Matthew 3:1-12

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'”   Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.  Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bear fruit worthy of repentance.  Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.  Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 

I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

  From Rev. Donald Snyder, First Christian Church, Beckley:

Who was John the Baptist, and what did he have to do with the coming of God’s Messiah?  Matthew answers the question in three ways.  First, he reminds readers that John is the long-awaited “voice in the wilderness.”  Second, John’s charismatic message and demeanor drew crowds, both those wishing to experience his baptism, as well as those who would challenge him.  Third, John points forward to someone new on the horizon who will usher in the new age. 

John the Baptist is one of those figures who embody the unfolding plan of God.  On the one hand, he draws us back to the prophets of old, and their “word of the Lord.”  On the other hand, he points forward to the coming of Messiah, and the advent of the Kingdom of God.  John believed in and made known his role in this plan of salvation. Being a “preparer of the way” does not appear significant, and even John’s disciples would later complain that the Baptist’s crowds were going after Jesus.  However, the man of God reminds all of God’s people that whether we increase or decrease, it is faithfulness with the one we call Lord that brings us to the eternal kingdom.

May you find us faithful at your coming, O God,

as we hear the prophet’s cry once again.