John the Baptist and the Baptism of Christ.
SUMMARY.--The Preaching of John.
The Kingdom of Heaven.
John's Raiment and Food.
The Great Multitudes.
The Pharisee and Sadducees.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit and Fire.
Jesus Comes for Baptism.
Jesus Baptized in the Jordan.
The Anointing of the Spirit.
The Voice from Heaven.
1. In those days. Many years after the incidents of the last
chapter; somewhere from twenty-five to thirty.
Came John the Baptist. Called the Baptist or Baptizer
because he baptized the people. He came forth as a preacher and
reformer. He was the subject of prophecy
(Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1);
his birth was announced by an angel; he was of a priestly family, the
son of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary. He was now about
thirty years old.
Preaching in the wilderness of Judea. A region thinly
inhabited, used mostly for pasture, a rocky tract in the eastern part
of Judea and west of the Jordan and the Dead Sea.
2. Repent ye. The great rite of John was baptism, but the great
duty commanded was repentance. Repentance is more than a sorrow for
sin; it is a determination to abandon it and live a new life. It means
a change of the will, or heart, new purposes, a determination to leave
off sinning. Sorrow is not repentance, but "godly sorrow worketh
(2 Cor. 7:10).
The kingdom of heaven. The long expected kingdom ruled by the
Messiah King, predicted by the prophets, and especially by Daniel
The announcement of this anxiously-waited-for kingdom thrilled all
Is at hand. It is to be noted: 1. That the kingdom to which he
referred was in the future, but near. It did not begin with Abraham,
or David, or even with John the Baptist. 2. It is the kingdom of
heaven, not an earthly kingdom, and hence, must have a King
sent from heaven. That King was not yet revealed to the public, but we
have seen that one was born at Bethlehem who was to be the King. John
was not the founder, but the herald of the coming King.
3. The voice of one crying in the wilderness. John was called a
voice, (1) because the whole man was a sermon; (2) because he
would call no attention to himself as a person, but only to the
Savior, whose way he had come to prepare. For the prophecy see
Prepare ye the way of the Lord. The messengers sent before the
eastern kings prepared the way for the chariots and armies of their
monarchs. A "king's highway" had to be carried through the open land of
the wilderness, valleys filled up, and hills leveled. Interpreted in
its spiritual application, the wilderness was the world lying in evil.
Make his paths straight. Roads that have not been properly
directed at the beginning. So are the ways of men when no preparation
has been made for the GREAT
KING. When John cried, Make his paths
straight, he meant, Stop your crooked ways.
4. Raiment of camel's hair. See
2 Kings 1:8.
Not the camel's skin with hair on it, but a garment made of the
shaggier camel's hair, woven in a coarse fabric. It was recognized as a
garb of the prophets
and is still worn in the East by
A leathern girdle about his loins. The "leathern girdle"
may be seen around the body of the common laborer. It fastens the
loose raiment of the East about the waist.
His meat. Food.
Locusts. Permitted to the Jews as an article of food
and still used by the poorer classes in Arabia, Egypt and Nubia. They
are a large, voracious insect, much like the Rocky Mountain
Wild honey. Honey deposited by wild swarms of bees in the
rocks. So abundant was it that Palestine was described as "flowing
with milk and honey."
John was no epicure, and used such food as the wilderness provided.
5. There went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea. These
expressions must be taken, not as meaning every individual, but as
showing the wonderful impression produced by his preaching. All Judea,
and among the rest, the people of Jerusalem came.
6. And were baptized of him in the Jordan. Note that the
baptism took place not at, but in, in the Jordan.
says, "in the river Jordan." The Jordan, the principal
stream of Palestine, rises in the mountains of Lebanon, runs south
into the sea of Galilee, leaves it and descends southward along
Galilee, Samaria and Judea, to the Dead Sea. In many places the
streams is fordable, and furnishes good facilities for baptizing.
Confessing their sins. Baptism itself, a burial in water, a
"baptism into death,"
a symbol of the burial of
one who dies to the old life, is a confession of sins. There was,
perhaps, also a verbal confession. The acknowledgment of sin,
repentance and baptism are prescribed as conditions of pardon.
7. When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The two
principal religious sects. The first originated in the time of the
Maccabees, and were a kind of Jewish Puritans, but had in the Savior's
time degenerated into a set of formalists, who paid far more attention
to outward forms than to inner life. They were scrupulous in observing
ceremonies, very orthodox, but were filled with spiritual pride. From
an early period of Christ's ministry they opposed him. The other
principal sect of the Jews, the Sadducees, derived their name from
Sadduc, the founder of the sect; were irreligious, sensual and
skeptical. They were materialists, and denied "angel, spirit, or the
resurrection of the dead."
Annas and Caiaphas, the high priests, were Sadducees.
Generation of vipers. The guilty, corrupted race had become a
generation of vipers; not only poisoned, but poisonous, hateful to
God, hating one another.
The viper is hateful, full of hate, and dangerous.
Who hath warned you? Malachi
had predicted the wrath to come. John's question expresses doubt of
8. Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance. There is
no repentance whatever unless there is a change of life as the result.
The change of life is the proof of the change of heart.
9. Think not to say . . . We have Abraham to our father. They
believed that Abraham's race was to be saved, if all else were
destroyed. John destroys this refuge of sin.
Of these stones. Pointing, perhaps, to the stones of the Jordan.
In thus sinking the higher claims of Judaism, John points to the
Gentiles, who were to become Abraham's children by faith. (See
10. The axe laid at the root of the trees. A sign that the tree
is to be cut down. The tree meant is the Jewish nation.
Every tree. A fruitless fig-tree was afterward made by our Lord
the representative of the whole Jewish nation
but here John declares a universal law. What does not bear good fruit
shall finally be destroyed.
Cast into the fire. When the tree is not fruitful, or bears
useless fruit, it is fit for nothing but to be burned.
11. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. His
baptism was only a water baptism. The King could send the Holy Spirit,
and give a mightier baptism, in addition to the outward baptism.
Mightier than I. In that he can perform all that I only
Whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. The duty of a slave, or
one greatly inferior in rank. In the Orient sandals are generally
removed on entering a house, and left in charge of a servant, who
brings them again when needed. So humble was John, compared with the
King, that he was hardly worthy to be his servant.
He shall baptize with the Holy Spirit. In order to know what is
meant we must refer to the fulfillment. On the day of Pentecost
occurred such a baptism, the first so recognized in the New Testament.
Then the spirits of the apostles were overwhelmed by the Divine
Spirit, so that they spoke as he gave them utterance. It was Christ
who "shed forth" the baptism of that occasion. This would be plainer
had the Greek en, here rendered "with," has been
rendered "in," after the word baptize. Of the 2,600 occurrences
of en in the Greek New Testament, it is rendered "in" in
the Common Version 2,045 times. The American Committee of Revisers in
the Revised Version (see margin) so render it in connection with the
word baptize, and are doubtless right. These great scholars,
mostly learned Pedo-baptists, would say, "Baptize in water,"
"Baptize in the Holy Spirit."
And with fire. The term fire is used in
and there means a destroying agency; it is used again in
in the same sense; it is used in
also, the intervening verse, and must be used in exactly the same sense
as in the other two verses. It cannot mean a curse in
verses 10 and 12,
and a blessing in
without a word of explanation. It is strange, therefore, that all
commentators should not agree that the baptism of fire is a baptism of
trial and suffering. There were two classes before John. Some would
repent and be baptized finally in the Holy Spirit; there were others
who would remain impenitent, and be baptized in the awful trials that
would come upon Israel. The
explains this. John says in it that there is the wheat and the chaff;
one shall be gathered into the garner and the other burned.
12. Fan is in his hand. Rather the winnowing shovel, by which the
wheat and chaff were tossed
together into the air, so that the wind would blow the chaff away. In
Palestine grain was threshed on an outdoor threshing floor, either by
hand or the treading of cattle, and winnowed by casting it up to the
Gather his wheat into the garner. Granary, or grain depository.
Unquenchable fire. A reference is here made to the practice of
burning the chaff under process of winnowing. The wheat is the
righteous, the chaff is the wicked, and Christ is the winnower; the
granary is heaven, the unquenchable fire is hell.
13. Then cometh Jesus. Not named by Matthew since he was taken
to Nazareth in childhood. From
we learn that he was subject to his parents, at twelve years of age
astonished the doctors in the temple by his wisdom, and was now thirty
years of age. He had worked in Nazareth as a carpenter.
Galilee. The northern part of Palestine, containing at this
time, according at this time, according to Josephus, 240
towns and villages and an immense population.
To be baptized. He came for this purpose. He sought the rite.
14. 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
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.
15. Suffer it to be so now. The term "now" implies that
the relation of Jesus to his work made it proper that now he should be
baptized. It is true that baptism was for sinners; Jesus was sinless;
but he humbled himself, accepted the burden of human duties, and must
set a perfect example to men. He obeyed the Jewish law, and it was
needful also that he obey the Divine rite that John had inaugurated.
Thus it becometh us. In order to fulfill all righteousness, show
forth a perfect obedience, set a perfect example, it became him to
submit to the institution of baptism, and it became John to administer
it to him. "Us" refers to Jesus and John.
16. And Jesus, when he was baptized. The baptism took place in
the river Jordan, and was doubtless by immersion. Dr. Whitby, of the
Church of England, on this passage, says: "The observation of the
Greek Church is this, that he who ascended out of the water must first
descend into it. Baptism is therefore to be performed, not by
sprinkling, but by washing the body." Dr. Schaff, the great
Pedo-baptist scholar, says: "While the validity of baptism does not
depend on the quantity or quality of water, or the mode of its
application, yet immersion and emersion is the primitive and
expressive mode to symbolize the idea of entire spiritual purification
and renovation." Dr. Schaff also says: "The Greek word baptize
is derived from a root that means 'to dip,' 'to immerse.'" These views
are endorsed by all the great Pedo-baptist scholars.
Went up straightway out of the water. The Revision says "from
the water," which is correct, as the preposition is apo;
uses ek in giving the same account, which the Revision correctly
renders "out of." He went up, praying, as we learn from
Lo, the heavens were opened unto him. The skies were parted,
rolled back, so as to reveal, as it were, the throne of God.
Spirit . . . descending like a dove. In form, and not, as some
suppose, in motion merely, which would convey no definite idea. It
descended to anoint him to be Christ.
17. A voice from heaven. Three times God speaks from heaven in
connection with the ministry of Christ--at his baptism,
and in the temple
just before his suffering.
Thou art my
beloved Son. The very words addressed to the Messiah in
and from which the Son of God became one of his standing
appellations. Thus the baptism of Christ was the occasion of his public
recognition. No reader should fail to observe the significance of the
time chosen by God for the acknowledgment of the Son. It is just
after he has humbled himself in an act of obedience, in baptism, that
the Holy Spirit anoints him as the Christ, and God formally
acknowledges him as his Son. No more forcible expression of the
estimate set by God on this institution could be given. This example
and the New Testament harmonizes in teaching--1. That we must be
baptized if we would follow Christ. 2. That it is when we repent and
are baptized that we receive the Holy Spirit
3. That when we have obeyed the Lord he will recognize us as his