Meet John the Baptist: Matthew 3:1-3
“1) Now in those days John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2) “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3) For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’ ”” Matthew 3:1-3
As chapter three opens a very notable shift takes place in the text. It is like an action movie that shifts scenes to develop another part of the story.
Chapter two ends with Mary and Joseph moving to the northern region of the District of Galilee and taking up residence in Nazareth. The focus is on “Jesus the Nazarene.” It is likely that this is where Joseph started his carpenter shop. This is about 20 miles west of the Sea of Galilee.
Chapter three picks up the story twenty-eight years later over 100 miles south of Nazareth in the District of Judea. The focus also shifts from Jesus the Nazarene to the ministry of John the Baptist. He was baptizing in the Jordan River to the north of the Dead Sea.
Matthew is very abrupt with his transition and leaves out many details in the story. Luke chapters 1-2 includes other vital details skipped by Matthew.
One important detail is recorded in Luke 1:39-45. After becoming pregnant, Mary made a trip to the hill Country of Judah and stayed with Zacharias and Elizabeth for three months. According to the text, Mary arrived when Elizabeth was six months pregnant (Luke 1:26; 39) and stayed for three months. (Luke 1:56)
An important detail is mentioned in Luke 1:7; both Zacharias and Elizabeth were advanced in years and Elizabeth had been barren. The relationship between Mary and Elizabeth is not known. Luke 1:36 merely mentions that Elizabeth was a relative.
One contrast remains, Mary was very young and Elizabeth was advanced in age. However, God was working miraculously in both of them. They needed each other! Elizabeth was able to confirm the Divine origin of the baby in the womb of Mary.
Notice, a unique event happened when Mary entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. Luke 1:41 says; “And it came about that when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” She immediately recognized that Mary was the mother of the Lord, though Mary had no outward sign of being pregnant. We can learn three vital truths from this story.
First, it can be argued from this story that life begins at conception. After conceiving Jesus, Mary went in haste to see Elizabeth (Luke 1:39), and Jesus was very alive in her womb. Mary stayed approximately three months. Twelve weeks is when the heart beat starts. Jesus was alive and recognized by Elizabeth way before His heart even started beating!
Second, years later, John the Baptist noted that Jesus is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. (See Matthew 3:11 & Luke 3:16) We now have an interesting twist to this story. I would argue that shortly after conception, Jesus started this ministry while still in the womb of Mary and that is why Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary greeted her. Note, He began this ministry before His own heart was even formed. Never minimize the baby in the womb!
Third, we discover that God is not in a hurry to fulfill His promises. Keep in mind, around 28 years transpired between Matthew 2:23 and Matthew 3:1-3. God honors natural processes and time. He is not worried, filled with anxiety or pressured. He is in control.
I believe in the sanctity of all human life. I believe all people have value, dignity and purpose. God’s timing is perfect and He loves people.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global
Meet John the Baptist: Matthew 3:1-3