Regarding Faithful Stewardship, some of the feedback we’ve received was that there was simply too much volume on a daily basis, that the posts were just so long that folks felt they didn’t have enough time to get into a serious read. I can definitely understand that sentiment. We discussed possibly moving the Biblical text to end-note references or hyperlinks, but I don’t want to highlight my own words so much as God’s Word. Therefore, we will simply try break up how much text we are covering in a single post. Picking up where we left off in our Gospel Wednesday posts, we will return to the Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 3.
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’”
4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Those of you who attend liturgical churches probably already dug into this text during Advent (the season before Christmas). We looked at the prophesy regarding John in our examination of just what Mary might have known. There are some curious descriptions of John that bear mentioning, particularly given that Matthew’s primary audience was the Jewish believer. Mathew’s account begins with Joseph and his dreams (reminiscent of Joseph, the son of Isaac/Israel), and here we see John the Baptist described in verse 4, “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” Interesting what God the Holy Spirit prompted Matthew to write here. Remember in Luke 1:17, the angel Gabriel told Zechariah regarding John “and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared“. Could Matthew’s description of John the Baptist be a sign or a reminder to the people of Elijah?
2 Kings 1:1-8 (ESV)
Elijah Denounces Ahaziah
1 After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.
2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” 3 But the angel of the Lordsaid to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? 4 Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.
5 The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?” 6 And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the Lord, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” 7 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” 8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
Very interesting. Yes, God’s word is revealing that John the Baptist had indeed come onto the scene in the spirit and power of Elijah. I find it interesting, too, that in the 2 Kings account above, Elijah shows up unannounced, declaring a word of rebuke for the sin of idolatry. Ahaziah didn’t send for a Prophet of the Lord God; rather, he sent for a word from a mute idol. Judgement was coming, and the Lord God sent His servant, Elijah. But the occasion for John the Baptist was different… he was preaching repentance and preparing the way for the Messiah, the Christ. John baptized with water, but the Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with Fire.
Another interesting note from Matthew’s description of John the Baptist is that his food was locusts and wild honey. As odd as such a diet might seem, it met the Levitical standard for clean food.
20 “All winged insects that go on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet among the winged insects that go on all fours you may eat those that have jointed legs above their feet, with which to hop on the ground.22 Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind.23 But all other winged insects that have four feet are detestable to you.
Now that Christ declared all foods clean, we needn’t worry too much about the culinary restrictions of the Mosaic covenant, but understand that this took place before Christ had done so, and any uncleanness on the part of John the Baptist would have disqualified him as a Prophet of God, especially in his baptism.
When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to John, his words are very direct and ominous. Judgement was being spoken against the leaders. Elijah rebuked the kings of Israel, and John the Baptist rebuked the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem. Elijah pointed Israel back to the Word of God, and John the Baptist prepared the way for the people to see the Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ.
We will continue working our way through the Gospel according to Matthew next week. Until then, may the Lord Bless you and keep you always.
In Christ Jesus,