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4: Preparation for the Ministry (Mt 3:1-17)
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4: Preparation for the Ministry (Mt 3:1-17)

I.       The Basics

A.     Setting

Matthew does not tell us anything about Jesus’ childhood or youth. When the Lord came to the Jordan to be baptized, he was about 30 years old. By this time, John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, had paved the way for Jesus’ ministry by preaching repentance and baptizing the people. We can read about John’s birth in Luke. His mission was to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk 1:17).

B.     Key Verse

            “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (3:11).

C.     Did You Know…?

1.       John the Baptist (3:1): In the Scriptures several men were named John, but only one had the distinguishing name John the Baptist, that is, the Baptizer. While self-imposed proselyte baptism was known to the Jews, John’s baptism was unusual for he was the first person who came baptizing others. 12/24

2.       Wilderness of Judea (3:1): An area that stretched some 20 miles from the Jerusalem-Bethlehem plateau down to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, perhaps the same region where John lived (cf. Lk 1:80). The people of Qumran (often associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls) lived in this area too. 8/1440

3.       Clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist (4): Clothes of camel’s hair and a leather belt (v. 4, the latter to bind up the loose outer garment) were not only the clothes of poor people but establish links with Elijah (2 Kings 1:8; cf. Mal 4:5). 6/102

4.       Locusts and wild honey (3:4): “Locusts” (akrides) are large grasshoppers, still eaten in the East, not the fruit of the “locust tree” (BAGD, s.v.). Wild honey is what it purports to be, not gum from a tree (cf. Judg 14:8-9; 1Sam 14:25-29; Ps 81:16). Both suggest a poor man used to wilderness living, and this suggests a connection with the prophets (cf. 3:1; 11:8-9). 6/102

5.       Baptize (3:6): The verb “baptize” (baptiz-o, intensive form of
bapt-o, “to dip”) means “to immerse, submerge.” 12/104

6.       Jordan River (3:6): The principal river in Palestine, beginning in the snows of Mount Hermon and ending in the Dead Sea. Its closest point to Jerusalem is about 20 miles. 8/1491

7.       Pharisees (3:7): The Pharisees…were a legalistic and separatistic group who strictly, but often hypocritically, kept the law of Moses and the unwritten “tradition of the elders” (15:2). 8/1441They were held in high regard by the people.

8.       Sadducees (3:7): A Jewish party that represented the wealthy and sophisticated classes. They were located largely in Jerusalem and made the temple and its administration their primary interest. Though they were small in number, in Jesus’ time they exerted powerful political and religious influence. 8/1516

9.       Winnowing (3:12): done by tossing the grain into the air with winnowing forks (Jer 15:7) so that the wind, which usually came up for a few hours in the afternoon, blew away the straw and chaff (Ps 1:4), leaving the grain at the winnower’s feet. 8/363

10.   Chaff (3:12): …the refuse of winnowed grain, consisting of husks and broken straw. In the East it was the custom to burn chaff, in case, with the changing wind, it might be blown again among the grain (Job 21:18; Pss. 1:4; 35:5; Isa. 17:13; 29:5; 41:15; Hos. 13:3; Zeph. 2:2).10/217

11.   Jesus had to travel at least 18 miles (30 kilometers) to be baptized (from Nazareth to River Jordan (v. 9).

12.   Spirit of God descending like a dove (3:17): In the baptisms of the True Jesus Church, we have witnessed that some members received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues immediately after coming out of the water.

II.    Observation

A.     Outline









B.     Key Words/Phrases

III. General Analysis

1.       Summarize the words of each of the following people

2.       What symbolic images or actions can we find in this passage? (e.g. brood of vipers)

IV.  Segment Analysis

A.     3:1-12

1.       Describe John the Baptist. What does this description tell you about his life?

2.       List the ways in which John fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. How did John prepare the way for Jesus?

3.       On what basis did the Pharisees and Sadducees build their confidence? According to John, why was such a basis unreliable?

4.       What is the meaning of John’s words, “the kingdom of heaven is near”?

5.       What can we learn from the fact that John was called “a voice in the wilderness”? What can we learn from his attitude towards his ministry and towards Jesus?

6.       Why did John call the Pharisees and Sadducees “brood of vipers”? Why were his words so harsh?

7.       What do the gathering of wheat and burning of chaff refer to?

8.       What is the meaning of repentance? How does it demonstrate itself in our hearts and actions? How is repentance related to the kingdom of heaven?

9.       How would Jesus baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire? 

B.     3:13-17

10a. Why did Jesus have to be baptized?

10b. What did Jesus mean by “fulfill all righteousness”?

11a. What events took place after Jesus was baptized?

11b. What is the significance of the events following Jesus’ baptism?

12. What can we learn from Jesus’ actions and words in this passage?

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