Thirdmill Study Bible

Notes on Matthew 3:1-7:17

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John the Baptist - Matthew 3:1-17

The Gospel of Matthew is a biography about Jesus so every story is connected to him, though there are also some important secondary characters. John the Baptizer is one of the most important of these. This story introduces John and he will appear two more times in Matthew (Matt. 11:1-19; 14:1-12). In this story John is presented as a prophet who has come to prepare people for the Messiah's coming (Matt. 3:3), who preaches the same message of repentance because God's kingdom is coming to earth (Matt. 3:2; 4:17).

The Preparation for Ministry - Matthew 3:1-4:22

Chapters 3–4 are the second part (Matt. 3:1–4:22) of the overall introduction to Matthew's Gospel (Matt. 1:1–4:22), all of which describes who Jesus is and what he experienced in preparation for the beginning of his ministry.

Repent - Matthew 3:2

Repent. John's message is a call to reorient one's life. To repent is not primarily about an emotion of regret or guilt but a dedication of one's life in a new and deeper way toward God. John's message of repentance consists of turning away from patterns of life that are not aligned with God — the confession of one's sins (Matt. 3:6) — and turning toward God and his way of being and instructions — symbolized through the act of baptism (Matt. 3:6).

The kingdom of heaven is near – Matthew 3:2

The kingdom of heaven is near. Throughout Jesus' ministry his primary message is about God's kingdom that is coming from heaven to earth. The expression "kingdom of heaven" (as compared to the rest of the NT's "kingdom of God") is unique to Matthew. It has the same reference as the "kingdom of God" (Matt. 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43) — both referring to God fully and completely ruling over all of his creation — but "kingdom of heaven" more clearly contrasts the God who is in heaven with all of humanity on Earth (see Dan. 2:28; Isa. 55:9; Ps. 103:11), highlighting these two different realms while anticipating their reunification through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection (Matt. 6:9-10).

Bear fruit worthy of repentance - Matthew 3:8

Bear fruit worthy of repentance. John preached what Jesus taught, that true repentance is identifiable by its effects on one's heart and behavior (Matt. 7:21-23; 12:50; 21:28-32; see also Jam. 2:14-24). A healthy tree will produce healthy fruit. If not, this tree is useless and will be cut down (Matt. 3:10).

He who comes after me is mightier - Matthew 3:11

He who comes after me is mightier. Embodying his calling, John reminded his audience that even as a prophet (see Matt. 11:11) he is merely a messenger pointing to the one coming who is more than a prophet, God's own Son, Jesus. See WCF 27.3, 28.2; WLC 163, 177; WSC 91; BC 34; HC 69, 72.

Jesus' baptism - Matthew 3:13-17

An important part of Jesus' preparation for ministry as God's obedient Son, the model of one who does the will of God with a whole heart, was his submission to John's message of repentance and baptism. Through this act Jesus fulfills all righteousness, that is, he does God's will from the heart (Matt. 5:20; 12:50; 26:39). Jesus coming through the water of baptism and into the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11) also symbolizes and connects Jesus' story with the exodus and the calling of Israel, God's people, out of Egypt in the promised land (Exod. 6:13; Exod. 14:21-22; Hos. 11:1). See WCF 2.3, 8.4, 11.3; WLC 9, 38, 40; BC 8, 9, 10; HC 25.

This is my beloved Son – Matthew 3:17

"This is my beloved Son. I am very pleased with him". Jesus as God's Son is central to Matthew's description of who Jesus is (Matt. 17:5; 21:33-46; 27:54). In Matt. 12:18 the same language is used to describe Jesus as God's Servant in fulfillment of Isa. 42:1-4. The voice coming from the heavens (cf. "the kingdom of the heavens") indicates this was God speaking. God the Father loves and is fully pleased with Jesus as the wholehearted and obedient Son. Jesus' sonship served as the basis for the devil's temptations of Jesus in the following story (Matt. 4:1-11) and for his authoritative teaching and actions throughout the rest of the Gospel (Matt. 7:28; 8:9; 9:6-8; 10:1; 21:23-27; 28:18).

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