Matthew 3 revolves around John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. He was sent to prepare people for Jesus. Jesus’s ministry was really radical when compared to what had been taught previously. We will see more of that in future chapters. John started that radical teaching here.
First though, we are introduced to John the Baptist and then in verse 3 we read a prophecy from Isaiah.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
‘Make ready the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!’”
Again, this would have probably been a prophecy taught about the coming Messiah, and so the Jewish people of the time would need to see how this is fulfilled to believe Jesus was their Messiah. Obviously, a lot of them still did not believe, but for the ones that did, they needed to see each of these prophecies fulfilled.
John was baptizing people as they confessed their sins. There are some similarities between baptism and some of the ritual cleansing listed in the old testament. However, even with that, this was a huge departure from what people had ever done before. Never before had people come to an individual, and not even a priest, to confess sins and then be immersed in the water.
In verse 7 we see that even Pharisees and Sadducees were coming for baptism. I have no idea why they would have wanted to be baptized, and in the little bit of searching I did, could not find an explanation. No matter the reason, we see John call them a brood of vipers, and warn them of what Jesus is going to do. This is the first confrontation we see with the Pharisees or Sadducees, and it sets up what we can expect between them and Jesus.
The end of the chapter, starting in verse 13 shows us the baptism of Jesus. Jesus comes to John to be baptized. John does not feel worthy to baptize Jesus, but I think does it out of obedience. He recognized the authority of Jesus and that it is necessary to obey Jesus’s requests.
Verses 16 and 17 show a super natural acknowledgement of who Jesus is from God.
“6 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and [i]he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and[j]lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is [k]My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
If anyone present had any doubts before that, this should have erased them. However, it seems like the Pharisees and Sadducees were probably still there, and as a whole, they did not believe.
What does it take for us to believe? We have the whole Bible and know the beginning, middle, and end of the story. This should be an easy answer for us with everything we know. So, if we believe, are we being like John the Baptist? Are we a forerunner for Jesus to people who don’t know him? Are we preparing the way for people to come to know Jesus?