the wilderness. It can carry heavy things on its back like a horse. The insects that John ate were called locusts. An insect called a bee makes honey. It is sweet like sugar.
5Many people went to listen to John. They lived in Jerusalem and all over the country called Judea and many other places near the river Jordan. 6The people told God about all the wrong things that they had done. Then John baptized them in the river Jordan. #3:6 John baptized people who wanted to stop doing wrong things. These people told God that they were sorry. They were sorry about the wrong things that they had done. God then forgave them.
7Many Pharisees and Sadducees came to John. They wanted John to baptize them. He said to them, ‘You are like dangerous snakes. God is angry. You are trying to run away from him. But he will soon punish people like you. 8You have to show that you are sorry. Change how you live. Stop doing things that God does not like. 9Do not say to yourselves, “We are in the family of Abraham. God will surely not punish us.” Listen! God can take these stones and make children for Abraham out of them! 10You are like trees that have bad fruit. God has an axe ready to use. He will cut down every tree that does not make good fruit. He will throw those trees into the fire.’ #3:10 The Pharisees were a group of Jews. They thought that they obeyed all God's rules. They thought that they did not do any wrong things. Sadducees were an important group of Jewish leaders at the time of Jesus.
11‘I baptize you with water. This shows that you want to change the way that you live. But another person will come soon. He is greater than I am. I am not good enough even to carry his shoes for him. This other person will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12He is like a farmer that brings the wheat home from his field. He uses a special tool to throw the wheat up in the air. He does this to make the wheat seeds separate from what remains. Then he cleans his yard. He carefully stores all the seeds to keep them safe. But he burns everything else in a great fire that nobody can put out.’ #3:12 Jesus is the important person who is coming. John is using a story to teach the people about the work that Jesus will do.
John baptizes Jesus
13Then Jesus went from Galilee to the river Jordan. He wanted John to baptize him. 14But John tried to change Jesus' mind. He said to Jesus, ‘I should ask you to baptize me. You should not ask me to baptize you.’
15Jesus replied, ‘This time, do what I ask you to do. We must do everything correctly, as God wants it.’ So John did what Jesus asked him to do.
16When John baptized him, Jesus came up out of the water. At that moment, the skies opened. Jesus saw God's Spirit coming down. He came down like a dove and he stayed on Jesus. 17Then a voice spoke from heaven, which said, ‘This man is my Son and I love him. He makes me very happy.’