* This is the first of two devotionals for today. The one to follow will serve as an introduction to Mark 1.
Continuing in the style of a historical narrative, Matthew 3 begins with the phrase, “In those days” (3:1), and leaving us to ask, “What days?” Looking back at Matthew 2 we find the historical context for those days. Matthew 2 concluded with Joseph, Mary and Jesus returning from exile in Egypt to Nazareth (2:22-23). Nearly 30 years had passed between the close of Matthew 2 and the beginning of Matthew 3. Here we find John the Baptist “preaching in the wilderness of Judaea” (3:1).
From his conception, it was prophesied of John that he was the long-awaited forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:17, 76-80). He was, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, the “voice of one crying in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3). Seven centuries had passed since Isaiah prophesied the coming of Israel’s Messiah and the prophet who would precede Him. Rather than entertain the masses and court the favor of religious leaders, John preached with power and authority like no prophet had for centuries in Israel. He unmasked the hypocrisy of the religious leaders of his day (Matthew 3:7-12), and called the people to repent of their sins and turn to the LORD.
John the Baptist was enjoying a great following in Judaea (Matthew 3:5-6) when Jesus stepped from the obscurity of Nazareth, and was baptized by John in the Jordan River (Matthew 3:13). Matthew gives us insight into the humble beginnings of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and we are privy to a private conversation that passed between Jesus and John the Baptist (Matthew 3:14-15). Crowning the occasion of his baptism was God the Father’s visible and verbal affirmation of His Son: “When [Jesus] was baptized, [He] went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” Matthew 3:16-17).
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