Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 3:14

But John tried to prevent Him, saying, "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Baptism;   Humility;   Jesus, the Christ;   John;   Scofield Reference Index - Gospel;   Thompson Chain Reference - Humble;   Humility;   Humility-Pride;   Leaders;   Religious;   The Topic Concordance - Baptism;   Holy Spirit;   Jesus Christ;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Baptism;   Humility;   Humility of Christ, the;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Jesus christ;   John the baptist;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Church, the;   John the Baptist;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Holy Ghost;   Hutchinsonians;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jesus Christ;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Baptism;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Ordinances;   Trinity;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jordan;   Mss;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Atonement (2);   Attributes of Christ;   Baptism ;   Confession (of Sin);   Doctrines;   Endurance;   John the Baptist;   Majesty (2);   Pre-Eminence ;   Premeditation;   Redemption (2);   Sinlessness;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Kingdom of christ of heaven;   Kingdom of god;   Kingdom of heaven;   Levi;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - John, the Baptize;   Jesus of Nazareth;   Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Forbid;   John the Baptist;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Baptism;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - John the Baptist;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for March 26;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

John forbad him - Earnestly and pressingly opposed him: this is the proper import of the words διεκωλευεν αυτον . I have observed that δια, in composition, most frequently, if not always, strengthens the signification in classic authors. - Wakefield.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

John forbade him - Refused him.

I have need - It is more suitable that I should be baptized with thy baptism, the Holy Spirit, than that thou shouldest be baptized in water by me. I am a sinner, and unworthy to administer this to the Messiah.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-3.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

But John would have hindered him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

This testimony of John the Baptist to the sinless nature of Christ is doubly effective because he was a cousin of our Lord. From the intimacy of the family circle, the testimony of Jesus' perfect life was attested, no less than from his public deeds. John preached the "baptism of repentance for the remission of sins"; and since Christ had no sins of which to repent, and as John did not know of our Lord's other reason for being baptized, he would have prevented it.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

But John forbad him, saying,.... It appears from hence, that John knew Christ before he baptized him, and before he saw the Spirit descending and abiding on him, John 1:33 wherefore that was not a signal, whereby he should first know him but whereby his knowledge of him should be confirmed; which knowledge of him he had, not through his kindred to him, or by any conversation he had with him before, but by immediate, divine revelation: upon which account he "forbad him"; refused to administer the ordinance to him; earnestly entreated that he would not insist upon it; desired to be excused being concerned herein: and this he did, partly lest the people should think Christ was not so great a person as he had represented him to be; yea, that he was one of the penitent sinners John had admitted to his baptism; and chiefly because of the majesty and dignity of Christ's person, who he knew stood in no need of such an outward ordinance; and because of his own unworthiness to administer it to him, as is evident from what follows,

I have need to be baptized of thee; not with water baptism, which Christ never administered, but with the baptism of the Spirit, which was his peculiar office. Hence we learn, that though John was so holy a man, was filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, had such large measures of grace, and lived such an exemplary life and conversation; yet was far from thinking, that he was perfect and righteous in himself, but stood in need of Christ, and of more grace from him. He seems surprised that Christ should come to him, and make such a motion to him; when it was his duty and privilege to come to him daily for fresh supplies of grace, and always to trust in him for life and salvation;

and comest thou to me? who am of the earth, earthly, when thou art the Lord from heaven; "to me", a poor sinful creature, when thou art the Holy One of God; "to me", who am thy servant, when thou art Lord of all; "to me", who always stand in need of thy grace, when thou art God all sufficient.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-3.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

But John forbade him — rather, “was (in the act of) hindering him,” or “attempting to hinder him.”

saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? — (How John came to recognize Him, when he says he knew Him not, see on John 1:31-34.) The emphasis of this most remarkable speech lies all in the pronouns: “What! Shall the Master come for baptism to the servant - the sinless Savior to a sinner?” That thus much is in the Baptist‘s words will be clearly seen if it be observed that he evidently regarded Jesus as Himself needing no purification but rather qualified to impart it to those who did. And do not all his other testimonies to Christ fully bear out this sense of the words? But it were a pity if, in the glory of this testimony to Christ, we should miss the beautiful spirit in which it was borne - “Lord, must I baptize Thee? Can I bring myself to do such a thing?” - reminding us of Peter‘s exclamation at the supper table, “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” while it has nothing of the false humility and presumption which dictated Peter‘s next speech. “Thou shalt never wash my feet” (John 13:6, John 13:8).

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

John forbade him. The objection that John made to the baptism of Christ implies some knowledge of him. Their mothers were cousins, but there is no evidence that Jesus and John had ever met. The Spirit had told John to proclaim the Redeemer and had given him a sign by which he should know him. When Jesus came before him, he perhaps knew, by the Spirit, his purity, and may have believed that he was the Messiah, but as yet he "knew him not" (see John 1:33). He could not be certain until he saw the divine sign.

I have need to be baptized of thee. These words were uttered under the conviction, not certainty, that Jesus was the Christ.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-3.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Would have hindered (διεκωλυενdiekōluen). Rather “tried to prevent” as Moffatt has it. It is the conative imperfect. The two men of destiny are face to face for the first time apparently. The Coming One stands before John and he recognizes him before the promised sign is given.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-3.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Forbad ( διεκώλυεν )

The A. V., following Wyc. and Tynd., misses the meaning of the verb. As in so many instances, it overlooks the force of the imperfect tense, which expresses past action, either in progress or in process of conception, in the agent's mind. John did not forbid Jesus, but had it in mind to prevent him: was for hindering him. Hence Rev., properly, would have hindered him. Again, the preposition ( διά ) intensifies the verb, and represents strong feeling on John's part. He was moved to strenuous protest against Jesus' baptism by him.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/matthew-3.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

The Fourfold Gospel

But John would have hindered him1, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee2, and comest thou to me3?

  1. But John would have hindered him. It seemed to John too great an honor for him to baptize Jesus, and too great a humiliation for Jesus to be baptized. There is some dispute as to how John came to know this righteousness of Christ, which prompted his protest. The one natural explanation is that the intimacy of the two families indicated at the beginning of Luke's account had been given kept up, and John knew the history of his kinsman.

  2. Saying, I have need to be baptized of thee. Those are most fit to administer an ordinance who have themselves deeply experienced the need of it.

  3. And comest thou to me? John felt that he needed Jesus' baptism, but could not think that Jesus needed his. The words "I", "thee", and "me", show that John contrasted the baptizers as well as the baptisms. As a human being he marveled that the Son of God should come to him to be immersed. The comings of Jesus and the purposes for which he comes are still the greatest marvels which confront the minds of men. Moreover, it should be noted that this protest of John's needed to be made, for it saved Jesus from being baptized without explanation, as if he were a sinner. Baptism without such explanation might have compromised our Lord's claim as the sinless one.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
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J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-3.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

John did not yet know that Jesus was the Messiah. This fact was revealed to him by the descent of the Holy Spirit, after his baptism. (See John 1:31-34.) His remark, therefore, in this verse, is of great interest, as showing how strong an impression the private and personal character of the Savior had made upon his friends and acquaintances, before he had commenced his public ministry.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/matthew-3.html. 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

Ver. 14. But John forbade him] Flatly forbade him, and kept him out of the water with both hands earnestly; {a} not out of disobedience, but reverence, though faulty and erroneous. The very best have their blemishes. Omnibus malis Punicis inest granum putre, dixit Crates: and the fairest apple tree may have a fit of barrenness. But for involuntary infirmities, and those of daily incursion, there is a pardon of course, if sued out. And although Satan stood at the right hand of Joshua the high priest, because (as some will have it) his accusation was as true as vehement, and so Satan seemed to have the upper hand of him; yea, although he was so ill clothed, yet he stood before the angel. Christ did not abhor his presence, nor reject his service, Zechariah 3:2

I have need to be baptized of thee] There can be no flesh without filthiness, as a grave divine noteth upon this text (Dr Hall). Neither the supernatural conception nor austere life of John could exempt him from need of baptism.

And comest thou to me?] Amica συρραξες, a friendly falling out, but quickly made up. Most of our jarrings grow from mistakes. "Be swift to hear, slow to wrath;" easily satisfied. Not like glasses, which being once broken, cannot be pieced again.

" Quae modo pugnarant iungunt sua rostra columbae." Ovid.

{a} διεκωλυεν, obnixe prohibebat, ad vim praepositionis δια exprimendam.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-3.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

And yet Matthew writes:

v. 14. But John forbade Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?

This passage is not out of harmony with Joh_1:31-33, where John says that he did not know Jesus. The apparent contradiction is in the translation only. In the original the word used signifies "to recognize beyond the possibility of a doubt, to be sure of the identity. " John had known of the existence of the Messiah, either from his mother or by direct revelation, but he did not know Him personally. When Jesus came, the majesty and dignity of His bearing caused John to surmise His identity, hence his hesitancy. But the actual identifying sign, which removed all doubts and made the recognition absolute, did not happen until after the baptism, as John relates in his gospel. In the meantime, John, impressed by the moral exaltation which emanated from the person of his visitor, sought, with some persistence, to dissuade and thus hinder Him from carrying out His intention. He cannot throw off the impression that this man is greater than he, and it behooves the smaller to receive Baptism at the hands of the greater. Well might John wonder as to the reason that actuates Christ in coming and seeking Baptism. "Why does He come and seek Baptism, as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove? That will be a blessed baptism. John here is getting a sinner who in His own person has no sin, and yet is the greatest sinner, that has and bears the sin of the whole world. For this reason He permits Himself to be baptized and confesses with this action that He is a sinner. However, not for Himself, but for us. For He here takes my place and thy place and stands in our stead who are sinners, and since all, especially the arrogant saints, do not want to be sinners, He must become a sinner for all; He assumes the form of our sinful flesh and complains, as many psalms testify, on the cross and in His passion, of the weight of the sins which He bears."

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/matthew-3.html. 1921-23.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Note here, 1. The modesty of John's refusal: John forbade him, and refused to admit him. But why? 1. In regard of Christ, because he knew he needed it not: such was his majesty and greatness, that he was above it: and such was his purity and holiness, that he could not want it.

2. In respect of himself, he knew his own uncleanness: I have need to be baptized of thee, &c. He thought it unsuitable that a sinner should baptize and wash him that was no sinner.

3. With respect to the people; lest they seeing Christ baptized should apprehend him to be a sinner, and one that wanted the baptism of repentance as well as themselves.

Observe, 4. As the modesty of John's refusal, so the reason he assigns for it: I have need to be baptized of thee; as if he had said, "Thou art purity, I am pollution; thou art spirit, I am flesh; humble apprehension has this holy man of himself.

Learn, That the more holy a person is, the more sensible he is of his unholiness; where there is most grace, there is the greatest sense of the want of grace.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/matthew-3.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

14. διεκώλυεν] A much stronger word than κωλύω, implying the active and earnest preventing, with the gesture or hand, or voice, as here. The imperfect tense conveys, not that he endeavoured merely to hinder Him (see Hermann’s note on Soph. Ajax, 1105), but began to hinder Him, was hindering Him.

There is only an apparent inconsistency between the speech of John in this sense, and the assertion made by him in John 1:33, ‘I knew him not.’ Let us regard the matter in this light:—John begins his ministry by a commission from God, who also admonishes him, that He, whose Forerunner he was, would be in time revealed to him by a special sign. Jesus comes to be baptized by him. From the nature of his relationship to our Lord, he could not but know those events which had accompanied his birth, and his subsequent life of holy and unblameable purity and sanctity. My impression from the words of this verse certainly is, that he regarded Him as the Messiah. Still, his belief wanted that full and entire assurance which the occurrence of the predicted sign gave him, which the word ᾔδειν implies, and which would justify him in announcing Him to his disciples as the Lamb of God. See the ancient opinions in Maldonatus’s note.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-3.html. 1863-1878.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:14. According to John 1:33, it was revealed to the Baptist that He upon whom he should see the Spirit descending was the Messiah. It was accordingly not until this moment that the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah entered his mind; and therefore, in the Gospel of John, he says of the time which preceded this moment: κἀγὼ οὐκ ᾔδειν αὐτόν. The passage before us is not in contradiction with this, for the recognition of the Messiahship of Jesus does not yet lie at its foundation, but the prophetic anticipation of the same, which on the approach of Jesus, as that solemn decision was about to begin through the revelation of the σημεῖον, seized the soul of the Baptist involuntarily and miraculously, and yet psychologically, in keeping with the spiritual rapport prepared by revelation. Comp. Luther: “he scents the Spirit.” Accordingly, we are not to assume in our passage either a recognition only of higher excellence (Hess, Paulus, Hofmann), or a contradiction with John (Strauss, de Wette, Keim), or, after Lücke, Holtzmann, and Scholten, that the oldest and shortest tradition of Matthew contained merely Matthew 3:16-17, while Matthew 3:14-15 were a later addition of the complete Matthew,(383) which Hilgenfeld seeks to support from the silence of Justin regarding the refusal of the Baptist, whilst Keim gives, indeed, the preference to the statement of Matthew over that of John, but still allows it to be very problematical.

διεκώλυεν] Stronger than the simple verb. The word (which does not occur elsewhere in the N. T. nor in the LXX., yet in Judith 4:7; Judith 12:7, and frequently in the classical writers) is selected, in keeping with the serious opposition of the astonished John. The imperfect is descriptive, and, indeed, so much so, that “vere incipit actus, sed ob impedimenta caret eventu,” Schaefer, ad Eur. Phoen. 81. Kühner, II. 1, p. 123. John actually repelled Jesus, and did not baptize Him at once, but only when the latter had made representations to the contrary effect.

ἐγὼ χρείαν, κ. τ. λ.] Grotius: Si alter nostrum omnino baptizandus sit, ego potius abs te, ut dignissimo, baptismum petere debui. Thus spoke John in the truest feeling of his own lowliness and sinfulness, in the presence of the long-longed for One, the first recognition of whom suddenly thrilled him.

καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με;] A question indicative of the astonishment with which the Baptist, although he had received the divine declaration, John 1:33, was yet seized, through the impression made on him by the presence of the Lord. Moreover, this discourse necessarily excludes the idea that he too connected the baptism of Jesus with the profession of a confession of His sins. Yet the apocryphal Praedicatio Pauli, according to Cyprian, Opp. p. 142, Rigalt (Credner, Beitr. I. p. 360 ff.), had already made Jesus deliver a confession of sin; in the Evangelium sec. Hebraeos, on the other hand, quoted by Jerome, c. Pel. iii. 1, Jesus answers the request of His mother and His brethren to let Himself be baptized along with them: “Quid peccavi, ut vadam et baptizer ab eo? nisi forte hoc ipsum quod dixi ignorantia est.”

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-3.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 3:14. διεκώλυεν, forbade) John had not yet known that this was the Messiah. He had known, however, that the Messiah was close at hand, and that He would come to his baptism, and be indicated by a clear sign; see John 1:33. In the meanwhile, as soon as he sees Jesus, from that sympathy by which he had been moved in the womb, and from His most gracious aspect, he judges that this candidate for baptism must be the Messiah, and skilfully declares his conviction by a previous protest.(133) See Luther’s Kirchen Postille, on this passage, Fest. Epiph., Part II., ed. Spen., ff. 95, 96.— ἐγὼ, I) It is probable that John himself had not been baptized: see Luke 1:15, fin.— χρεὶαν, need) For it is elsewhere the part of the greater to baptize, of the less to be baptized, and to come on that account to one who baptizes.— ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, to be baptized by Thee) sc. with Thy baptism of the Spirit and of fire. If either of us is to be baptized by the other, I am he.— σὺ ἔρκῃ; comest Thou?) sc. seeking to be baptized.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-3.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

He did not absolutely repel him, but modestly excused himself for a time, knowing that Christ was already baptized with a more excellent baptism than he could administer to him, for God gave him the Spirit not by measure, John 3:34.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-3.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

Иоанн же удерживал Его Иоанново крещение символизировало покаяние, и Иоанн считал это ненужным для Того, Который являлся безгрешным Агнцем Божиим (ср. Ин.1:29).

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/matthew-3.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

I have need to be baptized of thee; John, being a sinner, needed that spiritual renovation, the necessity and practicability of which were taught by baptism; but Jesus Christ being perfectly holy, did not need it. John therefore did not know why he should come to him to be baptized. But Christ showed him that under the circumstances in which they were placed, it was proper. Then John baptized him.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-3.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

14.John forbade him — This clearly implies that though John was unacquainted with his person, yet the spirit of discerning within recognized the divine in Christ. So confident is John of this, that though he knows him not, he addresses Jesus as his own superior. He only needs to behold the sign that God has appointed, and then he will proclaim him to the world openly. Before that token is given John does not dare to preach him to men. In this way it will be seen that there is no contradiction, as some have supposed, with John 1:31.

I have need to be baptized of thee — John has objections. But what objections! They are deep, gentle humility itself. The rough voice of the rebuker melts down to tenderness when he sees the great, gentle One coming. I am a sinner, thou art the sinless One; I am the sent messenger, thou art the coming Jehovah-Messiah. And comest thou to me for baptism? O baptize my body and soul with thy blessed spirit.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-3.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘But John would have prevented him, saying, “I have need to be baptised of you, and do you come to me?” ’

When John saw Jesus coming he felt himself unworthy to baptise Him. As his cousin he had good reason to know of Jesus’ purity of life and special holiness towards God. While he did not yet know that He was the Anointed One (John 1:33), he knew that He was better far than he was himself. How then could he baptise Someone who was so far his moral superior? He recognised therefore that if anyone should do the baptising here it should be Jesus. And so he sought to prevent Him, not from being baptised, but from being baptised by him. He probably did not think through the fact that there was no one else fit to baptise Him either. The One Who had perplexed the great Teachers in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51), was now perplexing the greatest of all the Prophets. In both cases they had never met His like before. How then could they deal with Someone like this?

Alternatively by ‘I have need to be baptised by You’, John may have been referring to His baptising him in the Holy Spirit and fire’. Both alternatives were in fact true. But as at this stage he would not seem to have been sure that Jesus was the Coming One, it is unlikely that this was what he meant.

We have only to think to realise what a problem this must have been for John. It was not a question of trying to show that Jesus was superior to John. Of that there was no doubt, either in John’s mind or in the minds of all who really knew them both. It had been so from birth. No one could have lived the life that Jesus lived without being remarked on. His life had shone with unsullied purity from the beginning, even in the carpenter’s shop. How then could a spiritually and morally minded man like John not have been fully aware of it? But it is clear from this that even a man as holy as John was, felt himself utterly unworthy before Him. And being aware of it, how could he not then feel himself unworthy to baptise Him?

Incidentally this confirms that John did not perform mass baptisms, with many flocking into the water and baptising themselves. Had that been so Jesus could have slipped into the water and enjoyed such a baptism without John being troubled. It was because John was conscious of being the personal agent of God when he baptised that the problem arose.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-3.html. 2013.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 3:14. But John would have hindered him. Peculiar to Matthew. Began to hinder Him, by act rather than word.—I have need, continuous, habitual need.

Comest thou to me? A question of surprise, implying a recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. John’s knowledge of Jesus was sufficient to occasion the question. His subsequent declaration (John 1:33): ‘I knew him not,’ does not contradict this. He had not yet received the sign from heaven that would enable him to authoritatively proclaim Jesus as the Messiah. Compare the very decided declarations made by the Baptist immediately afterwards.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-3.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 3:14. : imperfect, pointing to a persistent (note the ) but unsuccessful attempt to prevent. His reason was a feeling that if either was to be baptised the relation ought to be inverted. To understand this feeling it is not necessary to import a fully developed Messianic theology into it, imputing to the Baptist all that we believe concerning Jesus as the Christ and the sinless one. It is enough to suppose that the visitor from Galilee had made a profound moral impression on him by His aspect and conversation, and awakened thoughts, hopes, incipient convictions as to who He might be. Nor ought we to take too seriously the Baptist’s statement: “I have need to be baptised of Thee”. Hitherto he had had no thought of being baptised himself. He was the baptiser, not one feeling need to be baptised; the censor of sinners, not the sympathetic fellow-sinner. And just here lies the contrast between John and Jesus, and between the Christ of John’s imagination and the Christ of reality. John was severe; Jesus was sympathetic. John was the baptiser of sinners; Jesus wished to be baptised, as if a sinner Himself, a brother of the sinful. In the light of this contrast we are to understand the baptism of Jesus. Many explanations of it have been given (for these, vide Meyer), mostly theological. One of the most feasible is that of Weiss (Matt.-Evan.), that in accordance with the symbolic significance of the rite as denoting death to an old life and rising to a new, Jesus came to be baptised in the sense of dying to the old natural relations to parents, neighbours, and earthly calling, and devoting Himself henceforth to His public Messianic vocation. The true solution is to be found in the ethical sphere, in the sympathetic spirit of Jesus which made Him maintain an attitude of solidarity with the sinful rather than assume the position of critic and judge. It was impossible for such an one, on the ground of being the Messiah, or even on the ground of sinlessness, to treat John’s baptism as a thing with which He had no concern. Love, not a sense of dignity or of moral faultlessness, must guide His action. Can we conceive sinlessness being so conscious of itself, and adopting as its policy aloofness from sinners? Christ’s baptism might create misunderstanding, just as His associating with publicans and sinners did. He was content to be misunderstood.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-3.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Matthew 3:14. But John forbade him — Out of modesty he would have declined the service, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee — To receive a larger measure of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit from thee, and comest thou to me — on such an occasion as this? It has been questioned, how John knew him to be the Christ, before the Spirit descended on him? But this question will be easily resolved, if it be considered that John was a prophet filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. No doubt he knew by a secret intimation from that Spirit, that he, who then came to him, was the person on whom the Holy Ghost should descend, and on whom he should abide in so large a measure, or, rather, without measure, that he might impart him to others, such matters being frequently imparted to prophets by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Thus Simeon, having been told that he should not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ, had an intimation given him in the temple that the child Jesus was that Christ, Luke 2:26-32; as had, also, Anna the prophetess. And Samuel, being told by God that on the morrow a man should come to him to be captain over his people Israel, 1 Samuel 9:15, when Saul appeared, he had another intimation given him respecting the person, the Lord saying, Matthew 3:17, Behold the man of whom I spake to thee. Just so the Baptist, being to testify, when he baptized with water, that another should baptize them with the Holy Ghost, God tells him that of this he should see an evidence by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon Him who, from his fulness, was to impart this Spirit to all true believers; and when our Saviour came to be baptized, God tells him again, this was that very person.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-3.html. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

forbad = was hindering. Greek. diakoluo. Occurs only here.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

But John forbade him, [ diekooluen (Greek #1254)] - rather, 'was [in the act of] hindering him,' or 'attempting to hinder him' --

Saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? (How John came to recognize Him, when he says he knew Him not, see the notes at John 1:31-34.) The emphasis of this most remarkable speech lies all in the pronouns [ Egoo (Greek #1473) hupo (Greek #5259) sou (Greek #4675) ... kai (Greek #2532) su (Greek #4771) ... pros (Greek #4314) me (Greek #3165)]: 'What! Shall the Master come for baptism to the servant-the sinless Saviour to a sinner?' That thus much is in the Baptist's words will be clearly seen if it be observed that he evidently regarded Jesus as Himself needing no purification, but rather qualified to impart it to those who did. And do not all his other testimonies to Christ fully bear out this sense of the words? But it were a pity if, in the glory of this testimony to Christ, we should miss the beautiful spirit in which it was borne-`Lord, must I baptize Thee? Can I bring myself to do such a thing?'-reminding us of Peter's exclamation at the supper-table, "Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?" while it has nothing of the false humility and presumption which dictated Peter's next speech, "Thou shalt never wash my feet" (John 13:6; John 13:8).

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-3.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

14. But John tried. While there is not evidence that John had ever met Jesus before, he knew something about him, and tried to change his mind. [Their mothers were cousins.] I ought to be baptized by you. John may have believed Jesus to be the Messiah, but he knew it after he had baptized Jesus (John 1:33).

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-3.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(14) John forbad him.—Better, sought to hinder Him. Here again we have a question which we cannot fully answer. Did John thus forbid Him, as knowing Him to be the Christ? If so, how did that knowledge come? Had they known each other before, in youth or manhood? Or did a special inspiration reveal the character of Him who now drew near? The narrative of St. Matthew seems to imply such knowledge. On the other hand, the words of the Baptist in John 1:33 not only imply, but assert that he did not know Him till after the wonders of the Baptism. Probably, therefore, the sequence of facts was this: The Lord Jesus came to be baptised, as others did, though not, it would seem, with others. He confessed no sins. Look and tone, and words and silence alike spoke of a sinless and stainless life, such as even in approximate instances impresses us with something like awe in presence of the majesty of holiness. Recognising that holiness the Baptist spake as he did, “I have need to be baptised of Thee, to sit at Thy feet, learning lessons of purity and change of heart from Thee.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
John
Luke 1:43; John 13:6-8
I have
John 1:16; 3:3-7; Acts 1:5-8; Romans 3:23,25; Galatians 3:22,27-29; 4:6; Ephesians 2:3-5; Revelation 7:9-17
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 3:9 - who is able;  Matthew 8:8 - I am;  Mark 1:7 - GeneralJohn 1:33 - the same;  Hebrews 6:2 - the doctrine

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-3.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

John did not know the divine identity of Jesus until the baptism had taken place (John 1:33), therefore his remarks were not prompted by that subject. They were cousins according to the flesh and about the same age. It is reasonable to conclude that John knew Jesus as a near relative and humbly placed himself in a lower rank of excellence. All that John knew as to the purpose of water baptism was that it was for the remission of sins. Someone had to start the great work of reform without being baptized himself, and of the two John considered Jesus to be the more worthy of the honor.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-3.html. 1952.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

14.I have need to be baptized by thee. It is certain, that John acknowledged Christ to be not only a distinguished prophet, as many foolishly dream, but the Son of God, as he really was: for otherwise he would have dishonored God by lowering his holy calling to a mortal man. How he came to know this, the reader will learn by consulting John’s Gospel, (John 1:15) There was, no doubt, plausibility in this ground of refusal, that Christ had no need of his baptism: but John was mistaken in not considering, that it was for the sake of others that baptism was asked. (294) And so Christ bids him consider, what was suitable to the character of a servant, (Philippians 2:7,) which he had undertaken; for a voluntary subjection takes nothing from his glory. Though the good man (295) remained ignorant, for a time, of some part of his public duty, this particular error did not prevent him from discharging, in a proper and lawful manner, his office of Baptist. This example shows, that we do not act rashly, in undertaking the commission which the Lord has given us, according to the light we enjoy, though we do not immediately comprehend all that belongs to our calling, or that depends upon it. We must also observe his modesty, in giving up his opinion, and immediately obeying Christ.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 3:14". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-3.html. 1840-57.