Jesus said this about John the Baptist later in the book of Matthew:
Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11
What a thing to say about someone. If Jesus Himself gives you that kind of recommendation you can bet you’re getting whatever kind of job you want. But, what was John’s “job” on this earth? We find it in our text today: John’s role was to call people to repent of their sins and point them to the one who could deliver their salvation, namely Jesus. At this point John’s preaching is exclusively to Jewish people. This is important to note because the idea that they needed to repent individually of their sins to receive God’s mercy would have been foreign and frankly offensive to them. In the Jewish mindset they weren’t under God’s wrath because they were children of Abraham (they were a part of God’s chosen people Israel). But, John debunks that myth when he says:
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. Matthew 3:9
Basically, don’t think that you are exempt from God’s wrath just because of your family heritage, because even children of Abraham who don’t repent and turn to Jesus are subject to God’s judgement of their sin. The baptism that John was doing in the Judean wilderness was a sign of the repentance those people had experienced by confessing their sins personally to God. It also pointed them forward to a greater baptism that would supersede the baptism of John now that Jesus had come. When they placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah and received the Holy Spirit as the down payment of their inheritance they would be baptized to signify that they belonged to Christ. For us today, the act of baptism signifies the repentance and salvation that has already occurred in our hearts. Baptism itself is not a continuation of our salvation; it is a clear sign that salvation has already taken place.
Like the children of Israel, we must understand that turning to Christ through repenting of our sin is a personal step that each of us has to make. It isn’t enough that we come from a good Christian family; our heritage won’t get us to Heaven. We must personally turn from our sin and turn to Jesus for our salvation. In this passage today, that is exactly what John the Baptist is directing us to see. Also, that once we accept Christ we should be baptized as a symbol that we have experienced the grace of God and we are now going to live our lives for Him. If you are a believer who has never been baptized I urge you to consider strongly following Christ in obedience through baptism. You have an opportunity this week at East Campus! If you’re interested this Sunday (12/11) in being baptized please contact Todd today.
By: Matt Mofield