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Second Sunday of Advent

 

"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: "Prepare the way of the Lord."
(Matthew 3:3)

Second Sunday of Advent

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Mat 3:1 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,
Mat 3:2 "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
Mat 3:3 This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'"
Mat 3:4 Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Mat 3:5 Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan,
Mat 3:6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
Mat 3:7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Mat 3:8 Bear fruit worthy of repentance.
Mat 3:9 Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.
Mat 3:10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Mat 3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Mat 3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

NSRV & Believer's Study Bible (BSB) Notes

[Mat 3:1] "John the Baptist" appears with a prophetic word that God was about to act again in history. The prophetic spirit was once more active, after a long period of silence during which much of Judaism had come to feel that God had withdrawn from involvement in their history. John announces the coming of the kingdom (a prominent theme in Matthew, mentioned some 50 times); Jesus inaugurates it. John's ministry prepares the way (Matt. 3:3), and Jesus is the Way (cf. John 14:6). John is the forerunner of the Messiah, and Jesus is the Messiah. Both John (Matt. 3:2) and Jesus (Matt. 4:17) announce that God's dynamic activity within Israel's history is about to take place, after years of apparent silence. John heralds God's reign; Jesus brings the kingdom in His own Person and ministry. His words give evidence of the kingdom's power; His deeds are the very works of the kingdom. Jesus brings the dynamic redemptive reign of God within history ahead of the final (eschatological) consummation of the kingdom of God at the end of history. The redemptive blessings of God's reign are now available. The kingdom is fulfilled within history and consummated at the end of history.

[Mat 3:2] In the Judaism of the interbiblical period, obedience to the Law became the condition for membership among God's people. Obedience would bring God's kingdom and transform the world. The Law came to be an intermediary between God and man; to gain the words of the Law was to gain life in the world to come. Thus, the O.T. doctrine of election which found expression in the covenant was replaced by a doctrine of obedience to the Law. Instead of constituting a standard by means of which the covenant was preserved, obedience to the Law became the condition for membership. Legalism replaced election. Failure to obey necessitated repentance, and repentance was the theme of John's preaching. John demands repentance, a "turning from" sins in view of the coming Day of Judgment. Jesus (4:17) also preaches repentance as an invitation to respond to divine initiative (cf. 13:44-46) and issues the call to repent, not because God is going to act at some time in the future, but because God is now acting. Jesus' call for repentance is in itself the activity of God's kingdom. To John and Jesus, repentance means more than simply accepting the yoke of the Law, which was the current view of Judaism; rather, it involves both an acknowledgment of sin and an ethical change in conduct for all men -- even those of Jewish descent, who could claim access to a treasury of merit as children of Abraham (Matt. 3:9). John's baptism in water constitutes the outward sign of true repentance (Matt. 3:6). "Repentance" (metanoia, Gk.) means "to turn" from sin to God (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10, note). "The kingdom of heaven" is a Semitic idiom in which "heaven" is substituted for the divine name (see "against heaven" in Luke 15:18). This form of expression would appeal to Matthew's Jewish readers more than "kingdom of God," a phrase found in Matthew only four times. For the development of this concept, see 4:17; 11:11-13; 12:28; 19:23-25. "At hand" means that God is about to act to bring both judgment ("baptize with fire") and salvation ("baptize with the Holy Spirit"). This is to be accomplished by Him "who is coming after me" (v. 11).

[Mat 3:4] Malachi had predicted the arrival of a prophet "before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (Mal. 4:5). In current thought, Elijah was expected to precede the messianic era. John's clothing recalls the apparel of Elijah (2 Kin. 1:8), whose spirit is reflected in his message (1 Kin. 18:21). John's clothing is that of a prophet (Zech. 13:4), and his theme is derived from Isaiah (Isa. 40:3-5).

[Mat 3:6] John is called Ioannes o Baptistes (Gk.), "John the one who baptizes." This John came forward with the rite of baptism, which was unique both in method and meaning. The meaning (repentance) was different, and the presence of an administrator unique. The Jews in John 1:25 asked the Baptist why he introduced the new rite if he were not the Christ or Elijah or his prophet to come. John replied that he was sent from God to baptize in water (John 1:33). Thus, God initiated the ritual. Jesus said that John's baptism came from heaven (21:25). After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, baptism, for the church, refers to and pictures death, burial, and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:12). John's baptism was required for both Jews and Gentiles as a sign of a repentance that results in the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). Although John's baptism may have its background in the O.T. (Lev. 15:13; Num. 19; Isa. 1:16; 44:3; Jer. 4:14; Ezek. 36:25; Zech. 13:1), John is, nevertheless, unique in that he administered the baptism himself and called for repentance before the coming of the messianic kingdom.

[Mat 3:11] "He who is coming" is literally "the coming One." The greater Person "who is coming" would baptize the penitents (who are compared to wheat in v. 12) with the "Holy Spirit" (cf. Isa. 32:15; 44:3-5; Ezek. 36:27; 37:14; Joel 2:28-32), and the unrepentant (who are compared to chaff in v. 12) with "fire." This expression is not a contemporary title applied to the expected Messiah, and John does not describe Him by the more common titles, like "Messiah" or "Son of Man." Yet "He who is coming" is to bring both salvation and judgment, two motifs that dominate the O.T. In the O.T. the messianic King reigns after God has established the kingdom. John shows that "He who is coming" is more than an earthly Davidic king; He is a supernatural Person who establishes the kingdom and reigns as Savior and Judge. John's message of salvation and judgment announces that the messianic age is upon them.

Readings for the week of December 15th
Third Sunday of Advent
First: Isaiah 35: 1-10
Luke 1: 46b-55
Second: James 5: 7-10
Gospel: Matthew 11: 2-11

 

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