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Bible Commentaries

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Matthew 3

 

 

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Verses 1-17

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea ( Matthew 3:1 ).

Now we have the silent years of Christ. We are jumping now from the return to Nazareth to the beginning of His public ministry. There are some twenty-eight to twenty-nine years that nothing is recorded. Now in the Apocrypha, there are books in the Apocrypha that report to have the stories of the early life and the boyhood of Jesus: the healing of little birds with broken wings and fanciful stories. The Lord has seen fit to just leave that portion of His life in silence, and where the Scriptures are silent it"s best that we remain silent. So we jump those years. Now one little gospel gives us one little insight when he was twelve years old, but that is the only glimpse that we have of the boyhood of Jesus. And at twelve years he seemed to be a very unusual young man, as we will find in another of the gospels.

So we are jumping now to John the Baptist who was preaching in the wilderness of Judaea and he was saying,

Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, [that is John the Baptist is the one that Isaiah spoke of] saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John has his raiment of camel"s hair, and a leather girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey ( Matthew 2:2-4 ).

Whether the locust be that insect of the grasshopper family or the carob tree fruit is really not sure. Some say it"s that carob long bean, kind of a fruit that grows there on the carob trees. They call it Joshua"s bread. Some say that is what the locust were. Others say it was that insect of the grasshopper family, which some people do consider a delicacy like they do escargot and other things. To every man his own taste, I guess. They tell me they"re good, but I can"t bear to eat them. I just as soon get my calories some other way.

Then went out to John the Baptist people from Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and from the region round about Jordan, and they were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and the Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers ( Matthew 3:5-7 ),

Now this is John"s opinion of the religious scholars,

O, generation of vipers who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits that meet repentance ( Matthew 3:7-8 ):

Bring forth fruit in your life that really shows repentance. There are a lot of people who claim, oh I repent, but there is no fruit of repentance in their life. You don"t see any really signs of repentance. Now repentance means really to change, and if a person doesn"t really make real changes in his life, then there is reason to doubt the sincerity of that person"s repentance.

And so John is laying into these Pharisees and Scribes, calling them a generation of vipers. And he said, let"s see you bring forth some fruit to show that you"ve really repented. You see the other people were repenting and being baptized, turning away from their sin. These fellows came along too and he said, oh no, I"m not going to baptize you. Let"s see some fruit of your repentance.

I"ve had people tell me that they were sorry for what they have done, but they didn"t change. I had a man rip me off of several thousands of dollars. He came and said, oh, forgive me, I am so sorry, but he didn"t return a cent. And I felt like John the Baptist, well, let"s see some fruit of your repentance. If you"re really sorry, let"s see some fruit. If you want me to, really let"s see some fruit of your repentance. Bring forth fruit that is in agreement, that"s meet, or in agreement with your repentance, conformation.

And don"t think to say within yourselves, Well we"re the sons of Abraham ( Matthew 3:9 ).

And that was their great boast, well, we"re the sons of Abraham. They thought that that naturally constituted salvation. Just like so many people in the United States think that to be an American is to be a Christian, but it naturally constitutes well, are you saved? Well, of course. I am an American. I pledge allegiance to the flag. And in that don"t we say, under God? Do you think I"m a pagan or something? And so the Jew had that same attitude, I am a son of Abraham. He said don"t think that is any big deal, "God can turn these stones into sons of Abraham".

And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees: therefore every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is going to be cut down, and cast into the fire ( Matthew 3:10 ).

Now Jesus in the fifteenth chapter of John talks about the vine and the branches. "Every branch in me that does not bring forth fruit shall be cut off and men gather them and throw them into the fire and they are burned. The time has come." Jesus said, "By their fruit ye shall know them." ( Matthew 7:16 ) John says, " Bring forth fruit."

Now Jesus, you remember, when He was with His disciples, was hungry, saw a fig tree, they came to it and there was no fruit. He cursed the fig tree, and the next day as they were coming back to the Mount of Olives along the path there, the disciples looked at the tree that Jesus had cursed the day before, and the thing had withered and died overnight. They said, Lord, look at that tree that you cursed yesterday. Man, the thing is withered and dead already. The fig tree was a symbol of the nation of Israel. The Lord was looking that the nation Israel would bring forth fruit. Here John the Baptist is saying, "the time the axe is going to be laid to the root", that is to Israel itself. The tree that doesn"t bring forth good fruit is going to be cut down.

Paul the apostle tells us in Romans 11:1-36 , that God cut off the natural branches, that He might graft in the branches contrary to nature; the Gentile believers that they might partake of the fatness and all of the tree. So the nation of Israel rejected because of their rejection. God gave them their Messiah. He gave them their opportunity; they rejected it. And so the gospel brought to the Gentiles and the Jew alike, so that no matter who you are Gentile or Jew, there is only one way and that"s through Jesus Christ.

John said,

I indeed do baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that comes after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to untie: he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire ( Matthew 3:11 ):

The forerunner, not bearing witness of himself, but bearing witness of the one who was to follow him; even Jesus Christ. The voice in the wilderness saying, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, the kingdom of heaven is at hand" ( Matthew 3:3 ). He was preparing the hearts of the people for the coming of Jesus Christ; that was his ministry. John"s gospel amplifies the ministry of John the Baptist. So when we get into John"s gospel we will get a further insight into this interesting person, John the Baptist.

Now speaking of Jesus he declares,

Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, [cleanse it] and gather his wheat into the garner ( Matthew 3:12 );

You come into the threshing floor with a fan and you fan the threshing floor to blow out all the chaff, in order that just the wheat might remain there on the floor. So they would come in with these fans and just whip the fans across the threshing floors to blow out the chaff. So the picture is, the fan in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor, and will gather His wheat into the garner,

but he will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then came Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized by him. But John forbid Him, and he said, I have need to be baptized by you, and your coming to me? And Jesus answered and said unto him, Allow it to be now: for it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. So he allowed him and he baptized him ( Matthew 3:12-15 ).

John objected, but Jesus set aside his objections, declaring that it was necessary that He set an example.

Now Peter said, "For Christ has set an example for us, that we should follow in His steps" ( 1 Peter 2:21 ). Because He had nothing to repent, John hesitated, but Jesus was doing it actually as an example to set before us that example and it declares. What does baptism declare? Remember I told you a couple of weeks ago. Baptism declares the superiority of the spiritual over the material: The life of the Spirit over the life of the flesh. That"s the proclamation that Jesus had to make and that"s why the world got angry with Him, because they were living after the flesh and after the desires of the flesh, but Jesus was declaring that the spiritual life is superior to the fleshly life. That is the message of the Word of God all the way through: the superiority of the spiritual life over the fleshly life.

That is what baptism does represent; the death of the fleshly life, the old life, the old nature, the old ambitions, the old desires: dead, buried. And the new life coming up out of the water, the life of the Spirit. It is superior to the life of the flesh.

So when Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water: the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him ( Matthew 3:16 ):

As He came up out of the waters that Holy Spirit coming upon and anointing His life.

And a voice from heaven declared, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased ( Matthew 3:17 ).

The proud Father couldn"t hold back His delight in His Son and spoke saying, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased." Jesus said, " I do always those things that please the Father." ( John 8:29 ). Thus He lived the perfect life, a life of total fulfillment.

In Revelation 4:11 ,as the elders are ascribing glory to God there before the throne of God, as the Cherubim are declaring, verse eight, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which is, which was, and which is to come:", the four and twenty elders take their little golden vials full of odors, cast them before the crystal sea and fall on their faces and declare, "Thou art worthy to receive glory and honor: for thou hast created all things, and for thy good pleasure they are and were created." There is the explanation why God created you: for His good pleasure.

You say, "I don"t like that." That"s tough. You can"t change it. That is the way it is. And if you fight it, you"re just going to live a life of frustration. If you become obedient and in harmony to it, you"re going to live a life of glorious fulfillment. When a person can say as Jesus, "I do always those things that please the Father," I will tell you, you have got the perfect life.

So God is testifying,

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ( Matthew 3:17 ).

Notice, Jesus is being baptized, the Holy Spirit descends upon Him and the voice of the Father speaks from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son." There you have the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

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Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.

Bibliography Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 3:4". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-3.html. 2014.

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