Daily Devotional

February 22, 2021

Daybreak: Matthew 3:1-17

“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3:1-3)

As children, my brother and I looked forward to the days we could play “jungle” along the creek that ran past our house. The jungle game included clearing paths through the wilderness of willow saplings, rushes, and thick weeds that grew beside the creek. The willow saplings were the greatest challenge. We tried to bend or tie them back, but they still obstructed our progress. One day my brother smuggled a large Old Hickory butcher knife from Mom’s kitchen. This machete-type tool used on the willows improved our progress tremendously. Though I suspect it was a bit hard on the knife, the path was cleared speedily!

John the Baptist had a mission: to challenge his listeners to prepare the way of the Lord. There was urgency in his admonition to “repent” and to “make his paths straight.” The people were expecting someone to deliver them from Roman rule, but John realized that the One he was announcing could deliver from more than human bondage. He could deliver from the curse that dated back to the Garden of Eden. However, John knew that the people’s hearts had to be prepared to receive Him, so he urged his hearers to confess their sins and get rid of the hindrances in their lives.

The one who follows Jesus today must clear paths through another kind of wilderness. Like my childhood jungle or the spiritual wasteland that John the Baptist faced, each one must remove the hindrances that are his personal spiritual wilderness. The hindrances might be an addiction or habit, selfish will, a family member, a business, or even a hobby. We may need to do some “clearing” by making restitutions, laying aside the bondage of opinions of others, or cutting our ties to worldly influences. Whatever these obstructions may be, when we have made the determination to make our paths straight, Jesus is there to help us clear the way. Walking with Jesus on the cleared path will ultimately take us to Heaven. 

Today is a good day to assess your path. Where is it leading? Are there hindrances that are causing you to stumble or detour from the path that leads to Heaven? Follow the advice of John the Baptist, and “prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

Background

Almost thirty years had passed since the events happened that are recorded in the second chapter of Matthew. Today’s text describes the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry. Matthew makes clear the reason for John’s preaching: to announce the coming of the King whose urgent message would forever revolutionize the meaning of the kingdom of Heaven.

The key word of John’s message was repent. There are two words translated repentance in the New Testament. The first denotes a change of mind, or a reformation of life; and the second, sorrow or regret that sin has been committed. The word used here is the former, calling the Jews to a change of life, or a reformation of conduct. In the time of John, the nation had become extremely wicked and corrupt, perhaps more so than at any preceding period. For that reason, both John and Christ began their ministries by calling the nation to repentance.

In verse 3, John’s reference to the prophet Esaias alludes to Isaiah 40:3. Both John and Isaiah taught that those who turn from their sins and seek the forgiveness of God’s love will find salvation, but those who reject the message will cut off their only hope.

Verse 11 describes John’s baptism, which was done as a sign that the individual being baptized had repented, asked God to forgive his sins, and had decided to live for God. Thus, baptism was an outward sign of an inward commitment. To be effective, it had to be accompanied by an inward change of heart.

John prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost and fire — his words looking ahead to Pentecost, when Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to empower His followers to be His witnesses. 

At the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, there was a wonderful exhibit of the Trinity. The Trinity consists of three Persons: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, perfectly united as one. In this passage, all three Persons of the Trinity were present. God the Father spoke from Heaven, Jesus was being baptized, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove to rest upon Jesus.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I.   The presentation of the King
      B.   The courier of the King (3:1-12)
            1.   Characteristics of the forerunner (3:1-4)
            2.   Ministry of the forerunner (3:5-6)
            3.   Message of the forerunner (3:7-12)
                  a.   Condemnation (3:7-10)
                  b.   Repentance (3:11-12)
      C.   The certification of the King
            1.   His baptism (reveals His divine qualifications to be King) (3:13-17)
                  a.   His submission to John’s baptism (3:13-14)
                  b.   His purpose in baptism (3:15)
                  c.   His acceptance by God (3:16-17)

A Closer Look

  1. What did John call the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to see him baptize, and why?
     
  2. What did John mean by his statement, “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance”?
     
  3. After reading Matthew 3:9, how would you reply to a friend who feels he or she is a Christian because they were raised in a Christian home?

Conclusion

From the time when John the Baptist introduced Jesus and described him as the One who would separate the wheat from the chaff, the need for repentance has not decreased in importance, nor has the power of the Blood of Christ decreased in saving the “whosoever will.”

Reference Materials