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|New American Bible|
2002 11 11
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1 2 In those days John the
Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
(and) saying, "Repent, 3
for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
4 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had
spoken when he said: "A voice of one crying out in the desert, 'Prepare
the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'"
5 John wore clothing made of camel's hair and
had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the
whole region around the Jordan were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan
River as they acknowledged their sins. 6
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
7 coming to his baptism, he said to them, "You brood of
vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your
And 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.
Even 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.
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. 8
9 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."
10 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the
Jordan to be baptized by him.
11 John tried to prevent him, saying, "I
need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?"
Jesus said to him in reply, "Allow it now,
for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he
12 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.
And a voice came from the heavens, saying,
"This is my beloved Son, 13 with whom I am well
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
2 [1-12] Here Matthew takes up the
order of Jesus' ministry found in the gospel of Mark, beginning with the
preparatory preaching of John the Baptist.
3  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"
(literally, "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.
4  See the note on
⇒ John 1:23.
5  The clothing of John recalls
the austere dress of the prophet Elijah (⇒ 2 Kings
1:8). The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare
Israel for the final manifestation of God's kingdom was widespread, and
according to Matthew this expectation was fulfilled in the Baptist's ministry
(⇒ Matthew 11:14;
6  Ritual washing was practiced by
various groups in Palestine between 150 B.C. and A.D. 250. John's baptism may
have been related to the purificatory washings of the Essenes at Qumran.
7  Pharisees and Sadducees: the
former were marked by devotion to the law, written and oral, and the scribes,
experts in the law, belonged predominantly to this group. The Sadducees were the
priestly aristocratic party, centered in Jerusalem. They accepted as scripture
only the first five books of the Old Testament, followed only the letter of the
law, rejected the oral legal traditions, and were opposed to teachings not
found in the Pentateuch, such as the resurrection of the dead. Matthew links
both of these groups together as enemies of Jesus (⇒ Matthew
⇒ 11, ⇒ 12; cf ⇒ Mark
8:11-13, ⇒ 15). The threatening words that
follow are addressed to them rather than to "the crowds" as in
⇒ Luke 3:7. The coming wrath: the judgment that will
bring about the destruction of unrepentant sinners.
8  Baptize you with the holy
Spirit and fire: the water baptism of John will be followed by an
"immersion" of the repentant in the cleansing power of the Spirit of
God, and of the unrepentant in the destroying power of God's judgment. However,
some see the holy Spirit and fire as synonymous, and the effect of this
"baptism" as either purification or destruction. See the note on
⇒ Luke 3:16
9  The discrimination between the
good and the bad is compared to the procedure by which a farmer separates wheat
and chaff. The winnowing fan was a forklike shovel with which the threshed
wheat was thrown into the air. The kernels fell to the ground; the light chaff,
blown off by the wind, was gathered and burned up.
10 [13-17] The baptism of Jesus is the
occasion on which he is equipped for his ministry by the holy Spirit and
proclaimed to be the Son of God.
11 [14-15] This dialogue, peculiar to
Matthew, reveals John's awareness of Jesus' superiority to him as the mightier
one who is coming and who will baptize with the holy Spirit
(⇒ Matthew 3:11). His reluctance to admit Jesus
among the sinners whom he is baptizing with water is overcome by Jesus'
response. To fulfill all righteousness: in this gospel to fulfill usually
refers to fulfillment of prophecy, and righteousness to moral conduct in
conformity with God's will. Here, however, as in ⇒ Matthew
5:6; ⇒ 6:33, righteousness seems to mean
the saving activity of God. To fulfill all righteousness is to submit to the
plan of God for the salvation of the human race. This involves Jesus'
identification with sinners; hence the propriety of his accepting John's
12  The Spirit . . . coming upon
him: cf ⇒ Isaiah 42:1.
13  This is my beloved Son: the
Marcan address to Jesus (⇒ Mark 1:11) is changed into
a proclamation. The Father's voice speaks in terms that reflect
⇒ Isaiah 42:1; ⇒ Psalm
2:7; ⇒ Genesis 22:2.
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