In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”[a]
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
John the Baptist turned his backs on the trappings of worldly living. His clothing identified with the poor, and his food was a balanced diet of locusts and wild honey. He had the appearance of a prophet of old and so in the wilderness he told the people to repent. Every class of people came to see him, but he scolded the religious elite for their complacency. His message of repentance was for everyone; all people needed to change the focus of their lives in the light of the coming kingdom. Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God was a new mode of life where God’s rule was reestablished in Palestine. This kingdom was coming, but many thought it would be a wealthy, domineering kingdom like that of Rome of Babylon. John prepares people for something different. When King Jesus establishes his kingdom it will be through internal change. It will be by establishing the lives of his followers on values and principles that put God before all else. Jesus affirms a kingdom with this focus when he allows himself to be baptized. As the king he has no need of baptism into the kingdom. However, as one baptized he shows that the kingdom has come and that he identifies with its subjects.
- With what does John compare the religious leaders of his day?
- What kind of kingdom do you think people expected in Palestine in 34 A.D.?
- How do people need to change their attitudes in order to receive the kingdom?
- How might you be calloused against the kingdom and its mode of living?
- What does preparing for the kingdom require of you?