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Matthew 3

Read Matthew 3

Have someone read slowly and expressively. Everyone else, close your eyes and listen closely. Imagine these scenes playing out, one after another, like a movie.

  • What stood out to you in this chapter?

    • What sort of person does John the Baptist appear to be here?

    • What is John's mission? What is he aiming to do? [1]

  • Matthew's Gospel is all about Jesus. But he doesn't seem to be the main character here. What is Jesus' role in this chapter? What does Matthew want his readers to know about Him?

Reread Matthew 3:11-12

  • What do you think John meant by his description of the Messiah here?

Read Isaiah 44:1-5; Ezekiel 36:24-28; Joel 2:28-29

  • How do these verses help us to unpack what John the Baptist meant by being 'baptised with the Holy Spirit'? [2]

  • Do you think John would have been subsequently surprised by the life and work of Jesus? Why/why not?

Reread Matthew 3:13-17

  • Why do you think Jesus insisted on being baptised by John?

    • If Jesus was perfect and sinless, did he really need to be baptised by John? [3]

  • After His baptism, Jesus received the Holy Spirit and heard a voice from heaven. In what ways does this moment set in motion the ministry life of Jesus?

Read Isaiah 42:1

  • How does this prophesy find its fulfilment here?

  • What does it mean for Jesus to be filled/empowered with the Holy Spirit?

  • How does our experience of the Holy Spirit relate to Jesus' ministry that we see in the Gospels?

  • Do you have any stories about the Holy Spirit working through you or others to achieve God's purposes?

Spend some time praying that the Holy Spirit would fill you and empower you to achieve God's purposes in your life.

[1] The Greek word for baptise ("baptizo") means ‘to dip’, ‘to immerse’, ‘to sink’ or ‘to wash’. It can be used to describe the moment a sinking ship disappears beneath the waves, or to describe the Jewish practice of ceremonial washing. In Mark 7:4, the word baptizo is used to refer to Jewish ‘ceremonial washing’. So when John called people to come and be baptised in the Jordan river, perhaps they thought of this kind of religious purification.

Additionally, in the century leading up to the time of Jesus there was a common kind of ritual washing, very similar to John's baptism, that was required for Gentiles who wished to convert to Judaism. Tellingly, John the Baptist baptised Jews, not Gentiles. So perhaps they did so as to 'reconvert' to Judaism.

So John's baptism is about washing: washing your past sins away, purifying or cleaning you up for God’s purposes - but it’s also about (re)converting: becoming one of God’s people in a new way.

[2] This phrase is understood differently by different traditions. The Wikipedia article on the topic makes for interesting reading: But for the purposes of this question, it is better to think of what John the Baptist meant by it, rather than how it has come to be used today.

[3] "Jesus regards his baptism among repentant Israel as a necessary step in his accomplishment of God’s purpose of salvation. Some have seen here the influence of the Servant figure in Isaiah, who represents his people and bears their sins. This is not explicit, but may be hinted at in the term righteousness, which is a prominent feature in Isaiah 53:11, particularly as v. 17 will clearly introduce the Servant theme." - R. T. France, Matthew, Tyndale Commentary


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