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Lesson 4
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Lesson 4

I.       Observation

A.     Outline

Preparation by John the Baptist (3:1-12)

Appearance of John and his ministry (1-6)

Warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees (7-10)

Pointing to Christ and His ministry (11-12)

The Baptism of Jesus (3:13-17)

John’s deterrence (13-14)

Jesus’ answer and John’s consent (15)

The baptism and God’s approval (16-17)

B.     Key Words/Phrases

Preaching, repent, kingdom of heaven, prepare, confessing their sins, baptize, produce fruit, Holy Spirit, fire, righteousness, heaven was opened, beloved Son.

II.    General Analysis

2. Ax, trees, fruit, carrying of sandals, winnowing fork, threshing floor, wheat and chaff, gathering into the barn, unquenchable fire.

III. Segment Analysis

1. The descriptions of John are very similar to those of Elijah (2Kgs 1:8). He was in fact the Elijah that was to come to restore all things (Mt 17:11-13; Mk 9:11-13; Lk 1:16,17). His attire and diet reflected his simple and harsh lifestyle (Mt 11:8,18). His life and actions conformed to his message of repentance.

2. He was the voice because he proclaimed repentance. He was in the desert—the Desert of Judea. He was a forerunner who prepared the way for Jesus. He prepared the way by making the people’s hearts ready to accept Jesus and His message. Through true repentance and baptism, the people turned from their sins to God’s righteousness. John foretold of the coming of the one who was greater as well as the nature of Jesus’ ministry. John’s baptizing of Jesus also served as an announcement to the people that Jesus was the one they ought to accept and believe. He even directed his disciples to their new master (Jn 1:35,36).

3. Many people took pride in their heritage as the children of Abraham (Jn 8:39a). But John told them that God could choose to raise up children for Abraham from the stones. In other words, if they were unrepentant, they would be rejected by God despite their physical lineage.

4. The kingdom of heaven is not a physical establishment. It is an eternal kingdom for God’s people which Jesus Christ inaugurated by His teachings, works, and redemption. The kingdom of heaven is found in the heart of men (Lk 17:20,21). The coming of God’s kingdom refers to God’s rule in people’s hearts. Those who accept and obey the gospel message will be in the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven was near in the sense that God’s kingdom was coming to the people through Jesus’ ministry and saving works.

5. A voice has no form or identity. John clearly knew his role as a forerunner. He did not want to vie for any authority or glory. He faithfully announced the coming of the one who was greater than him and directed everyone’s attention to Jesus (Jn 3:25-30). A voice in the wilderness reflects the insignificance of its presence. Instead of being spread in the city squares, it echoed in a desolate place. But the unmistakable voice in the wild drew people out of the cares of their busy environments into the lonely desert where they could focus on their need for repentance.

6. The hypocritical actions and lifestyle of the Pharisees and Sadducees were as deadly as vipers’ poison. They misled the people, killed the prophets, and placed on people heavy burdens that God did not require. Jesus’ words to them were just as harsh. He called them the brood of vipers and descendants of those who murdered the prophets (23:31-32).

True repentance is demonstrated in accepting admonition with humility, regardless of how harsh the rebuke might be. If these candidates for baptism were able to accept John’s words and change their ways, that would show that they were truly repentant.

7. Palestinian farmers used winnowing forks to separate the wheat from the unwanted chaff. This process is used to refer to the judgment, when God will separate the righteous from the wicked (see 13:37-43). In the same way, Jesus’ ministry will separate the true believers from the unbelievers (21:42-44; Rom 9:30-33; 1 Pet 2:7,8). Believers will be gathered into God’s kingdom. Unbelievers will be rejected.

8. The Greek word for “repentance” literally means “change of heart.” Repentance consists of sincere sorrow over sin (2Cor 7:10,11), confession (Ps 32:5), and change of action (3:8; Acts 26:20). Repentance is an expression of faith in God and obedience to His commands.

According to the Lord Jesus, the kingdom of God will be taken from the unrepentant and given to those who will produce its fruit (21:43); and it is those who obey and conform to God’s righteousness who will be worthy of God’s kingdom (21:28-32). Therefore, repentance is a necessary step in entering the kingdom of heaven.

9. The baptism of the Holy Spirit points to the giving of the promised Holy Spirit starting with Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 11:15,16). The Holy Spirit is also the spirit of judgment and spirit of burning that cleanses the people of God (Isa 4:3,4). According to John 16:8-11, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness, and judgment. God’s word is also like fire, testing men’s hearts (Jer 23:29). When Jesus comes, He will be like a refiner’s fire (Mal 3:2). Jesus’ ministry will test the hearts of men to see whether they were worthy of God’s kingdom. Whoever accepts Christ and pays the cost of being a disciple will be able to come into His kingdom.

10a. In addition to being an announcement of Jesus as the Messiah, the baptism of Jesus was to fulfill all righteousness. “Righteousness” refers to meeting God’s requirements. God’s requirement that Jesus be baptized may be a fulfillment of the requirement for priests, who were to be washed before their service (Ex 29:4). It could also be an example for all believers, to show that we must be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit to become the children of God (Gal 3:26,27; Rom 8:16).

10b. Jesus dedicated His entire life to fulfilling God’s righteous requirements. He ultimately fulfilled all righteousness by offering Himself as a sacrifice pleasing to the Lord. Incidentally, by consenting to Jesus’ request, John also fulfilled God’s righteousness.

11b. The opening of the heavens may be symbolic of the reconciliation between God and men which was made possible through Jesus. The anointing of the Holy Spirit was a sign that God had sent Jesus to the ministry (Lk 4:18). The descent of the Holy Spirit and the voice from heaven served as seal of approval that Jesus was “the beloved Son.”

12. Humility: Although He was greater than John, He asked John to baptize Him.

Gentleness: He did not rebuke John for hesitating to baptize Him. He spoke with grace and reason. Sometimes, we tend to rebuke others harshly when we think that we are in the right. We ought to learn to be as gentle as Jesus and invite others to see and obey God’s will with us.

Submission: He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness and therefore received God’s approval. We also need to fulfill all of God’s commands to be His beloved children.

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