Matthew 3:1-6: The Kingdom At Hand
Read: Matthew 3:1-6
John the Baptist lived as a man on the fringe of society, choosing to scratch a meager existence out of the Judean wilderness rather than enjoy any of life’s luxuries. Nevertheless, he attracted a following.
His message was simple: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In no uncertain terms, John is making a statement concerning the coming of Jesus and the impending judgment that would come as a result of Jesus’ second coming. For this reason, he was seen as a prophet, specifically fulfilling Isaiah 40 which is also echoed in Isaiah 57. Both of these prophecies speak of a voice calling for the people to make way for the coming king. Many of the laity in John’s day believed him to either be Elijah, who as taken up to heaven without dying (2 Kings 2:1-14) or someone like Elijah. The camel hair garment and leather belt herald back to the garb that Elijah himself wore (2 Kings 1:8). Jesus affirms this view in Matthew 11:7-14, where he applies Malachi 3:1 and Malachi 4:5-6 to John as well. Paul also affirms John’s prophetic ministry in Acts 13:24.
According to Jesus too John was the last in the line of prophets before Jesus came (Matthew 11:13). This is significant because it in a manner of speaking point to the end of the Old Testament prophecy and a transition to the New Testament era where the Apostles picked up the prophetic mantle, particularly the Apostle John. Jesus’ ministry was to fulfill the law and the prophets and Matthew is making a case for this here in chapter 3 and all through the book when he points to how Jesus fulfills various prophecies.
John himself is a prophet and a fulfillment of prophecy. This is important, because it does vindicate the ministry of Jesus as messiah and ultimately as king when his kingdom does come in glory. Recognizing the factual implications of this is what makes the need for repentance all the more important. Scoffers may look on, asking when Jesus will come back. After all, it has been 2000 years since Jesus supposedly ascended into heaven. 2 Peter 3 assures believers that scoffers will arise, but God will remain faithful to his promise. The warning against lawlessness and an encouragement to remain faithful in spite of scoffers that arise. His promises are true and he will do them.
Lord, your kingdom is coming! Help me to be mindful of this and live accordingly!