Matthew 3:1–12: Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at Hand
Matthew has concluded the infancy narratives of Jesus; however, he is only beginning to tell us about the kingship of Jesus. Jumping forward several years, Matthew brings us directly onto the scene where John the Baptist is preaching a message of repentance, in view of the coming kingdom of heaven. Here, we are seeing the first glimpses of the message that will dominate this Gospel. Especially, John the Baptist clarifies the impact and importance of Jesus’ coming. We must make all due preparations for his coming, especially by repenting from our sins. The consequences for disobeying and ignoring this summons are the “wrath to come” (v. 7) and the “unquenchable fire” (v. 12). John the Baptist’s message still rings true today. Between the first coming of the King, and his eventual second coming, King Jesus calls us to prepare for his coming kingdom.
1. What mission has God given John the Baptist? What is John’s message? What manner of life does his adopt? What are the characteristics of his ministry? What is the nature of the repentance that John preaches? How does the Old Testament background of wilderness wanderings and Isaiah 40:3 help us to understand John better? What is the “kingdom of heaven”? In what sense is the kingdom of heaven “at hand”? What is the significance of the baptism that John performs?
2. Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees? Why does John call them a “brood of vipers”? How did their legalism lead them to relax the full force of the requirements of the Law? What does John means when he urges them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (v. 8)? Why is the biological descent of the Pharisees from Abraham unimportant in this situation? What warning does John give to the Pharisees and Sadducees?
3. In what sense is John’s baptism different and distinct from Jesus’ baptism? In what sense is the baptism of John connected to the baptism of Jesus? Accordingly, why do we believe that baptism is important today? On the other hand, what do we need to be careful to avoid attributing to water baptism? What warning does John give to those who do not have the baptism of the Spirit that Jesus provides?
4. Are you ready for the coming King? What does John the Baptist teach us about how we should prepare for his coming kingdom? Why is confession of sins, repentance, and purification central to preparing for the King’s coming? What is one area in your life where you have not prepared for the coming of Jesus’ kingdom as you ought? What would a repentance of a change in your mind, from a change in your heart, and toward a change of your life look like in that area?