This chapter introduces us to John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Christ. To him was given the privilege of heralding the coming of the Messiah into the world. We read of his mission in Luke 1:15-17, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; TO MAKE READY A PEOPLE PREPARED FOR THE LORD.” He said of himself in John 1:23, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.” We then read these words of proclamation in John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD, which taketh away the sin of the world.”

John’s message to the nation of Israel was simple and direct, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2) He calls for the nation to repent because their Messiah, the son of David, was there to set up His kingdom as was promised in the scriptures. Sadly, the Jews rejected the Lord as their Messiah. We read in John 1:11, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” We read of His rejection in Isaiah 53:3, which says prophetically, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…” The people HATED the Lord Jesus. We find another prophetic word concerning the Lord Jesus in Psalms 69:4, “They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away.”

John’s work of baptism did cause many to be baptized. Matthew 3:5-6 says, “Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” John’s baptism was entirely different from the baptism that we practice today. While the method (immersion) is the same, John’s baptism was a sign or a declaration of repentance. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John to be baptized, he said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” (Verses 7-8) In other words, John was asking these hypocritical men to show their repentance through their conduct. If a person was truly repentant and was baptized, he would be placed into the Kingdom of Heaven.

In verse 11, John speaks of the Lord Jesus. He says, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.” John speaks of two different baptisms of the Lord Jesus, one with the Holy Ghost and one with fire. One is a blessing; the other is judgment. The first baptism occurred on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Ghost came down and indwelt every true believer. (Read Acts 2:1-12). The second baptism is yet future and will happen when the Lord returns to the earth in judgment of all unbelievers. (Read 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

In Matthew 3:13-17, we have the account of the Lord Jesus coming to John to be baptized of him. At first, John refused to baptize the Lord, declaring that the Lord should baptize him. John realized the Lord had no sin, therefore He had no reason to repent and be baptized. Yet, the Lord in great humility, determined to identify Himself with those godly Jewish people who repented and were baptized. Thus, He was baptized.

Let’s finish our thoughts on this chapter by reading the amazing incident that happened next. Verses 16-17 say, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is such a precious occurrence for at that moment, all three persons of the Godhead are mentioned. The LORD JESUS was baptized. The HOLY SPIRIT lighted upon Him like a dove, and the FATHER declared from Heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (264.2)