Matthew, Chapter 3
The Preaching of John the Baptist.
1In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea*2[and] saying, "Repent,* for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"b3* It was of him that the prophet Isaiahc had spoken when he said:
"A voice of one crying out in the desert,
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.'"
4* d John wore clothing made of camel's hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.5At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him6and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins.*
7When 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 coming wrath?e8Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.9And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.f10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.11g I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire.*12* h His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
The Baptism of Jesus.*13i Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.14* John tried to prevent him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?"15Jesus said to him in reply, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed him.16* j After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened [for him], and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove [and] coming upon him.17And a voice came from the heavens, saying, "This is my beloved Son,* with whom I am well pleased."k
* [3:1] Unlike Luke, Matthew says nothing of the Baptist's origins and does not make him a relative of Jesus. The desert of Judea: the barren region west of the Dead Sea extending up the Jordan valley.
* [3:2] Repent: the Baptist calls for a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one's life from rebellion to obedience towards God. The kingdom of heaven is at hand: "heaven" (lit., "the heavens") is a substitute for the name "God" that was avoided by devout Jews of the time out of reverence. The expression "the kingdom of heaven" occurs only in the gospel of Matthew. It means the effective rule of God over his people. In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God's word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, supremely over death. In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish, an expectation shared by the Baptist. This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the parousia of Jesus.