Ministry Of John The Baptist
The second great division of this Gospel comprises Matthew 3 to Matthew 4:11, and narrates the events connected with the entrance of our Lord upon his public work, including the appearance and ministry of John the Baptist
(Matthew 3:1-12), the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17), and his temptation. (Matthew 4:1-11.) Here for the first time (Mark 1:1-8), and (Luke 3:1-18), become really parallel to Matthew; for Luke's apparently parallel matter heretofore has been entirely distinct from Matthew.
Matthew 3:1. In those days. The Rev. Ver. has, And in.(1) This signifies, in the days in which Joseph and his family dwelt at Nazareth, as recorded in the preceding sentence. This event and the appearance of John are thrown together as belonging to the same period, no account being taken of the uneventful intervening time, which, in this case, was near thirty years. (Luke 3:23.) So Exodus 2:11, "in those days," passes over the whole time from Moses' early youth, when his mother returned him to Pharaoh's daughter, until he was forty years old. (Acts 7:23) In other cases the expression is equally indefinite, though the time passed over is shorter (e. g., Isaiah 38:1, Mark 1:9, Acts 1:15). The same use of the phrase is found in classic writers also, where nothing is aimed at but a general designation of the time. Luke (Luke 3:1) here gives the date of John's appearance with great particularity. Pontius Pilate became procurator A. D. 25-6. The fifteenth year of Tiberius is probably to be counted from the time when he was associated with Augustus (two years before the latter's death), which would be A. D. 12. There cannot be much doubt that John appeared in A. D. 26. Came, or rather, arrives, presents himself. The word is several times used to denote the arrival or public appearance of an official personage (compare 1 Maccabees 4:46, Hebrews 9:11; and below, Matthew 3:13); and it may be intended here to denote John's appearance in his official character. The Greek has here the present tense, precisely as in Matthew 3:13.
John the Baptist.â€”The most probable date for the beginning of the Baptist's ministry is A. D. 20, say in the spring. (Compare on Matthew 2:19.) The name John (Johananâ€”Jehovah graciously gave) had become common since the time of the popular ruler John Hyrcanus (died B. C. 106); thirteen persons of that name are mentioned in Josephus; and in the New Testament, besides the Baptist and the Evangelist, we meet with John Mark (Acts 12:12), and John of the high-priestly family. (Acts 4:6) John the forerunner was well known to Matthew's first readers as the 'Baptist,' or Baptizer (compare Matthew 14:2, Matthew 14:8); we find Josephus also ("Ant.," 18, 5, 2) mentioning him as "John, who was surnamed Baptist." This name, the Baptizer, was of course given him in consequence of the remarkable rite he performed, which attracted universal attention, and was repeatedly used as the characteristic representative of his whole work (see on "Matthew 21:25").â€”The circumstances connected with John's birth are given only by Luke. Of his history since childhood we only know that he 'was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.' (Luke 1:80) His father would be anxious to give to the child of such hopes the best priestly education, and it is probable that he retired to 'the deserts' after the death of his parents, who were of advanced age at the time of his birth. Such a step would be natural only when grown, or nearly so. In the wild region between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea (see below), he probably spent his time in religious meditation, ripening for his great mission. Yet that he knew human nature, and observed the men of his own time, appears from Luke 3:10-14. In this same wild region dwelt the Essenes (see on "Matthew 3:7"), and here also Josephus ("Life," 2) locates the teacher Banus, with whom he spent three years in seclusion, at a period about thirty years later than John's public appearance. It had been appointed (Luke 1:15) that from the beginning of John's life he should not 'drink wine or strong drink,' i.e., should live as a Nazirite, (Numbers 6:1-21) implying extraordinary and lifelong consecration to God's service. A child of the mountains, and living a temperate life in the open air, he probably became strong in body, as well as 'grew strong in spirit.' (Luke 1:80.) Compare on Matthew 3:4. It is probable (see on "Matthew 3:13") that he began his ministry when about thirty years old. "This protracted period of private discipline and preparation in the life both of Christ and his forerunner, is in striking contrast with our own impatience even under the most hurried superficial processes of education." (Alexander).â€”That a priest should be called to be a prophet was not strange; compare Jeremiah and Ezekiel.â€”For a further account of John, see throughout this chapter, and on Matthew 4:12; Matthew 9:14 ff.; Matthew 11:2-19; Matthew 14:1-13; Matthew 17:10-13; Matthew 21:25, Matthew 21:32. Kohler: "Though the historical information is very limited, there are few persons of whom we can form so clear and lively a conception.... An imposing figure, in whose posture and traits of countenance were depicted iron will, and deep, holy earnestness, yet without passing into hardness. In general, John may be called a classical example of the manifestation of love in the garb of severity. We cannot doubt his profound compassion for the unhappy condition of his people, sunken in sin and exposed to judgment, although it would hardly occur to us to conceive of him as weeping, like the Lord Jesus, over the coming fate of Jerusalem."
Preaching. See on "Matthew 4:17". The word wilderness is used both in Old Testament and New Testament to denote a region not regularly built up and cultivated, portions of which were quite sterile, while other portions might be not destitute of herbage and other spontaneous productions. Such a tract was commonly used for pasturage, (Psalms 65:12; Joel 2:22; Luke 15:4) and sometimes contained watchtowers, (2 Chronicles 26:10) settled inhabitants (Judges 1:16), and even cities. (Joshua 15:61, Isaiah 42:11) The 'wilderness of Judea' was a region of no very well marked boundaries, lying west of the Dead Sea, and of the extreme southern part of the Jordan, occupying about one third of the territory of Judah (Keim), and extending up into that of Benjamin. The narrow plain of the Jordan, from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, is also called by Josephus ("War," 3, 10, 17) a desert, and described by him as parched, unhealthy, and destitute of water, except the river. (So also Thomson, II. 159 f.) Now Luke (Luke 3:2-3) says: 'The word of God came unto John, in the wilderness, and he came into all the country about Jordan preaching,' and John (John 1:28) speaks of him as engaged in baptizing, a little later than this, at Bethany, beyond Jordan. We thus conclude that Matthew, as in many other cases, contents himself with the general statement that John's preaching and baptizing took place in the wilderness of Judea, which included the lower part of the Jordan valley, and being without definite boundaries, did not need to be carefully distinguished from the similar desert region extending farther up the river, into which (as we gather from the other Evangelists) John gradually moved, at length crossing the river, (John 1:28, John 10:40) and at a later period, (John 3:23) crossing back and removing to Enon, which was certainly west of the Jordan.(1) There is thus no occasion for inferring, as some do, from Luke's expression, that John first preached for some time in the wilderness at a distance from the Jordan, and afterwards came to the river. It should be observed that events described as occurring in 'the wilderness,' or 'the wilderness of Judea,' must of necessity be referred to different parts of that quite extensive district. John had probably lived (Luke 1:80) in the southwestern part, towards Hebron; the scene of his baptizing was in the northeastern part; and the tract mentioned in John 11:54, apparently formed the northwestern part. As to the scene of the temptation, see on "Matthew 4:1". The same Greek word is used in all the passages of New Testament in which the Com. Vet. has 'wilderness' or 'desert.' (See further on "Matthew 14:13".)â€”John called the people away from the seats of government and of fixed social influences, into the wilder regions, where thought more readily becomes free, and where the mind is at once drawn out towards God, and driven in upon itself. (Keim.) In such a region was given the law of Moses, and pretenders to a prophetic mission, after our Lord's time, repeatedly drew crowds into the wilderness. (Acts 21:38, Matthew 24:26; Joshua "Ant.," 20, 5, 1; "War," 7, 11, 1.)
Matthew 3:2. This verse gives a summary statement of the substance of John's preaching. Repent. To understand the precise New Testament use of this highly important term, we must distinguish between the Greek word, the English (borrowed from an imperfect Latin rendering), and the Hebrew expressions in Old Testament. The Greek word here and commonly used in New Testament (metanoein), signifies to change the thought, and so to change the opinion or purpose. This inner change naturally leads to, and thus the expression may be said practically to include, a corresponding change of the outward life, which we usually describe by the word 'reform.' A change of thought does not necessarily involve grief; and the word is sometimes used by Greek writers for a mere change of opinion or judgment, where there was no occasion for regret. But in all moral uses of the term there will of course be grief at the previous wrong course that one now determines to abandon. Whenever this Greek word is employed in New Testament (unless we except Hebrews 12:17), the reference is to changing the mind, purpose, from sin to holiness, and no one will do this who does not feel deep sorrow for the sin he has already committed. Sorrow is thus not expressed by the word itself, but in New Testament use is always suggested from the nature of the case, and thus becomes associated with the word. To repent, then, as a religious term of New Testament, is to change the mind, thought, purpose, as regards sin and the service of Godâ€”a change naturally accompanied by deep sorrow for past sin, and naturally leading to a change of the outward life. A different Greek word (metamelesthai), signifying to change the feeling of care or concern, to regret, is employed in Matthew 21:29-30, Matthew 21:32; Matthew 27:3. and in Romans 11:29; 1 Corinthians 7:8, 1 Corinthians 7:10 ('repented of'); Hebrews 7:21. This regret might of course lead to change of purpose and conduct, but the term does not denote any such change, though the circumstances sometimes suggest it. It is only the first Greek word that New Testament uses to denote repenting of sin. The distinction between the two must, however not be too strongly pressed, as shown by their use in the Septuagint (see below). A changed feeling might imply, or at least suggest, a changed purpose, and a changed purpose a changed feeling, so that both would sometimes yield substantially the same sense.
The Hebrew word for 'repent' denotes pain, grief, and sometimes suggests change of thought and purpose: the Septuagint translate it sometimes by the second and sometimes by the first of the above-mentioned Greek words.(1) It is noticeable that the prophets nowhere exhort men to 'repent' (though telling them to mourn and weep over their sins), but use the simple and practical word 'turn.' The New Testament also frequently employs this general and practical term, variously translated into English by 'turn,' 'return,' 'he converted'; and in Acts 3:19, Acts 26:20, both are combined, 'repent and turn'. (compare Acts 11:21, 'believed and turned') It thus appears that the New Testament exhortation is substantially the same as that of the prophets (e. g., Joel 2:12-13, Isaiah 55:7, Ezekiel 33:11, Ezekiel 33:15, Zechariah 1:3-4); but the New Testament term (metanoein) rendered 'repent' is more specific, and strictly denotes the inward change, leaving the outward change to be inferred as a consequence, or sometimes distinctly expressing it by adding the word 'turn.' In both the Old Testament and the New Testament exhortation the element of grief for sin is left in the background, neither word directly expressing grief at all, though it must in the nature of things always be present.
But great difficulty has been found in translating this Greek work into other languages. The Syriac versions, unable to give the precise meaning, fall back upon 'turn,' the same word as in Hebrew. The Latin versions give 'exercise penitence' (paenitentiam agere). But this Latin word, penitence, apparently connected by etymology with pain, signifies grief or distress, and is rarely extended to a change of purpose, thus corresponding to the Hebrew word which we render 'repent,' but not corresponding to the terms employed in Old Testament and New Testament exhortations. Hence a subtle and pernicious error, pervading the whole sphere of Latin Christianity, by which the exhortation of New Testament is understood to be an exhortation to grief over sin, as the primary and principal idea of the term. One step further, and penitence was contracted into penance, and associated with medieval ideas unknown to New Testament, and the English Versions made by Romanists, now represent John, and Jesus, and Peter, as saying (paenitentiam agite), 'do penance.' From a late Latin compound (repaenitere) comes our English word 'repent,' which inherits the fault of the Latin, making grief the prominent element, and change of purpose secondary, if expressed at all, Thus our English word corresponds exactly to the second Greek word (metamelesthai), and to the Hebrew word rendered 'repent,' but sadly fails to translate the exhortation of the New Testament. It is therefore necessary constantly to repeat the explanation that the New Testament word in itself denotes simply change of purpose as to sin, leaving us to understand from the nature of things, the accompanying grief and the consequent reformation.(1)
But while John's exhortation is substantially the same as that of the prophets, it is enforced by a new and strong motive, the near approach of the long-expected Messianic reign. Is at hand, or more literally, has come near. (So Matthew 4:17, Matthew 10:7) This is here mentioned by Matthew alone, who writes especially for Jews. They continually spoke of Messiah as 'the coming one' (Matthew 11:3), of the Messianic period as 'the coming age', (Hebrews 6:5) and John tells them that Messiah's reign has drawn near. He does not say, Repent, and so the reign will draw near, but Repent, for it has drawn near (Calvin). The word basileia, which everywhere in English Version is rendered kingdom, means (1) kingship, the possession of royal authority, e. g., Revelation 11:15; 'the kingship (sovereignty) over the world is become our Lord's and his Christ's'; compare Revelation 17:18; Matthew 16:28; Psalms 22:28. (2) 'reign,' the exercise of royal power, or the period during which it is exercised; (3) 'kingdom,' the subjects, the organization (Matthew 12:25), or the territory. (Matthew 4:8) In the sense of the territory it is not used in New Testament concerning Messiah's kingdom, and probably not in the sense of organization. Of the renderings kingship, reign, and kingdom, two would frequently be necessary, and sometimes all three at once, to express the full sense of the original term. As we have to choose one, the word 'reign' is in this and many other passages a more nearly adequate rendering than 'kingdom,' and less likely to mislead. The kingdom (reign) of heaven is an expression used more than thirty times by Matthew, though he sometimes (Matthew 12:28; Matthew 19:24; Matthew 21:31, Matthew 21:43) uses the one always found in the other Evangelists, 'kingdom (reign) of God.' 'Heaven' is in this phrase always plural in the Greek, 'the heavens,' an imitation of the plural (dual) form, which the word always has in Hebrew, and not differing in meaning from the singular. Heaven, regarded as the special residence of God, is sometimes very naturally used to represent God himself (e. g., Daniel 4:26; Daniel 1 Maccabees 3:60; Luke 15:18, Luke 15:21), just as we say, 'heaven grant,' etc., and so 'kingdom of heaven' is equivalent to 'kingdom of God.' The Jews, scrupulous about using the name of God, frequently substituted 'heaven' (e. g., 1 Maccabees 3:50, 1 Maccabees 3:60; 1 Maccabees 4:55), and the Talmud often has the phrase 'kingdom of heaven.' It was natural that Matthew, writing especially for Jews, should respect their feeling, and commonly use this expression.
The New Testament idea of the 'kingdom (reign) of God' has its roots in the prophetic writings. In Isaiah (Isaiah 1:29) and Micah, it is declared that God will raise up a righteous king', who shall deliver his people and give them prosperity (e. g. Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11:1-10; Micah 4:1-8). This hope is presented with modifications by Jeremiah and his contemporaries (e. g. Jeremiah 23:5-6, Ezekiel 37:24), pointing now not to an individual king, but to a Davidic dynasty, (compare 2 Chronicles 13:8) guiding the mission of the chosen people. But in Daniel, when Israel is fallen low, there is given assurance that "the God of heaven" will establish a universal monarchy, with "one like a son of man" as the king. (Daniel 2:44, Daniel 7:13-14) This idea must have fermented in the minds of at least some Jews till it took the form we find in the Gospels, when devout persons are not only "waiting for the consolation of Israel," and "for the redemption of Jerusalem", (Luke 2:25, Luke 2:38) but "waiting for the kingdom of God"; (Luke 23:51, Luke 17:20) the Baptist says, "the kingdom of heaven (God) has drawn near," as something which all will understand. The Jews of that period had many fanciful confused, and sometimes fanatical notions in regard to the character of this expected divine reign, as shown by the book of Enoch, the Targums, and the Talmud, (see Lightfoot, Wetstein, Gill, and Drummond, "The Jewish Messiah"), but the New Testament is of course responsible only for its own use of the phrase. We see also that the statement in Daniel has, before the New Testament times, led to the belief that a "son of man," called also the Messiah, will reign in God's promised kingdom, for this is expressly asserted in the book of Enoch, (much of which was pretty certainly written before the Christian era), and the Talmud abounds in references to "King Messiah."This persuasion our Lord confirms in Matthew 13:41; Matthew 25:31, Matthew 25:34; John 18:36. It was one great object of Matthew's Gospel to show how Jesus corrected the Jewish errors as regards the nature of the expected Messianic reign. Much error has diffused itself through the Christian world from confounding "the kingdom" with what is popularly called "the church." Edersheim.: "We must dismiss the notion that the expression Kingdom of Heaven refers to the church, whether visible (according to the Roman Catholic view) or invisible (according to certain Protestant writers)." Compare below on Matthew 13:37 ff.
The statement of Josephus ("Ant.," 18, 5, 2) concerning John's teachings and baptism, is marked by his usual affectation of a philosophical tone, and his usual omission of all Messianic references: "John, who was surnamed Baptist..... a good man, and one who bade the Jews in the exercise of virtue, and in the practice of righteousness towards one another and piety towards God, to come to baptism; for that so would the baptism also appear acceptable to him, if they used it, not for the forgiveness of certain sins, but for the purification of the body, it being supposed that the soul also had previously been cleansed by righteousness." Josephus adds that the people were greatly excited by John's preaching, and that Herod imprisoned and slew him because he feared revolutionâ€”a statement which perhaps points to John's proclamation in regard to the near approach of the kingdom of God. It was natural that Josephus should omit all distinct reference to this Messianic reign, for he had long before committed himself to the essentially absurd but politic statement that the Messianic hope of Israel was fulfilled in his patron Vespasian ("War," 6, 5, 4). Both Jews and heathen constantly inclined to think that ablution was itself the means of cleansing the soul from sin; and against this notion Josephus declares that John's baptism was not expected to bring forgiveness of sins, but that the soul must have been previously cleansed by turning from sin to righteousness. Compare Tertullian: "We are not washed that we may cease to sin, but because we have ceased: since we have already been bathed in heart."
Matthew 3:3. This is by some expositors taken as the words of John, who certainly did on one occasion apply the prophecy to himself; (John 1:2) but here the reference is much more naturally understood as made by the Evangelistâ€”the present tense is expressing the general fact that John is the predicted forerunner. For gives the reason why John appeared in the wilderness and bade the people prepare for the Messianic reign, viz., because John is the person spoken of byâ€”throughâ€”the prophet ('through,' see on "Matthew 2:17"), as destined to do so. The voice of one crying,(1) etc., Isaiah 40:3. In the Hebrew the accents indicate, and the parallelism proves, that 'in the wilderness' belongs to 'prepare'; and so Rev. Ver., Isaiah. Matthew (as also Mark and Luke) follows the Septuagint in connecting that phrase with 'crying,' and in omitting the parallel phrase 'in the desert' from the next clause. This change does not affect the substantial meaning, and it makes clearer the real correspondence between the prediction and the fulfilment, 'preaching in the wilderness' (Matthew 3:1), 'crying in the wilderness' (Matthew 3:3). It might without impropriety be supposed that Matthew himself altered the phraseology to bring out this correspondence, but in many similar cases it is plain that he has simply followed the familiar Septuagint. Prepare ye. Make ye ready, was here substituted by Rev. Ver. for 'prepare,' because in the parallel passage of Mark (Mark 1:3), the same word is translated 'make ye ready,' in order to keep it distinct from another Greek word rendered 'prepare' in Mark 1:2. Such pains to render the same Greek word everywhere by the same English word will prove very useful in concordance work, and all minute study, but it strikes the casual reader as useless alteration of the translation.â€”The immediate reference of the prophecy in Isaiah is probably to Jehovah, as leading his people back through the eastern desert from their captivity in Babylon: the remote reference is to the coming of Messiah, and spiritual deliverance. Here, as often in the prophets (see on "Matthew 2:15"), there is a typical I relation between the history of Israel and that of Messiah.â€”Great public roads were rare in the East until introduced by the Romans. When an Oriental monarch was designing to journey into a certain region, he sent messengers in advance to require that a graded road should be prepared. Hence the image, here denoting spiritual preparation. Notice that in Isaiah 40:4, every part of the process of grading is mentioned.
Matthew 3:4. And the same John had, or, 'And he, John, had.' The difference in meaning between these renderings is unimportant. After remarking upon the prediction fulfilled in John, the Evangelist proceeds to speak further of John himself. The clothing of camel's hair was a coarse cloth made by weaving camel's hair and such cloth is still often worn in the East by the poor. There is no evidence that garments of camel-skin, like those made of sheep-skins and goat-skins (Hebrews 11:37) have ever been worn in the East (as imagined by the painters, and by Fritzsche and Smith, "Dict.," art. Camel); and the expression here distinctly forbids such a notion, being literally 'of camel' s hairs' (so the Greek of Mark 1:6, 'camel's hairs'). So Meyer, Bleek, Weiss. A girdle was a necessary and almost universal part of an Oriental's dress (compare Matthew 10:9, marg. of Rev. Ver.; Acts 21:11), being required to bind the long, loose robe (see on "Matthew 5:40"), in order to active labour, or rapid locomotion, and it was often very costly and showy. (compare Revelation 1:13) John's girdle was made of leather, cheap and rude, as was Elijah's. (2 Kings 1:8) Meat, or food. The word 'meat' is used in Com. Ver. to translate several Greek words, but all of them signify food, nutriment, sustenance. This would sometimes include flesh, to which, in modern English, the term meat is exclusively applied. (Compare 1 Corinthians 8:13, 'If food makes my brother sin, I will eat no more flesh.' Bib. Un. Ver.) The law of Moses (Leviticus 11:22) allowed locusts at least of certain kinds, to be eaten; and a treatise in the Talmud copiously discusses the marks by which 'clean' locusts might be distinguished. To eat these is still common in the East among the poor. The heads, legs, and wings being removed, they are boiled, stewed, or roasted, and sometimes dressed with butter. They are eaten both fresh, and dried, or salted. They are very different from what we call locusts. The notion that John ate the fruit of the tree which we call locust, is utterly unwarranted, and forbidden by the Greek word. The wild honey is thought by some able writers (as Fritzsche, Robinson, Meyer, Bleek, Grimm, Weiss) to have been the gum exuding from a tree, but on very slender grounds (comp Keil). Much more probably it was, as commonly supposed, the honey of wild bees, deposited in trees, rocks, etc., such as is mentioned in Old Testament (Judges 14:8 f.; 1 Samuel 14:25 ff.; Psalms 81:16), and found at the present day also in the wild regions in which John lived. This was very abundant, and considered cheap and poor food (compare Isaiah 7:15). Eustathius says (Wet.) that Pythagoras lived very poorly, often contenting himself with honey alone.
It had been predicted (Malachi 4:5 f.) that Elijah the prophet should be sent before the advent of Messiah to prepare the people for his coming. This was explained by the angel (Luke 1:17) as to be fulfilled in John, who would go before the Lord 'in the spirit and power of Elijah,' and was also declared by Jesus to have been fulfilled in John (see on "Matthew 11:14"; Matthew 17:10-13). The ministry of each consisted mainly in severe reproof and exhortation to amendment, and there was something appropriate to such a work in seclusion of life, with rude fare and coarse clothing, and in austerity of manner."Even his appearance called men to repentance." (Theophylact). This was hardly personal asceticism, but appears to have been designed, like the numerous symbolical acts employed by other prophets, to attract attention, and give greater impressiveness, to the reformer's rebukes of a luxurious and worldly minded generation. It was what we call an "object-lesson." "We may imagine the effect when Elijah suddenly issued from his retreats, and, arrayed like some Bedouin or savage Dervish of to-day, stood before a weak and self-indulgent king, with stern look and tone, and harsh words merited reproof. And similar must have been the effect of John's appearance and known mode of life." (Compare on Matthew 11:8.) Elijah is described as 'a hairy man' (2 Kings 1:8), literally 'a possessor of hair,' and this is best understood as meaning that he wore a garment made of hair (margin Rev. Ver.), especially as his girdle is mentioned immediately after. This characteristic dress of Elijah appears to have been imitated by succeeding prophets; for we find in Zechariah 13:4 the prediction of a time when the false prophets would become ashamed of their impostures, and would not 'wear a garment of hair to deceive.' On the part of John, these peculiarities were not a mere imitation of his prototype, for they had the same appropriateness and significance in both cases.â€”There is little propriety in the notion of some artists and writers that John was attenuated through much fasting. Doubtless he did fast (see on "Matthew 9:14"), but so did many Jews, and not necessarily to attenuation. His out-door life and homely food might (see on "Matthew 3:2") even promote bodily health (compare Elijah), and physical force seems naturally implied in his preaching to great crowds in the open air, and boldly facing the most jealous and powerful. John was also like Elijah in that he was not a writing prophet, but left his work to be recorded by others. (Pressense).
Matthew 3:5. After a general account (Matthew 3:1-4) of John's public appearance and preaching, with the fact that in him a prophecy was fulfilled, and after a description of his peculiar dress and manner of life, we have now (Matthew 3:5 f.) a general statement that the people went forth to him in large numbers and were baptized, and this is followed (Matthew 3:7-12) by a specimen of his preaching, given more in detail.
Then, Matthew's favourite term of transition, resumes the time of Matthew 3:1-2. Not only Jerusalem, but the entire district of Judea, and all the region round about,â€”or, the circuit of theâ€”Jordan, only part of which was included in Judea, came forth. The Hebrew phrase, round of the Jordan' or, 'circuit of the Jordan,' i. e., the country about the river, is inadequately rendered in Com. Ver. by 'plain' (Genesis 13:10-11; margin Rev. Ver. 'circle'; 1 Kings 7:46, 2 Chronicles 4:17). The cases of its occurrence in Old Testament refer particularly, as here, to the lower part of the river, towards the Dead Sea. All, is of course, to be understood as a hyperbole, strongly expressing the fact that very many of the people came forth. (Compare Matthew 8:34.) Similar hyperbolical expressions abound in all languages and periods. We learn from John (John 1:35-45; John 21:2), that some came from Galilee also, but this was perhaps at a later period, when John was baptizing higher up the river. The year to which John's early ministry probably belongs, A. D. 26, was a Sabbatical year (Wieseler), when the people who strictly observed the law would have more than ordinary leisure.
It was centuries since a prophet had appeared, and the Jews had often longed for prophetic guidance. Thus Judas Maccabeus and his followers laid away the stones of the desecrated altar "until a prophet should appear to answer concerning them" (1 Maccabees 4:46); and the woman of Samaria, as soon as she perceived that here was a prophet, asked him to settle the long-disputed question concerning the proper place to worship. (John 4:19 f.) In the time of Christ, some were expecting the personal re-appearance of Jeremiah (below, Matthew 16:14), and many that of Elijah; (John 1:21, Luke 9:8, Matthew 16:14, Matthew 17:10, Matthew 27:49) while others were looking for the prophet like unto Moses. (John 1:21, Deuteronomy 18:15, Deuteronomy 18:18) And now the report spread far and wide, that at last a prophet had come, who in dress and place of abode resembled the great Elijah, who might be Messiah, or at least a forerunner of Messiah, for he declared that the Messianic reign was near, who performed a very striking rite, and spoke severe rebukes and earnest exhortations to turn from evil ways, such as had been spoken by all the prophets, such as will always arrest the attention of mankind. No wonder the Jews, from all the country adjacent to the scene of his ministry, and for many months, continually poured forth to see and hear him, and, more or less, impressed by his announcement of the Messianic reign and his call to repentance, confessed their sins and submitted to his baptism.
Matthew 3:6. Baptized. The Greek word baptizo, which we borrow, was of very common use, as is seen in every period of Greek literature, and was applied to a great variety of matters, including the most familiar acts of every-day life. It was thus a word which every Greek speaking hearer and reader in apostolic times would at once and clearly understand. It meant what we express by 'immerse' and kindred terms,(1) and no one could then have thought of attributing to it a wholly different sense, such as 'sprinkle,' or 'pour,' without distinct explanation to that effect. The people who speak Greek at the present day wholly reject and ridicule the idea of using this Greek word in any other than its own definite and well-known sense; and the Greek Church still holds nothing to be baptism but immersion. But the newly discovered treatise called the Didache, or "Teaching," written some time in the second century, probably in the latter half of the century, shows that in some region of the Christian world there was a disposition to allow a substitute when water was scarce. Thus Matthew 7, "Baptize... in living water (i. e. of a stream, fountain, or pool, as opposed to standing or dead water). And if thou have no living water, baptize in other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm. And if thou have neither, pour water upon the head thrice." Here it is evident that baptize means only immerse, but if water be scarce, pouring may be substituted for baptizing. In like manner we find in the West, towards the middle of the third century, that in case of severe sickness some allowed pouring, and after a while some thought sprinkling sufficient, and these more convenient substitutes grew increasingly common, though often condemned by the ecclesiastical authorities, until in the thirteenth century their general use was sanctioned by the Pope. Luther and Calvin (16th cent.) both explicitly declared that the primitive baptism was immersion, and the former said it ought to be restored; but they allowed the existing practice to remain undisturbed. In the course of time many Protestants came to perceive that it was very awkward to rest their practice in this respect on the authority of the Church of Rome, and being accustomed and attached to the practice they very naturally sought countenance for it in Scripture. Such are the unavoidable defects of language, that strongly biased and ingenious minds can always cast some apparent doubt over the meaning of the plainest words; as has been done, for example, with respect to words teaching the divinity of Christ, the atonement, and eternal punishment. It is therefore not surprising that a good many able and conscientious men in Great Britain and America (very few in Germany) have succeeded in persuading themselves that perhaps, or even quite probably, might be understood as meaning pour or sprinkle, or purify in general, or something that would sanction the practice handed down from revered fathers; and that a few very bold spirits should even venture to cut the knot and assert, that not only sprinkling may be baptism, but nothing else can he. These considerations should promote charity, and may serve to explain the rise, in modern times, of so much controversy about a very plain word.
This controversy has led to a wide examination of Greek literature with reference to this term, and in all the instances of its use that have been found, whether literal or figurative, its fundamental meaning (whatever may be the particular rendering most suitable to the connection and to English idiom) is always 'immerse,' that being in the great mass of cases the only possible sense, and in all cases appropriate and natural. (See a full list of classified examples in Conant "On Baptize in" Philadelphia.) So it is defined and explained in most Greek Lexicons that are of any authority (e. g., in Liddell and Scott, Grimm, Sophocles' Greek Lex. of the Roman and Byzantine periods, Boston), without a hint of any other meaning; and so it is interpreted by almost all commentators in Germany, the land of scholars, and by very many in the Church of England. But some good Lexicons of classical Greek (as Rosi and Palm) add such meanings as 'moisten,' 'drench,' overwhelm, justifying them only by certain figurative uses of the word, in which drunkards are called 'the baptized,' or men are said to be baptized in (or with) debts, misfortunes, etc; some Lexicons of New Testament Greek (as Robinson) urge that in certain passages of New Testament and Septuagint (e. g., Mark 7:4, Luke 11:38, Acts 2:41, Acts 10:48, Acts 16:33; Judith 12:7), the circumstances make it, in the lexicographer's judgment, unlikely that an immersion was performed; and some others (as Cremer, compare Stephen's "Thesaurus"), suppose that the Jews came to use the Hebrew tabal 'dip,' and therefore used baptizo, as a general term for religious washing, which might then be sometimes performed in other ways. Yet all the lexicographers who thus present an additional meaning give 'immerse' as the primary and general meaning of the word. Now it is a most important principle in the interpretation of language, without the observance of which all interpretation becomes uncertain and unreliable, that whatever is the common and regular meaning of a word, as shown by its origin and general use, must be held to be its meaning everywhere, until there shall be found some passage in which it cannot have that sense. Upon this principle, whether formally recognized or not, scholars are constantly working. But no passage has been pointed out in which this word must have some other than its ordinary meaning; indeed, none in which that meaning is not both possible and appropriate. Thus the classical expressions solely relied on by Rost and Palm for another meaning, are given by Liddell and Scott (6th and 7th ed.) as examples of the primary sense 'to dip in or under water,' and compared with the English phrases 'soaked in wine,' 'over head and ears in debt,' such expressions being obviously figurative in both languages. In the passages cited by Robinson, nothing more can be claimed than that in those cases immersion would have been inconvenient or difficult, and is therefore thought unlikely; while a due consideration of Jewish scrupulosity and known customs makes immersion not only possible in such cases, but natural enoughâ€”and these passages are so explained by a multitude of German and English writers who are certainly not prejudiced in favour of immersion, for they practice sprinkling, on the authority the church, or on the ground that it is a matter of little consequence. To the argument of Cremer that the Talmud sometimes uses 'tabal,' 'dip,' with reference to purifications in which Old Testament directed them to 'sprinkle,' (rachatz), and that so tubal and baptize seem to have been employed as general terms for religious washing, however performed, it is enough to reply that the Jews had become so extremely scrupulous as frequently to employ the most complete form of purification (tabal) in cases in which only the less complete (rachatz) was required, wishing thus to make perfectly sure that no touch of impurity had failed to be removed. So already in Sirach 31 (34): 30 (Eng. Ver. Ecclus. Sirach 34:25), 'One who immerses himself from a dead body and again touches it, what profit did he gain by his bath' (compare Lay. Matthew 22:4-6), in Judith 12:7, and Mark 7:4 (see Meyer); and so in the proselyte-immersion of a later period (see below.) This explanation is at least as probable in itself as the theory of Cremer, and accords with the well-known scrupulosity of the Jews.â€”It thus appears that in none of the ways mentioned is warrant found for giving any such meaning as pour, sprinkle, or wash religiously, or any other than its own proper and well known sense. The argument that because baptism suggested (John 3:25) a dispute about purification, therefore any form of purification is baptism (Ed. Beecher on "Baptism," New York), is as if from the fact that an ease of yellow fever led to a dispute about malarial diseases, it should be argued that any farm of malarial disease is yellow fever. Dale ("Classic Baptism," "Judaic Baptism," "Johannic Baptism," "Christie and Patristic Baptism," four separate volumes, Philadelphia), defines as meaning 'intuspose,' (i. e., 'put within,' compare Liddell and Scott), 'merse,' 'immerse,' and then by a novel and ingenious, but purely fanciful and unreasonable process explains it all away, and reaches the conclusion that immersion is not baptism at all.(1) Some attempt has been made to construct an argument as to from the word used in the Syriac New Testament, in reply to which see a tract by C. H. Toy on Amad (Louisville.) These several theories add no force to the efforts of the lexicographers above mentioned, to justify some departure from the plain and recognized meaning of this Greek word.
It was once quite generally held (see especially Lightfoot), and is still maintained by some, that John's baptism was an imitation of what is called Jewish proselyte-baptism. The resemblance between the two is but partial; for Maimonides (twelfth cent.) describes the ceremony as consisting in the person's standing in the water and dipping himself, thus making it a self-purification. Recent investigation shows that there is no ground for believing this Jewish practice of a later time to have existed, as a distinct initiatory rite, in the time of our Lord. Not only is there no allusion to such a rite in the Old or New Testament, or in the Apocryphal books, but none in Philo or Josephus, although each of these writers has various passages in which it seems almost impossible that he should have failed to mention the rite had it then existed, nor any in the early Christian Fathers, some of whom search every page of Old Testament for rites or expressions bearing any, the most fanciful resemblance to baptism. It is not mentioned in the Mishna (about A. D. 200), nor clearly referred to in any of the other Jewish writings belonging to the early centuries after Christ, the first distinct account of it being in the Babylonian Talmud (Oemara), written in the fifth century. The origin of the rite among the Jews is readily explained. When a proselyte (see on "Matthew 23:15") was received (before the destruction of the temple), he wan circumcised, and then before performing his first act as a Jew, viz., offering sacrifice, he must be purified; but this purification was not distinctively initiatory (peculiar to a proselyte), for the Jewish child also must he purified after circumcision, which itself made one unclean. There were thus three acts performed in admitting a proselyteâ€”the circumcision (which really made him a Jew), the consequent purification (which as described by Maimonides, was an immersion), and then sacrifice, in which he publicly acted as a Jew. After the temple was destroyed, the sacrifice became impossible, and then the purification became the closing, and in the case of women, the only act performed; and so it naturally attracted greater attention, and by the fifth century had come to be regarded as distinct from all other purifications, and as possessing a very high importance, equal, if not superior, to that of circumcision. This view takes away all force from the otherwise plausible argument that the so-called proselyte-baptism must have been ancient, on the ground that the Jews would never have adopted it from the hated Christians; for we see that it was not so adopted at all, but was simply one of their own purifications, which from the force of circumstances came, in the course of some centuries after the destruction of the temple, to be regarded as a peculiar initiatory rite. And if later Jewish writers assert that it was ancient, even that it originated at Mount Sinai, they make the same claim for every usage existing among them, however unquestionably late in its origin; and besides, we have seen that the essence of this practice was ancient, though it afterwards assumed its peculiar character and consequence.(1)
There is thus no reason for supposing that John's baptism was a mere modification of some existing rite. Our Lord distinctly intimated (Matthew 21:25) that the baptism of John was "from heaven." The forerunner himself testified that God "sent" him "to baptize in water." (John 1:33) Kohler: "So the baptism of John is a highly significant and expressive rite, which in its grand simplicity bears the distinct stamp of a divine Ordering."
In Jordan. The expression thus translated affords a strong, though in itself not an absolute proof, that the action of baptizing was performed within the limits of the stream This is the natural and regular meaning of the phrase, and must be everywhere adhered to unless there is something in the connection to forbid it. But the Greek preposition en is used in some connections not found in English; as, for example, we cannot say," a city was situated in the Euxine Sea," "an ambush was laid in a river," but the Greek has these expressions, meaning that the sea or river was in a certain general sense the locality in which the city or ambush was situated, though not in the strict sense which our 'in' would indicate, seeing that such a sense is in those instances not possible from the nature of the case. So in English we say 'the man is in the mountain,' meaning not the earth composing it, but the mountain in a more general sense. Now if the action of baptizing were one which could not be performed in the river in the strict sense, we might understand 'in the Jordan' as meaning only in that general locality. (compare Mark 4:1, 'in the sea') But until it is shown that the signification of the term baptize is incompatible with the idea of its being performed strictly in the river, i. e., in the water, we are bound to take the preposition in its proper and ordinary sense. Now even those who maintain that '' is at times used with a certain latitude, generally agree that its regular and usual sense is one which does not forbid, but entirely accords with, the idea of its being performed in the water. We have therefore the natural and almost uniform use of 'in' concurring with the established meaning of the verb, and reinforcing the argument by which that meaning is established. (Compare 'in water' Matthew 3:11, Rev. Ver., margin). The Rev. Ver. reads, the river Jordan.(1) The word Jordan, always with the article in the Hebrew and the Greek, signifies 'the descender,' and was so named from its rapid descent in a long and deep valley or fissure. The highest of its three principal fountains on the slopes of Hermon is seventeen hundred feet above the level of the Mediterranean; the first lake it forms, Huleh, has its surface only one hundred and twenty feet above the Mediterranean, while the second, the Lake of Galilee, is six hundred and eighty-two feet (Conder) below the level, and the third Lake, the Dead Sea, is twelve hundred and ninety-two feet below the level of the Mediterranean, besides being itself some thirteen hundred feet deep. The fissure or valley varies in width, south of the Lake of Galilee, from two to six miles, and nearer the Dead Sea it becomes fourteen miles wide (Conder). Winding about in this long, narrow valley is another depressed valley (forty to one hundred and fifty feet deeper), of several hundred yards in width; and within this the actual bed of the river sinks deeper still. The distance in a straight line from its highest source to the southern end of the Dead Sea is about one hundred and sixty miles, or excluding the Dead Sea, about one hundred and fifteen miles. But so extremely crooked is the winding river that Lynch estimates it to be near two hundred miles between, the Lake of Galilee and its mouth (which is sixty-five miles in a straight line), and though less crooked higher up, its whole length must be at least two hundred and seventy-five miles, not including the Dead Sea. The width and depth of course vary at different seasons, as it is swollen in February and March by the rains, and in May, the "time of harvest", (Joshua 3:15) by the melting snows of Hermon. Above Lake Huleh it is some forty feet wide, and is deep and rapid, but fordable almost everywhere. Towards the Lake of Galilee it is about sixty feet, and easily forded at several places. For some miles below the lake Lynch found it about seventy-five feet wide, and at points ten feet deep (middle of April), but on one of the numerous rapids only eight inches deep. About five miles below the lake an important tributary enters from the east, and below this the usual depth varies from two and one half to six feet (Ritter). About half way from the Lake of Galilee to the Salt (Dead) Sea, the River Jabbok enters from the east, and smaller streams come in at various neighbouring points on both sides. It here becomes from eighty to one hundred and fifty feet wide, and from five to twelve feet deep (McClintock and Crooks, "Cyc."). Hear the mouth it widens to some five hundred and fifty feet, and the depth diminishes to two or three feet (Lynch). The principal fords are not many (though Conder collected the names of about forty in all). (1) About two miles above the mouth (Fish). Several miles higher up is the traditional place of our Lord's baptism, nearly opposite Jericho, and somewhat above this is (2) a ford used at some seasons. At the traditional place the river is, in spring (when most travellers visit it), both too deep and too swift for fording. Yet just before Easter several thousand Greek and Oriental pilgrims (in the Middle Ages there were sometimes 100,000) go to this placeâ€”men, women, and childrenâ€”and immerse themselves as a sacred bath, many of them changing their garments amid the dense thickets of shrubbery which extend for some distance from the stream; and almost every year, in the vast fanatical throng, crowding in together, some are drowned. Several miles above this place is now a ferry-boat, (compare 2 Samuel 19:18) which is handled with difficulty, the current being in March excessively strong. (3) Ten miles below the mouth of the Jabbok is a ford now much used in going from Nabulus to Es-Salt (Van de Velde). (4) Above the Jabbok is the ford of Succoth, where Jacob crossed with his family and flocks (Genesis 32:10, Genesis 32:22) (5) Near Beisan is a ford, which Robinson (III., 825) crossed with difficulty, but which, on March 24, 1871, the Modin of Beisan said would only reach the horses' bellies. In this neighbourhood Conder, in April, found twenty-one possible fords within seven miles. About ten miles above Beisan is a Saracenic bridge (the only one now crossing the river), upon the road from Nabulus to Damascus, and above it are said to be several difficult and little-used fords. (6) Not far below the Lake of Galilee is an important ford, which the Jews of our Lord's time must have constantly used in going from Galilee through Perea to Jerusalem. At this, on March 25, 1871, the water came nearly to the root of a horse's Tailâ€”but in summer the river falls much lower, and must be easily fordable at many points.â€”The outer and principal part of the Jordan valley is nearly all entirely unproductive without irrigation, justifying the statement of Josephus that the Jordan flows through a desert ("War," 3, 10, 7). But the banks of the river are everywhere fringed with trees (willow, balsam, etc.), amid which the birds sing, and in whose pleasant shade the multitudes could gather to hear the voice of the new prophet. As to the scene of the baptism of Jesus, see on "Matthew 3:13".
The people received this solemn rite confessing their sins. The Scriptures promise forgiveness on condition of confession, (Proverbs 28:13, 1 John 1:9) though of course this is not the meritorious ground of forgiveness. It was required by the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 5:5, Leviticus 16:21, Leviticus 26:40, Numbers 5:7), and is often recorded as practised by the penitent (e. g, 2 Chronicles 30:22, Psalms 32:5; Nehemiah 9:2-3; Daniel 9:20; Acts 19:18). The term here used appears to denote an actually spoken confession, and the present participle shows that it was made in immediate connection with the act of baptism. Most probably the confession was not made to the multitude, but simply to John, and was not uniform, but varied according to every man's calling, character, etc., (compare John's specific exhortations to different classes, Luke 3:10-14). The act of submitting to baptism was itself also (Kohler) a confession of faith, namely, of faith in the good news of the kingdom. (Mark 1:15, Acts 19:4)
We have now (Matthew 3:7-12) a specimen of John's teachings given more in detail.
Matthew 3:7. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the two great parties, at once religious and political, among the Jews at the time of Christ. The date of their origin is unknown, and they no doubt arose gradually. In the centuries immediately following the return from the Captivity there must have been various divisions of public sentiment. Some insisted on conforming to all decisions of tribunals and opinions of leading teachers, others thought it enough to observe the original directions of the law; some busied themselves in developing many real or supposed germs of truth contained in the law and the prophets, others said they wanted no religious teaching but that of the sacred books, especially the Pentateuch; some were extremely zealous for their religion, and ready to die in its defense, others were more ready to suit their action to changing circumstances; some cherished a bitter hatred to foreigners, others were friendly to them, etc. Such divergences of opinion on many questions of truth and duty would gradually associate themselves, by sympathy or antagonism, with some one leading division, so as to form two distinct, though at first not well defined, parties. Then when any new religious or political issue arose (the religious and political being always more or less blended, from the nature of the Jewish institutions), the mere fact that one party took one side of the question would decide the opposite party to take the other side. Thus by degrees the parties became sharply defined, compact, antagonizing at all points.(1) Josephus held that the Pharisees and Sadducees were distinct parties in B. C. 145. ("Ant.," 18, 5, 9.) Certainly in the later years of John Hyrcanus (died B. C. 106), they were politically antagonistic. ("Ant.," 13, 10, 5.) By the time of our Lord's ministry, the division had doubtless become more pronounced. The history of their hostility was known to run back to the Maccabean struggle, the Pharisees now representing the patriots of that time, and it had included many fierce political conflicts and wars under the successors of John Hyrcanus ("Ant.," 13, 15, 5; 13, 16, 5), which left a bitter and lasting hatred. At the time of Christ, the Sadducees were comparatively few in number, but embraced a large proportion of wealthy and influential men ("Ant.," Matthew 18:1, Matthew 18:4), including many members of the Sanhedrin, (Acts 5:17) and were more likely to have the sympathy of the Roman rulers. But the Pharisees were far more numerous, and on account of the patriotic record and pious reputation of the party, possessed the sympathies and support of the people at large. Yet, while political antagonism had caused bitterness, the chief differences between the two parties had always been religious. The Pharisees held to many traditional interpretations of Scripture (e. g., Matthew 5:21, Matthew 5:33, Matthew 5:43), some of them not merely erroneous, but subversive of its great truths, and also to many traditional rules for the conduct of life, particularly as to externals, some of these likewise tending to set aside the teachings of God's word. (Matthew 15:2 ff.) These they claimed, as most Jews have ever since done, to be of almost equal authority' with the law; indeed, they were called the "oral law," and held to have been given orally to Moses at Mount Sinai, and handed down from him. About two centuries after Christ many of these traditions were written down, and form what is called the Mishna, or 'second,' i. e., the second law.(2) All these traditional interpretations and rules the Sadducees rejected, acknowledging no authority but the Scriptures, and especially 'the law,' i. e., the five books ascribed to Moses. But the interpretations of the later centuries before Christ, as received among the Pharisees, had elicited from the Scriptures various true and important doctrines, as that of the separate existence of spirits, and a certain approach to the Christian doctrine of the resurrection from the dead (compare on Matthew 22:23); while the Sadducees, in avoiding traditionalism, went to the opposite extreme of rationalism, and wholly rejected these doctrines, and even the belief in angels, (Acts 23:8) though this last is so plainly and repeatedly taught in Old Testament. The Pharisees, in their fanatical zeal for the law of purifications, and the numerous rules which tradition had added, shrank from all association with "sinners," i. e., persons who notoriously violated the law, (Luke 7:39) and thought it inexcusable in Jesus to do otherwise. (Matthew 9:11, Luke 15:2) Thus, when they came from market, where they might possibly have touched some person or thing that was ceremonially 'unclean,' they were wont to perform a complete purification, 'immersed themselves,' before they would eat. (Mark 7:4)(3) This scrupulosity in separating themselves probably led to the name Pharisees, 'separators.' The name Sadducees most likely meant 'righteous,' as denoting that they contented themselves with being simply righteous men, and did not care for newfangled beliefs and strait-laced observances.(4) Our Saviour less frequently referred to the errors of the Sadducees, great as they were, doubtless because the people in general were little likely to be misled by them; he does however caution his disciples against their doctrine (and that of the Phar.) in Matthew 16:11. They appear 'tempting' him in Matthew 16:1, and Matthew 22:23. But the Pharisees had, with some exceptions (such as Nicodemus, Gamaliel, Paul), lost the true patriotism and especially the true piety which had gained their party so much popular favour, and were striving by the most shameful hypocrisy to retain an influence which they no longer deserved, and which they abused to the worst ends; and our Lord rebuked their hypocrisy on various occasions, and unsparingly exposed it in the last public discourse of his ministry,Matthew 23. The continued rivalry between Pharisees and Sadducees was the providential means of securing freedom from persecution for several years after the ascension of Christ (Acts 4-6), and was made useful even at a later time by Paul. (Acts 23:6) No writings of Sadducees remain to us, and we know them, besides the few references in New Testament, only from writers who were Pharisees, viz., Josephus and the Talmud, and who may have done them scant justice. They seem to have ceased to exist soon after the destruction of the Jewish State, which was the natural fate of a rationalistic party, having little devout earnestness, and whose standing had been social and political rather than religious.
The term 'sect' applied in Eng. Ver. to the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Acts 5:17, Acts 15:5, Acts 26:5) does not, according to its present use, correctly render the Greek word nor correctly represent the facts of the case; they were parties, with the peculiarity above mentioned, that they were at the same time religious and political parties. But there was a 'sect,' in our sense, then existing among the Jews, called the Essenes, who had a strictly exclusive organization and worship, and indeed lived in seclusion, much like the monks of later times. They were few in number, having small communities scattered over Palestine, and the largest on the western shore of the Dead Sea. They were probably an offshoot of the Pharisees, whose leading views they shared. Their comparative insignificance, their never attending the temple-worship, and this apparent relation to the Pharisees, will account for the fact that they are never mentioned in N. T., nor in the Talmud, being known to us only through the writings of Philo, Josephus, and Pliny. All attempts to show that some ideas or practices were derived from them by John the Baptist or by Jesus, have proved a failure; but their teachings do throw light on the heresy Paul attacked at Colosse (see an admirable essay in Lightfoot on Colossians). Josephus says ("Ant.," Matthew 13:5, Matthew 13:9) that the Essenes were utter fatalists, the Sadducees held to extreme views of free-will, substantially rejecting providence, while the Pharisees occupied a middle ground, recognizing both human freedom and responsibility, and divine control.
Comeâ€”or, comingâ€”to his baptism, that is, coming to be baptized by him.(1) The expression many of the Pharisees and Sadducees, with only one article, throws the two parties together as both needing sharp rebuke. (Compare Matthew 16:6, Matthew 16:11, Matthew 16:12.)â€”What is here given as addressed to them, really applied, more or less, to the people at large, and was intended to apply to all it fitted, and Luke (Luke 3:7) gives it as addressed to 'the crowds that came forth to be baptized by him.' So in Matthew, the people at large are evidently addressed in what immediately follows, Luke 3:9 ff. Perhaps also Matthew here refers to a particular case, while Luke states a general fact, as his tenses (in the Greek) may imply.â€”We learn from Luke 7:29 f., that the Pharisees and lawyers who on a certain occasion in Galilee heard the teachings of Jesus concerning John, had not been baptized by John, as the people present and the publicans had been; but this ought not to be relied on as proving that no Pharisees had been baptized by John. Only a portion of them were at all disposed to seek his baptism, and some of these were doubtless repelled by John's stern rebuke and rigorous requirements. (Compare on Matthew 21:32.)
O generation, or, Ye offspringâ€”of vipers, merely a phrase of reproach, describing them as noxious and odious, and perhaps also as insidious. (Compare Matthew 12:34; Matthew 23:33; Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 59:5; Psalms 58:4.) Classic writers present similar expressions. The idea that they are meant to be described as children of the devil, the old serpent, seems fanciful. Warned, is stronger than the original, which signifies to show secretly or partially, and thus to intimate, suggest, indicate, or more generally, to make known. To flee from, may either mean 'to escape,' as in Matthew 23:33, or to 'avoid,' 'shun,' as in 1 Corinthians 10:14. With the former meaning it would be, 'Who intimated to you that you would escape the coming wrath?' viz., when there was so little reason to believe they would escape; with the latter: 'Who suggested to you to flee from,' etc., the surprise being that any one should take the trouble, with so little prospect of any good result. The latter is the more natural sense. The wrath to comeâ€”or, coming wrath. It was expected among the Jews (as the book of Enoch shows), that in connection with Messiah's appearance there would be an outburst of God's wrath upon his enemies, i. e., upon the Gentiles. But John, in accordance with the whole tenor of his teaching, describes 'the coming wrath' as threatening all God's enemies, including impenitent Jews; and this was already implied in Malachi 3-4. Similarly Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:10.
Matthew 3:8. Fruits, fruit (singular), is the correct reading.(1) Bring forth, literally, make. The rendering 'bring forth,' common from Tyndale down, mixes the metaphors. 'Produce,' though not pleasing, would be allowable, and suits exactly in Matthew 3:10. Therefore, presents the exhortation as the consequence of what precedes, or is naturally supplied. "As you profess repentance and wish to be baptized, therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance, and thus prove that you really do repent." This exhortation he might naturally address to all, (Luke 3:8) while it was especially appropriate to the Pharisees and Sadducees. It is not probable that he required them to go off and prove their repentance before he could baptize them; he only gave them a special charge.
Matthew 3:9. A great hindrance to a true repentance on their part, was the idea generally entertained among the Jews, that all the descendants of Abraham must certainly escape wrath, would assuredly be saved. (see John 8:33, John 8:39) John proceeds therefore to correct this error. Think not to say, is an exact imitation of the Greek, and signifies either 'do not think yourselves at liberty to say,' 'warranted in saying,', (compare Philippians 3:4) or more probably, 'do not think you will say,' 'do not propose to yourselves to say' (compare Luke's 'do not begin to say'). To say within yourselves, corresponds to a well-known Hebrew expression, 'to say in his heart' (Matthew 24:48; Psalms 4:4; Psalms 10:6; Psalms 14:1), and is used also in Matthew 9:21, Luke 7:39, Luke 7:49; Revelation 18:7. We have Abraham toâ€”or, forâ€”our father, with emphasis on 'father,' as shown in Greek by the order of the words. Descended as they were from Abraham, they thought themselves perfectly safe from the Messianic wrath, and in little need of repentance. One Rabbi in a Midrash even says (Wet.), "In the age to come Abraham sits beside the gates of Gehenna, and suffers no circumcised Israelite to go down"; though the Rabbi does make ingenious provision for an exception in the case of those who have sinned excessively. Edersheim: "No principle was more fully established in the popular conviction, than that all Israel had part in the world to come, and this specifically because of their connection with Abraham. This appears not only from the New Testament, from Philo, and Josephus, but from many Rabbinic passages." I say unto you, calls attention to what he is about to say, as being important. (Compare on Matthew 5:18). Of, or, out of, as the material (translated 'out of' by Noyes and Davidson). He perhaps pointed to the loose stones lying on the river-bank. The fact that God could with such perfect ease raise up children to Abraham, and so was not dependent on them for the continuation of Abraham's posterity, would suggest that they might readily be set aside from enjoying the blessings promised to Abraham's descendants. So God once threatened to Moses that he would destroy the nation, and raise up a new people from him.â€”This representation that the Messianic blessings would not necessarily be enjoyed by all Jews as such, accords with that of John 1:29, that they would not be limited to Jews, but that Messiah'takes away the sin of the world.' Compare also Paul's argument in Galatians 3:7, and Romans 4:16.
Matthew 3:10. Now also, or, already. Not only is there a coming Messianic wrath, but already there is beginning a Messianic discrimination among tile descendants of Abraham. It is therefore high time to repent (Weiss). 'Also' must be omitted; it was doubtless inserted from Luke 3:9. Even now translates 'now' in its emphatic position. Is laid unto, or, lies at, the root. Noyes. The verb is exactly 'lies.' The Greek preposition leads many to render 'is laid to the root,' i. e., applied to it in actual cutting; and timber being very scarce in Palestine, it is now common to cut down a tree at the ground (Thomson, ii., 291). But the meaning more probably is that it has been brought to the tree and lies there ready for use. Therefore, i. e., since such is the design with which the axe has been placed there. Bringeth not forth good fruit, is the same image as in Matthew 3:8; but instead of the specific idea of fruit appropriate to repentance, we have here the more general idea of good fruit. Hewn down, literally 'cut out,' viz., out of its place in the vineyard. (So Davidson). The present tenses, 'is cut out' and 'is east,' describe the action as actually going on; the discrimination is already beginning, 'even now.' In Matthew 7:19, the present tense denotes what is customary in the case of all such trees. Every, the most honoured and privileged of the nation (Matthew 3:7) not excepted. There was beginning a severe scrutiny of all, and the unworthy would be utterly excluded from that share in Messiah's kingdom which the persons addressed so confidently anticipated.
At this point Luke mentions various classes as inquiring of the preacher, 'What are we to do then?' viz., by way of producing good fruit, fruit worthy of repentance; and gives tome piquant and highly suggestive replies. (Luke 3:10-14)
Matthew 3:11. The idea of Matthew 3:10 is now (Matthew 3:11 f.) brought out by John more explicitly by contrasting with his own work that of the greatly superior personage who is coming after him, whose work will be far more discriminating and thorough. The most striking and characteristic thing about his own ministry being the baptism he administered (compare on Matthew 21:25), he employs that in stating the contrast. And it could be very naturally thus employed, since immersion in water furnished an apt and expressive image for representing the soul as being as it were immersed in, bathed in, brought completely under the influence of, thoroughly affected by, the operations of the Holy Spirit. The risen Saviour afterwards used the same image, and made the same contrast with John's baptism, in promising to the disciples the Holy Spirit's influences, to be given after his ascension. (Acts 1:5) The contrast here is certainly not, as some have imagined, between John's baptism and that actually performed by Jesus, through his disciples, (John 3:22, John 4:2) for that was as much a "water baptism" as John's. Nor does it seem proper to confine the view in any respect to the personal ministry of Jesus, but to understand a reference to the entire work of the coming Messiah, including what followed his personal ascension. This work of Messiah would differ from, and be superior to, the merely introductory work of the forerunner in the way stated.
Indeed 'here represents a very peculiar Greek particle (men) which denotes that to the clause in which it stands there will presently be opposed or contrasted some other statement (commonly introduced by 'but'). We have nothing exactly like this in English, and have to say 'indeed,' 'truly,' 'to be sure,' etc., and often we use no word, and express the idea by a mere emphasis: "I baptize in water.... but he that is coming," etc. (Compare especially men, truly, on Matthew 9:37.) Withâ€”rather, in water (as given in Amer. App.), is the proper rendering of the preposition and case here employed. In a few expressions the Greek has en, 'in' (with its case), to denote merely the instrument or means, not merely in phrases which we can imitate, as 'In what shall it be salted?', (Matthew 5:13) 'In what measure ye measure', (Matthew 7:2) but also, in imitation of a Hebrew use, in connections where the English idiom could not employ 'in,' as 'Trample them with (in) their feet' (see on "Matthew 7:6"), "Smite with (in) the sword." (Luke 22:49) Here the action was originally conceived as in a certain sense located in the feet, the sword, a conception foreign to our idiom. But it must be observed that this use of the preposition is rare, and it cannot with propriety be so understood unless the connection is such as altogether to exclude the common and natural meaning. Show, on grounds apart from this expression, that baptizing, from the nature of the action, cannot have been performed 'in water' in the strict local sense, and it will be lawful to interpret the preposition (with its case) as here used in a looser local sense, denoting the instrument or means. But here the common and natural sense of the preposition exactly agrees with the nature of the action. (Compare on Matthew 3:6, and also compare 1 Corinthians 10:2, 'in the cloud and in the sea,' and 2 Kings 5:10, 2 Kings 5:14) So here Meyer, Weiss, McClellan, etc.
But we are told by some that while John (John 1:26, John 1:31, John 1:33) has this same 'in water,' Luke, in the parallel passage to this, (Luke 3:16) and also in Acts (Acts 1:5, repeated in Acts 11:16), uses the simple case of the noun without any preposition (and so probably in Mark 1:8),(1) and that this certainly means 'with water,' denoting merely an instrument, which makes i more likely that the same was meant in Matthew and John. Then it is argued that an instrument is always wielded, and applied to the object affected by the action, and so that "baptize with water" cannot denote an immersion. But these positions are untenable. The simple Greek case may itself mean 'in water,' that is, it may be not the instrumental but the locative case.(2) And granting it to be the instrument, an instrument must be used according to its natural relation to the action. There is a curious parallel in Matthew 14:13, 'Jesus withdrew in a boat' (en ploio); here, Mark 6:32, has the simple case without a preposition (to ploio),(3). This also may mean 'in the boat,' but grant that it is instrumental, the way to make a boat the instrument of going across the lake is to put yourself in the boat. So the above argument from 'with water' falls to the ground.â€”Luke, in both the passages (Matthew 3:16, Acts 1:5) has en pneumati, 'in the Spirit,' and so Mark 1:8, the reason probably being that the local reference was obvious in speaking of 'water' as connected with baptize, but needed to be more distinctly brought out in speaking of the Holy Spirit, that the figure of immersion in the Spirit might not be overlooked.'(4)
Unto repentance. The most natural way to understand this preposition (with its case), in Greek as in English, would be 'in order that you may repent.' So the same expression in Wisdom of Solomon 11:23, 'Thou overlookest the sins of men unto repentance.' The difficulty is that John's baptism evidently presupposed repentance, and was to be followed by 'fruits worthy of repentance.' Accordingly, some urge that the preposition (with its case), 'unto,' must here denote the occasion or ground of the baptizing, a meaning which it clearly has in Matthew 12:41, and which is ascribed to it here by the Greek commentator Euthymius(1). This, however, is a very unusual and difficult use of the preposition, though certainly possible. Others take it to mean generally, 'with reference to repentance' (so Tyndale, 'in token of'). Such a meaning the preposition with its case does somewhat frequently have,(2) and that gives here a very good sense (as it would also in Luke 3:3, Mark 1:4, 'unto remission of sins'). But it is best to adhere if possible to the common and most natural sense 'in order to.' And it may perhaps be so understood if we revert (Cremer) to Matthew 3:7-8, the special occasion of what John is saying. Those whom he baptized all professed repentance, but concerning some it was very doubtful whether there was a real change of thought and purpose (see on "Matthew 3:2"), and he exhorts them to show by the appropriate fruits that such was the case. He might therefore say, "I baptize you in order that you may really repent, "including in the one view and one expression, the primary change of purpose and the subsequent results and proof thereof. This makes the design that of John in baptizing (so Hofmann in Keil), and not exactly the design of the baptism itself (as Meyer, and many). In the parallel passages of Mark and Luke, (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16) this phrase, 'unto repentance,' is not given, probably because each of them had just before spoken of it as a 'baptism of repentance.' That expression (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3; Acts 13:24, Acts 19:4) is still more indefinite than the other; by it the baptism is simply distinguished from other baptisms, characterized as a repentance-baptism (compare 'Babylonâ€”removal' Matthew 1:11), and we are left to determine, from the nature of the case and the known circumstances, what precise relation existed between the baptism and repentance.
He that cometh after me. Literally, the (one) coming behind me. The expression implies that they had heard of this coming personage before. And we know from the Talmud that the Jews frequently spoke of Messiah as Habba, 'the coming (one;'), (compare Matthew 11:8, Matthew 21:9) perhaps originally deriving it from such expressions as Zechariah 9:9, Malachi 3:1, Psalms 118:26. Mark and Luke, not writing especially for Jews, do not here use this Jewish phrase. (Mark 1:7, Luke 3:16) Mightier than I, not only superior in position, but more powerful, able to accomplish what he could not. Not worthy to bear, or, more exactly, in colloquial phrase, 'not fit to carry.' The word rendered shoes (or, sandals) signifies 'what is bound under,' and denotes the sole of leather, raw hide, or wood which they wore under the foot, and which, fastened to the foot by a thong or strap, constituted its entire covering. A Bedouin from beyond Jordan may be seen to-day with just such sandals of untanned sheepskin. It was the office of the lowest menial among all the slaves of a household, to carry his master's sandals, as when he went to the bath, or to untie and remove them when he entered the house; this last being the expression given by Mark and Luke as used here or on a similar occasion. Somewhat similar among us would be the task of removing muddy overshoes. A like menial service was that of washing the feet after removing the sandals. (Luke 7:44, John 13:3 ff,) We learn from Luke 3:15 that the people were beginning to meditate whether John himself might be the Messiah, and it was partly to meet this that John told them he was so immensely inferior to the Coming One. In general, John is singularly free from self-assertion. While boldly rebuking the most influential classes, (Matthew 3:7) and braving the wrath of Herod Antipas, (Matthew 14:4) he speaks of himself only in the way of declaring the incomparable superiority of the Coming One. (compare John 3:28 ff.) Great force of character, united with great humility and modesty, must command hearty admiration.
He, emphatic, as in Matthew 1:21. With the Holy Ghost and with fire. Better, in the Holy Spirit and fire. Rev. Ver. The original has no article, and some propose to render 'in Holy Spirit,' i. e., in holy spiritual influences. But the phrase Holy Spirit was so definite by reason of its common use, as to be for Matthew's readers virtually a proper name, so that, like other proper names, it could he used with or without the article; and it is used without the article in numerous instances, particularly when in connection with a preposition, as here. English idiom requires the article, as in many other cases where the Greek may omit it. Compare 'holy covenant' in 1 Maccabees 1:15, and 'all Scripture' in 2 Timothy 3:16. As to 'Ghost,' and 'Spirit,' see on "Matthew 1:18". Observe how helpful it would be to have the same word 'Spirit' here as in 2 Timothy 3:16, and 2 Timothy 4:1. This statement of John's is plainly a figure, as in Matthew 3:10, Matthew 3:12. To say that John's baptism was only in water, and Christian baptism is both in water and the Spirit, is curiously to mix the image and that which it signifies. But such mixing need not surprise us, for much confusion has arisen in Christian thought from the wide-spread notion of baptismal regeneration. John here says that while he immersed men in water, the symbol of a new and pure life, the mightier Coming One would (so to speak) immerse them in the Holy Spirit, who really produces such a life. Jesus did not literally immerse men in the Spirit, any more than he literally smote men with an axe, (Matthew 3:10) or cleansed them with a fan. (Matthew 3:12) Plumptre: "As heard and understood at the time, the baptism with the Holy Ghost would imply that the souls thus baptized would be plunged, as it were, in that creative and informing Spirit which was the source of life and holiness and wisdom." It is likewise explained as a figurative immersion by Neander, Meyer, Bleek. This figurative use of the term resembles such expressions of profane writers as 'immersed in ignorance,' 'in sorrow,' 'in debts,' as also our Saviour's description of his own dreadful sufferings as a baptism. (Luke 12:50) In English too we are constantly saying, 'immersed in business,' 'plunged in despair,' 'bathed in delight,' etc.
But what is meant by the additional words, and fire? Observe that in the preceding verse the fire receives the unfruitful trees, and in the next verse the fire consumes the chaff. Matthew 3:11 evidently teaches the same general lesson, and it would therefore be natural to understand the fire which ends each of the three parallel sentences in essentially the same way as a fire which consumes the wicked. And notice that Luke (Luke 3:16) who also gives 'and fire,' has the other images of burning the unfruitful trees and the chaff, (Luke 3:9, Luke 3:17) while in Mark 1:8, John 1:33; and Acts 1:5, Acts 11:16, where the other images are not mentioned, neither are the words 'and fire' given. This would seem to leave no doubt as to the meaning of these words. The objection is that in the other images (Matthew 3:10, Matthew 3:12) two classes are distinguished, and the destiny of each is separately stated; while here it is simply 'shall baptize you,' one class of persons, 'in the Holy Spirit and fire,' without even repeating the preposition before 'fire'â€”as if it meant one class and one destiny, though stated by means of two terms. But the 'you' whom John is addressing are not simply the believing and penitent, but the Jews in general, with special reference at the outset (Matthew 3:7 f.) to the Pharisees and Sadducees. Now it had been predicted by Malachi (Matthew 3:1 ff.) that the messenger of the covenant would come and purify the nation (especially the Levites, who were necessary to a bettered worship and national life), as silver is purified in a furnace; and this does not simply mean that he would purify individuals by consuming what was faulty in them, but Malachi 4:1-3 shows it to mean that he would purify the nation by consuming the wicked individuals like 'stubble,' and then the truly righteous of the nation would rejoice and prosper. The nation would be, as it were, thrown into a furnace of fire, which would consume the wicked among them, and leave a purified nation. In like manner, John says, the mighty Coming One will 'plunge you,' the Jews whom he is addressing, 'in the Holy Spirit and fire'; some will be consumed and some preserved, a purified people. Just how far the 'Holy Spirit' in John's mouth differs from the O. T. and approaches the N. T. idea, it would be very difficult, and is not necessary, to determine. But it can scarcely be questioned that John's thought is connected with that of Malachi, and if so, the explanation just offered is in all probability correct. Compare Bleek. More or less similar is the view of Origen, Fritzsche, Neander, de Wette, Hengstenberg, Meyer, Reynolds.â€”Many, however, suppose that the 'Holy Spirit' is to be taken in the strictly N. T. sense, and 'fire' is simply appended as an image of the Spirit's purifying work upon the individual, consuming his faults. So Chrys., most Roman Catholic commentators, Calvin, Olshausen, Ewald, Godet, Edersh., Morison, and a number of others. Some of these think we have a similar expression in John 3:5, 'born of water and the Spirit,' and some refer to the tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost as an actual exhibition of the image which John here employed. Such a view disregards the striking parallelism of Matthew's three sentences, and rejects the guidance of Malachi. Our Lord promised the disciples (Acts 1:5) a baptism in the Holy Spirit ere many days, which wan fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, and on that day appeared tongue-shaped flames sit ting on their heads, and obviously symbolizing the power of speaking with other tongues. And it is maintained that this is what John meant. But Jesus did not in his promise add 'and fire,' and there is no mention of fiery tongues in the case of Cornelius and his household, when Peter expressly recognized (Acts 11:16) a fulfilment of the Saviour's promise. Nay, the forerunner meant something deeper and broader than the power of speaking with tongues; he was describing the great work of discrimination, by which some would be destroyed and the rest purified.
That difficulty was long ago felt as to the meaning of 'fire,' appears from its being omitted here by many late MSS., and a few late versions and Fathers; yet none of them omit it in Luke 3:16. Wyclif and Rheims have 'in the Holy Ghost and fire.' Tyndale introduced 'with the Holy Ghost and with fire,' (altering the preposition and repeating it), followed by the other early Protestant versions, and now by Alford and Darby. 'In the Holy Spirit and fire' is the rendering of Bible Union Revision, of Noyes ('in fire') and Davidson, and Amer. App. to Rev. Ver.
Matthew 3:12. A third image for the work of scrutiny and separation, and here expressly referred, as in Matthew 3:11, to Messiah. Fan, more exactly a winnowing-shovel; with this the Jews threw up their wheat against the wind, which would blow away the chaff, (compare Psalms 1:4, Daniel 2:35, Hosea 13:3) while the grain fell in a heap. The 'threshing-floor,' a circular space of beaten earth, was then cleaned up, and the straw and chaff sometimes burned. (See Isaiah 5:24) Thoroughly purge, or, cleanse. The examination and discrimination will be complete. The garner, or granary, barn, literally, place for putting away. The Jews often used underground granaries, cut in the solid rock, like cisterns, or vaulted and cemented In these grain could be kept for years. The term rendered chaff includes also bits of straw, broken by the treading. With unquenchable fire. We may here render 'with fire,' instrumental, or 'in fire,' locative, just as in Matthew 3:11 and Matthew 13:40. Compare 'into fire,' Matthew 3:10, and Mark 9:43. By saying unquenchable fire, he turns attention away from the literalities of the image to the eternal thing represented. So with 'eternal tabernacles' in Luke 16:9. Rev. Ver.
Luke adds (Luke 3:18, B. U. Ver.) that 'with many other exhortations he published the good tidings to the people,' varying his practical exhortations while adhering to the same general good news that the reign of heaven was near at hand. This statement, as shown by what follows in Luke, is designed to cover the whole period of John's ministry. In John 1:26 f., we have two instances of testimony to Jesus after his baptism, somewhat similar to that of Matthew 3:10-12, borne before the event.
Homiletical And Practical
The personal character of John the Baptist. (1) His courageous severity, Matthew 3:7, Matthew 14:4. (2) His practical wisdom, Luke 3:10-14. (3) His humility and unselfishness, Matthew 3:11, John 3:27-30.â€”religious benefits of solitude, as illustrated by the case of John.â€”-The ministry of John. (1) Its subjects and spirit. (2) Its relation to the ministry of Jesus. (3) The great effects it produced, Matthew 3:5, Matthew 11:11.â€”Jer. Taylor: "John was like the morning star, or the blushings springing from the windows of the east, foretelling the approach of the Sun of righteousness."Luther: "New things. (1) A new prophet; (2) A new ceremony; (3) A. new preaching; (4) A new king."
Matthew 3:2. The calls to repentance, (1) By the prophets, (2) By John, (3) By Jesus, (4) By the apostles. The old exhortation, 'repent,' and the new motive, 'for the reign,' etc.â€”Henry: "True penitents have other thoughts of God and Christ, and sin and holiness, and this world and the other, than they have had, and stand otherwise affected toward them. The change of the mind produces a change of the way."
Matthew 3:3. Preparation for Christ's reign: (1) In what it consistsâ€”confessing and forsaking sins. (2) How it is exhibited, (a) by baptism, Matthew 3:6, (b) by fruit, Matthew 3:8.' (3) How men are induced to make itâ€”by the voice of one crying.â€”Ed Irving: "I do therefore consider the Baptist as our pattern and permission to take strong weapons of argument and terrible denunciation, wherewith to clear away obstructions, and make a highway for the descent of our Lord. Christ came not until the Baptist had come. The gospel of salvation cometh not until the fear of condemnation and ruin hath seized us. The Baptist rested his lever upon the instant coming of Christ, and from that fulcrum took his purchase upon the present." Chrysostom: "The Prophet and the Baptist go upon the same ideas; the Prophet says, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord,' the Baptist, 'Produce fruits worthy of repentance.' "
Matthew 3:4. The first Elijah and the second Elijah. (compare Matthew 11:14) Bengel: "Even John's food and raiment preach Ed." â€”Jer. Taylor: "The preacher's life is his best sermon "'â€”Ed Irving: "And what is there good that cometh not out of suffering? and what is there great that cometh not out of self-denial? what is there new, in knowledge or in virtue, that comets not out of solitary thought? and what is there noble and lasting in purpose that cometh not out of long nursing and strengthening in the secret chambers of the mind?" â€”Hall: "Never will Christ come into that soul, where the herald of repentance hath not been before him."
Matthew 3:6. Relations between confession of sin and baptism.
Matthew 3:7. The wrath to come. (1) There is still a wrath to come. (2) We ought to flee from it. (3) We ought to induce others to flee. (4) Mere alarm will not secure escape.â€”Coming to baptism unworthily: (1) With superficial views and impressions, Matthew 3:7. (2) With proud self-reliance, Matthew 3:9. (3) With no intention to live accordingly, Matthew 3:8. Ed Irving: "But rougher far than hairy raiment or rocky wild was that ungentle voice which was rung among the thousands of Israel. Such a salutation as he opened with perhaps never smote the pride of any assembly, 'O generation of vipers!' It was bitterly, it was uncourtly, but oh, it was truly said."
Matthew 3:8. Theophylact: "We must not only flee evil, but also produce fruits of virtue."â€”Christianity is positive.
Matthew 3:9. Human pride humbled by remembering divine sovereignty.â€”Folly of relying on a pious ancestry, when not pious ourselves. Christianity does not propose to save men by nations or by races, but individually.
Matthew 3:10-12. Christianity discriminates: (1) The righteous and the wicked living together. (2) How Christianity discriminates between them. (3) The resulting rewards and punishments.
Matthew 3:10. Theophylact: "Not 'that did not produce,' but 'that does not produce'; for we must be always bearing fruit. If you showed mercy yesterday, but plunder to-day, you do not please" (God).
Matthew 3:11. Henry: "It is a great comfort to faithful ministers, to think that Jesus Christ is mightier than they, can do that for them, and that by them, which they cannot do; his strength is perfected in their weakness.... Those whom God puts honour upon, are thereby made very humble and low in their own eyes."
Matthew 3:12. John's illustrations are all drawn from familiar objects, and mainly ruralâ€”from fruit-trees, cutting with an axe, threshing and winnowing grain, stones that lie around, a servant carrying his master's sandals, the baptism he is performing, the customs as to marriage.â€”Luther: (John 3:29) "Such preaching as John's does not pass away without fruits."
Baptism Of Jesus
The baptism of Jesus forms the transition from the ministry of John to that of Jesus himself. It is less fully described by Mark, (Mark 1:9-11) and Luke. (Luke 3:21-22) John's Gospel gives no immediate account of it, but perhaps alludes to it afterwards. (John 3:26)
Matthew 3:13. Then is a connective frequently employed by Matthew (e. g., Matthew 3:5, Matthew 3:15, Matthew 4:1, Matthew 4:5, Matthew 4:10-11). In some cases it is used strictly, in others loosely, designating a period of considerable extent, like the phrase 'in those days' in Matthew 3:1, which is here used by Mark (Mark 1:9) Matthew does not here mean that Jesus appeared at the moment when John was speaking the preceding words, but in general, at the time when John was engaged in baptizing and preaching, as just described. We have no means of ascertaining how long he had been thus engaged before Jesus appeared. We learn from Luke, (Luke 3:23. Rev. Ver.) that Jesus, when he began to teach, was about thirty years of age; and supposing that John began at the same age, his ministry had already been exercised some six months. (Luke 1:26) But it is a mistake to say that John must have begun at the age of thirty, for the age fixed by the law as to Levites, (Numbers 4:3, Numbers 4:33) was shortly afterwards lowered to twenty-five, (Numbers 8:24) and by David was for a special reason further reduced to twenty; (1 Chronicles 23:24-27) and so continued under Hezekiah, (2 Chronicles 31:17) and after the captivity, (Ezra 3:8) and most likely in the time of Christ, when David's courses of priests were certainly maintained, and probably also his general arrangement as to Levites. Luke says it was 'when all the people were baptized' (of course a general expression, not strictly universal), which implies the lapse of at least several months, if we consider the journeys necessary. As Galilee is not mentioned in Matthew 3:5, we may suppose that the people of Galilee in general came later than those of Judea, and we should thus have an external reason also for Jesus' late arrival, besides his internal reasons. (Keim). Others from Galilee are soon after mentioned (John 1:35-47) as disciples of John. The traditional day of our Lord's baptism is 6 January ('Epipbany,' manifestation), but that is unlikely. More probably John began in spring, and Jesus was baptized the following autumn, of A. D. 26; but no exact determination is made.
Cometh, arrives, makes his appearance, as in Matthew 3:1. From Galilee, i. e., Nazareth (Matthew 2:22 f.), as Mark here expressly states. At Nazareth, Jesus has been living since his infancy (see above at close of Matthew 2). As to Galilee, see on Matthew 4:12. To Jordan. The traditional place is nearly opposite Jericho. (See on Matthew 3:6.) But the place cannot be determined. John's testimony to Jesus, apparently a few weeks later, was given at Bethany beyond Jordan John 1:28. Bethabara is a false reading, but we do not know where this Bethany was, besides that John may have moved in the meantime, as he certainly moved once (John 3:23), and probably more than once. (John 10:40) Conder and Geikie (compare Stanley) think the place of our Lord's baptism was far up the river, near Bethlehem, where Conder found a ford now called Abarah, 'crossing.' This locality would suit the circumstances, but the reading Bethabara, must unquestionably be rejected. Bethany might (Kohler) very well mean 'ship-town' (aniyah, 'ship'), as Bethabara means 'ford-town' or 'ferry town.' A village supported by boating on the river might perish after the desolation of the country by the Romans, and so Origen could not bear of it, and avowedly changed Bethany to Bethabara. The similar name of the village near Jerusalem probably signified 'date-town,' or 'poor-town.' To be baptized. The construction of the original distinctly implies, what the connection also would indicate, that he came with that design. Of him, where modern English would say 'by.' (See on Matthew 1:22.)
Matthew 3:14 f. The reluctance of John to baptize Jesus, with what was said by them on the subject, is recorded by Matthew alone.(1)
But John forbadeâ€”literally, was hindering him. The imperfect tense is occasionally thus used to denote an attempted action, since some actions, if engaged in but not completed, must be afterwards regarded as only attempted. This sense, in all cases, grows out of the nature of the action and the circumstances, the tense itself having the same meaning as elsewhere.(1) The verb rendered 'hinder' is compounded with a preposition, which increases its force, 'was completely hindering,' 'earnestly sought to hinder.' In the next clause, all the pronouns are emphatic: 'I have need to be baptized by thee, and thou comest to me !' or, 'and comest thou to me?' an expression of surprise, whether it be understood as an exclamation (Euthym.), or as a question. (Compare John 13:6) In like manner, John's mother had felt unworthy of a visit from the mother of her Lord. (Luke 1:43) It may be (Lutteroth) that as John received the confession of others, and administered to them the symbol of purification, he often remembered that he too had sins to confess and turn away from, and therefore felt on this occasion that he would gladly receive baptism from his recognized superior. There is no sufficient ground for supposing that he distinctly expected to receive this, but he felt the 'need' of confession, repentance, and symbolical purification. And the idea of Jesus administering baptism would not be strange, for he did afterwards baptize many, by the hands of his disciples. (John 3:22; John 4:1 f.) The notion of some Fathers (as Chrys.) that John was afterwards actually baptized by Jesus, is not only without warrant, but seems excluded by the language of John 3:26-28; for John's followers would in that case have expressed no surprise, and John would have settled the matter at once. (A Lapide). To understand John as here indicating the expectation that Jesus will baptize him in the Holy Spirit (Gill, others), is strangely to confound the literal and the figurative, as wild allegorizing often leads men to do. Suffer it to be so now, or, perhaps, 'suffer me now,' as indicated by the last clause, 'then he suffers him.' Suffer now that I take the position of inferiority to thee by receiving baptism at thy hands; the time has not yet come for me to assume my destined position. Becometh us. Some understand 'us' of Jesus alone, but against all probability, since in the preceding verse persons were emphatic, both made and since the reference to John as well as himself suits the connection. John thought it would be presumption in him, and unworthy condescension in this superior personage, if he should baptize Jesus; but Jesus declares it quite appropriate, becoming, for them bothâ€”putting the declaration, however, in the form of a general statement: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness, 'every (kind of) righteousness.' Fulfil, see on "Matthew 1:22", here signifies to perform fully. Baptism was divinely commanded (see Matthew 21:25), and though coupled with the confession of sin and avowal of repentance, was at the welcome the approach of the reign of heaven, and of a desire to share therein. It wan therefore right for all good men to be baptized; and Jesus, as a man, was under obligations to do whatever was incumbent on other good men. The remarkable relation which he and John sustained to each other and to the kingdom of heaven, did not prevent its being proper for each of them fully to perform everything that was righteous; and so i in this case did not prevent its being proper that he should be baptized, and that John should baptize him. (Compare Gill). Such seems to be the obvious and simple meaning of this expression.
But many theories have been presented as to the significance and propriety of our Lord's baptism. (1) Some hold that Jesus was baptized as a consecration to the office and work of Messiah. But was purification a consecration? It was sometimes preliminary to consecration, but the latter was effected by laying on the altar. And if the Messiah, 'the anointed,' was to be consecrated by any ceremony, it would naturally have been by anointing. (2) Others say that in baptism he was consecrated as priest. But Jesus wan not literally a priest. He had no connection whatever with the priestly line, and he did not do the work of a Jewish priest. As "a priest after the order of Melchizedek " he had nothing to do with ceremonies. (3) Many have adopted the view given already by Justin Martyr ("Tryph. "88): "Jesus did not come to the river as himself needing to be baptized, or needing the Spirit's descent upon him; but just as he was born and crucified not as needing them but for the benefit of the human race, so".... while men thought of him as a carpenter, "the Holy Spirit for the sake of mankind flew down upon him in the form of a dove," and a voice declared him the Son of God. (So in substance Chrys., Euthym). This view, as developed and expressed in modern theological phrase, is that he was baptized vicariously. (Compare John 1:29) But what Christ did for men vicariously he did because men could not do it and that they might escape the penalty of their failure; was that in any sense true of baptism? Justin's statement is in a general sense true, but the vicarious theory cannot be sustained. In general, we ought to beware of forcing the ideas of vicarious action and imputed righteousness upon those portions of Scripture which do not clearly present them. (4) A recent writer (Kirtley on "Design of Baptism") says that the chief object of the baptism of Jesus was to symbolize at the beginning the crowning acts of his work; that our Lord" did 'fulfil all righteousness,' actually in his work, symbolically in his baptism"; and that he "associates his followers with himself in this matter," saying, "In this ordinance it is fitting that I and my followers should fulfil all righteousness." This fancy is ingenious but far-fetched, and the latter part quite baseless, (5) The simple and natural view, for all who do not insist on carrying back the Pauline doctrine of imputed righteousness, is the one already stated. It was proper for all devout Jews to be baptized; therefore it was proper for Jesus. If one so deeply, though hitherto quietly devout, had stayed away from the ministry and baptism of the new prophet, it would have been setting a very bad example, unless explained; and explanation of his future position and work could not then be given, even if it was then entirely plain to his own mind. Notwithstanding the peculiar mission of John and Jesus, it was becoming that they should fully perform everything righteous. (So in substance, Meyer, Ewald, Bleek, Farrar, Geikie, Edersh.; Grotius already, and compare Calvin. Davidson translates 'every duty.' Hase, Keim, and others, regard baptism in the case of Jesus as simply a vow of devotion to the approaching Messianic reign, which is part of the truth).. A somewhat similar case occurs in Matthew 17:24 ff. Jesus there intimates that he might, as the Son of God, claim exemption from the payment of the temple contributions, but that the rulers might make his refusal an excuse for rejecting him, and so he will do as all devout Jews do, and pay it.
Matthew 3:16. Straightway, or, immediately. The stress laid on his going up immediately might possibly be understood as meaning that whereas in that warm climate the newly baptized often stood some time in the river, waiting till others had been baptized and many could ascend together, Jesus was alone in this matter and ascended without delay. Euthymius mentions the view that others were detained by John in the water till they confessed their sins, and Jesus went up immediately because he had no sins to confess; but it would seem much more likely that the confession was made before than after the baptism. The true explanation seems to be furnished by Mark, who says (Mark 1:10), 'and straightway, coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened.' This makes it likely that in Matthew also the real thought is that the opening of the heavens and descent of the dove followed immediately upon the baptism. Events followed each other quickly-baptized, ascended, saw. (Keim.) The sense is brought out by putting only a comma after 'water,' and reading right on. Luke 3:21 has not the word 'immediately,' but what he says is to the same effect. Out of, or, from. This preposition does not in itself show whether he had been in the water. The correct text in Mark 1:10 is 'out of,' and does show that he had been in the water; and so in Acts 8:39. When we say that a person has just come 'from the house,' 'from the town,' we regard the house or town, so far as this expression is concerned, as the point of departure; the circumstances will usually indicate whether he was in the house or town before coming;. (e.g., Acts 13:13, Acts 16:11, Acts 25:1) So the same action is frequently described by 'from' and 'out of,' the latter expressly stating what the former leaves to be understood. Thus in Matthew 7:4, Rev. Ver.: 'Let me cast out the mote from thine eye,' (most MSS.); and in Matthew 3:5, 'out of thine eye.' In Matthew 17:18, departed, or came forth from him, while Mark 9:25 has 'out of him.' Compare on Matthew 24:1. So in Tobit 6:8. 'A fish leaped up from the river, and wished to devour the lad.' Certainly the fish had been in the river. Here in Matthew the connection and circumstances make it plain that Jesus had been in the water, and so Tyndale translated 'out of,' followed by other English versions down to the common version. Even the Rheims, abandoning Wyclif's 'fro,' and taking liberties with the Vulgate de, renders 'out of.' The correct translation in Matthew is however 'from,' and so all recent versions. But the rendering of the older versions shows that they plainly saw what the facts were. (Tyndale and his followers render similarly in Matthew 14:13 and Luke 12:54. Textus Receptus) As to the exact force of the expression 'out of' (Mark and Acts) in such a case, compare below on Matthew 17:9, literally, 'out of the mountain.' This means that they had been in, within, the limits represented by the mountain, though not under its soil. And so it is conceivable that 'out of the river,' if that were the expression here, might under peculiar circumstances be used where one had only been amid the reeds on the shore, or under the steep bankâ€”anywhere within the space denoted by the river (compare on Matthew 3:6). Such an expression would be possible in such a sense, however unlikely to be used. But 'out of the water' must signify that the person had been within the limits denoted by the water; and the bank, though in some sense a part of the river, is in no sense a part of the water. Of course these expressions do not of themselves show that the person has been enveloped in the water; we may speak of a man as 'in the water' when he is simply standing in it. It would thus be possibleâ€”however improbable and unnatural if we had no guide here but the preposition 'out of' in Mark and the circumstances in Matthew, to understand that Jesus merely stood in the stream and had water put upon his head. But when these expressions stand in connection with baptize, which everybody agrees primarily and commonly meant 'immerse', then the inference is inevitable.
The heavens were opened unto him,(1) not merely signifying so that he could see into the heavens, but for him, for his benefit, so as to affect or concern him. 'Him' is naturally understood as referring to Jesus, the subject of the preceding clause. Some writers urge that John is the subject of the preceding verses, and thus of the whole connection; but Matthew 3:16 introduces a distinct subdivision of the narrative.â€”Luke mentions (Luke 3:21) that Jesus was at the time praying.â€”The opening of the heavens was doubtless an actual miraculous appearance, such as is frequently mentioned elsewhere. (Ezekiel 1:1, Isaiah 64:1, Acts 7:56, Revelation 4:1) Mark, in his vivid way has, literally, 'he saw the heavens splitting,' in the act of parting asunder. And he saw, i. e., Jesus saw. Mark (Mark 1:10) unmistakably refers the seeing to Jesus, and it is natural so to understand here. Some say that, if so, 'him' at the end of the sentence would have to be 'himself,' but this is a mistake (Winer, 151 189. Compare John 1:48). We learn from John 1:32 that the Baptizer also saw, as it had been promised he should. Luke merely states the objective fact that the heaven opened and the Spirit descended, without saying who saw. We cannot decide whether any one else than Jesus and John saw and heard, but probably not. On the occasion spoken of in John 12:28 if., the people heard a sound from heaven, which they thought was thunder, but did not distinguish words. At the appearance of Jesus to Saul, (Acts 9:7, Acts 22:9) they that were with him saw the light and heard a sound, but did not distinguish the words. So probably here. True, the testimony as given by Matthew, 'This is,' etc., was addressed to some other than Jesus himself, but it is enough to understand that it was addressed to John, as in John 17:5 to but a few persons. John shortly afterwards (John 1:32-34) testified to what he had seen. Descending like a dove, literally, as if. The expression leaves it doubtful whether the comparison is with the form of a dove, or with a dove's manner of descending. Precisely the same expression 'as if' is employed by Mark, Luke, and John. (John 1:32) Luke says, 'descended in bodily shape, like (as if) a dove,' which naturally, though not necessarily, indicates that it was in the shape of a dove. Expositors are here greatly divided. But it is certain that some bodily form was assumed. That of the gentle and guileless dove (compare Matthew 10:16) would be natural and suggestive, while a dove's manner of descending is hardly so peculiar and striking that a mere resemblance to it in movement would have been carefully recorded by each of the Evangelists. It seems therefore reasonable to adhere to the ancient opinion (Justin Martyr, Origen, Chrys., and others), that the Spirit descended in the form of a dove. It has been often repeated that a Rabbinical interpretation of Genesis 1:2, likens the Spirit of God 'brooding upon the face of the waters' to a dove. But Edersheim, Vol I., p. 287, quite explains this away, and also states that the Targum on Song of Solomon 2:12, which declares 'the voice of the turtle' to be the voice of the Holy Spirit, dates considerably later than the Talmud. So there seems to be no ground for the Jewish claim, that this appearance of a dove has earlier Rabbinical parallels. Yet if the claim were well supported, it would not be surprising. We recognize it as one of the excellencies of the Scriptures, that the form of the revelation is constantly in accordance with the modes of conception natural to man, and even sometimes conformed to the peculiar ways of thinking of the people chosen to receive it. Compare on Matthew 7:3-5. Morison quotes Varenius as saying,"It was not as an eagle, but as a dove; an animal corresponding among birds to the lamb among beasts." And lighting, or coming, upon him. It was idle to translate the plain 'coming' by 'lighting.' The Baptizer afterwards testified (John 1:32) that it 'abode,' or 'remained, on him,' i. e., probably for some time, thus symbolizing the great fact that the Mediator was to be henceforth permanently and peculiarly in union with and under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Accordingly we find immediately after (Matthew 4:1) that Jesus is said to be 'led up by the Spirit,' etc. (Compare John 3:34) The coming of the Spirit upon our Lord was so very peculiar in its relation to his office, that we are scarcely warranted in taking it as the ground of a petition that the Spirit would bless any ordinary baptismal occasion. Such a blessing should be fervently sought, but hardly on this ground.
Matthew 3:17. And lo! a voice from(1)â€”out ofâ€”heavenâ€”rather, the heavens, plural, as in the preceding verse (see on Matthew 3:2). So Mark, while Luke uses the singular. We also often say 'heaven' and 'the heavens' indifferently. The Talmud has many stories of a voice from heaven, coming to decide questions, to commend certain teachers, etc., and calls it Bath kol, 'daughter of a voice,' perhaps meaning a faint sound as if coming from a great distance. See Lf., Gill, Wunsche. Edersh. insists that there is no real analogy between the Bath kol and this voice from heaven. There is no intrinsic objection to the idea of a resemblance. Here also, as in Matthew 3:16, we see that revelation adapts its choice of a form to the popular mind. Other instances of a voice from heaven, see in John 12:28; and to a certain extent in Matthew 17:5; Acts 9:4; Revelation 1:10. Compare Acts 2:2. This is. Mark 1:11 (according to the best authorities for the text) and Luke 3:22, have 'Thou art my beloved son, in thee,' etc. Of course, it cannot be that both of these are the words actually spoken. As to the authenticity of the narrative, such slight and wholly unimportant variations really confirm it, being precisely such as always occur in the independent testimony of different witnesses. As to the complete inspiration of the Scriptures, we must accept it as one of the facts of the case that the inspired writers not infrequently report merely the substance of what was said, without aiming to give the exact words. So, for example, at the institution of the Supper (Matthew 26:26 ff.), in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39 ff.), in the inscription on the cross (Matthew 27:37), etc. In some instances of such variation we may suppose that the exact expressions given by the different writers were all employed in the connection, but in other cases that hypothesis is unwarranted. While such facts as these should make us cautious in theorizing as to verbal inspiration, they do not require us to lay aside the belief that the inspiration of Scripture is complete, that the inspired writers have everywhere told us just what God would have us know.
The words spoken are the same that were uttered on the Mount of Transfiguration. (Matthew 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17.) The person referred to was known in that case by the transfigured appearance, and here by the descent of the dove upon him. The Greek is more emphatic: 'this is my son, the beloved.'â€”There is no propriety in saying, with some expositors, that 'beloved' signifies 'only begotten.' As applied to our Lord, the two terms are to a certain extent equivalent, and they are sometimes confounded by the Sept. translators, but there is of course, a distinction between them. In whom I amâ€”or, wasâ€”well pleased, or, 'in whom I delighted.' The tense of the verb may be understood as denoting what took place at some indefinite past time, and from the nature of the case still holds good; as in Matthew 23:2, literally, 'The Scribes and the Pharisees sat down in Moses' seat,' and j so are sitting there nowâ€”where in English we should say, 'have sat down.' (So Winer, 278 347, Buttm., 198.) If this view be l adopted, the rendering of the Common Version expresses the substantial meaning pretty well. But the Greek tense more naturally denotes some past time, to be determined from the connection, from the nature of the case, or from other teachings of Scripture. The time here referred to might be that indicated by Psalms 2:7; by Isaiah 42:1 (which is perhaps alluded to here, and is quoted below in Matthew 12:18); also by John 17:24, Ephesians 1:4. In the depths of eternity, before creation began, God loved, delighted in, his Eternal Son; and now at the baptism and the transfiguration, he bears witness to him, alluding to such declarations as the above, and saying: 'This is my Son, the beloved, in whom my soul delighted.' This latter explanation is perhaps preferable, but it is hard to decide; and both agree as to the main resulting sense, that the Father delights in him now. This declaration might make more real to the human mind of Jesus that peculiar sonship to God of which he had in childhood already indicated consciousness. (Luke 2:49) Such a view connects itself (Calvin) with the fact that he was praying (Luke 3:21-22) when the voice came. It was also a commendation of him to John, who soon after bore witness before all (John 1:34) 'that this is the Son of God'; just as at the transfiguration the voice came to the three disciples also, who were to testify at the proper time. (Matthew 17:9.)â€”Apocryphal writers in the second and third centuries make fanciful additions to this account, as that a great light shone round the place, that a fire was kindled in the Jordan (perhaps a fancy wrought out of Matthew 3:11), and that the voice added, 'I to-day have begotten thee.'
Homiletical And Practical
Keil: "The baptism of Jesus the culmination of John's ministry, and the beginning of that of Jesus." Ewald: "The birth-hour of Christianity." Unknown in Aquinas: "As when the morning star has risen, the sun does not wait for that star to set, but rising as it goes forward, gradually obscures its brightness; so Christ waited not for John to finish his course, but appeared while he yet taught."
Matthew 3:13. Importance of Baptism: Not as carrying with it regeneration, or procuring remission, but (1) an imitation of Christ's example; (2) an act of Christ's own appointment Matthew 28:19; (3) an oath of allegiance to Christ, 'in the name'; (4) a symbol of purification from sin through Christ, Acts 22:16 (5) a symbol of burial and resurrection in union with Christ, Romans 6:4.
Romans 6:14. How often are well-meant but utterly mistaken efforts made to dissuade persons from what is entirely right. Such efforts frequently proceed, as here, from the misapplication of something that is true.â€”John's twofold difficulty (compare Lange); (1) to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were unworthy of his baptism; (2) To baptize Jesus, of whom his baptism was unworthy.â€”John's baptism highly honoured: (1) It was of divine appointment, John 1:33; (2) It gave name to his whole work, 'the baptism of John' (Matthew 21:25), John the Baptizer; (3) It was received by great multitudes; (4) Even the Saviour submitted to it; (5) Jesus baptized on like conditions, (John 3:22, John 4:1-2; Mark 1:14).
John 1:15. Here for the first time in this Gospel our Lord presents an example to us. Let us be careful in all that follows to seek his footsteps and learn to walk in them. (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6; 1 Corinthians 11:1)â€”A regard for what is becoming requires us not merely to consider the opinions of mankind, but our own real character and relations. To consider in this high sense what becomes us, is an exalted and inspiring view of life. Compare Hebrews 2:10.â€”Our Lord's baptism as an example: (1) It is right for those who wish to take part in the Messiah's reign to be baptized. (Jesus regarded this as a part of righteousness.) (2) The most extraordinary character and circumstances do not make it becoming to neglect this duty. (3) The mistaken opposition of devout friends should not prevent our performing it. (4) Loving obedience is apt to be followed by an approving testimony. Henry: "They who are of greatest attainments in gifts and graces should yet in their place bear their testimony to instituted ordinances by a humble and diligent attendance on them, that they may give a good example to others." Ambrose: "Also like a wise master inculcating his doctrines as much by his own practice as by word of mouth, he did that which he commanded his disciples to do. The Roman Cato said, 'Submit to the law which thou thyself hast enacted.' "
Hebrews 2:16. Griffith: "Just as the 'veil of the temple was rent in twain' to symbolize the perfect access of all men to God, (Hebrews 10:19-20) so here the heavens are 'rent asunder' (same Greek word), to show how near God is to Jesus and Jesus is to God. So in John 1:51, Rev. Ver., 'Ye shall see heaven opened, and the angels ascending and descending' (to and fro between me and God), that is, You shall see that I am living in uninterrupted communication with the Father." â€”Luther: "Highest things. (1) The highest preacher, God. (2) The highest pulpit, the heavens. (3) The highest sermon: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' "
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Broadus, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3". "John Broadus' Commentary on Matthew". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany