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Sermon 4
Matthew 3:1-17




Sermon 4: Matthew 3:1-17
John the Baptist Prepares the Way for Jesus / The Baptism of Jesus
November 19, 2023

Hi, my name is Philip, a servant of God from Beggars Breaking Bread, and I will be reading, teaching and preaching from Matthew 3:1-17.

Scripture (Matthew 3:1-17, CSB)
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”


For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said: “A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight!”

Now John had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John tried to stop him, saying “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you come to me?”

Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John allowed him to be baptized.

When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”

This is the word of the Lord.

Can I ask you a question?

Now, in full disclosure, this question may show my age.

As if my gray hair doesn’t already do the job…

But anyways, here’s my question: do you remember the W.W.J.D. wristbands?

Did you ever have one of those back in the day?
If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain.

Growing up in the 1990s, I came across a growing nationwide – if not global – trend of Christians wearing wristbands with four letters on it: W.W.J.D.

What did those letters stand for?

What. Would. Jesus. Do.

The whole concept was that the wristband would remind the person wearing it to ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?” in any action he / she was about to do during the day. The idea was that asking ourselves that question would help steer us towards thinking and acting more like Jesus Christ, something that believers would call sanctification. 

The odd thing about it is this: do you see anyone still wearing those wristbands anymore?

If so, you definitely are not seeing as many people wearing them as they did in the 1990s, over 30 years ago.

Which is weird. I mean. Yes, it may be 30 years later since the wristband trend, but…did people stop caring about what Jesus would do in any particular situation they were in?

Did we, as Christians, stop our desire to become more like Jesus Christ every day?

What changed?

While the wearing of these W.W.J.D. wristbands may not be as popular as they once were, we, as believers, should never think of it as a fad to become more like Jesus Christ in how we think, how we talk, and how we act towards others in our everyday moments.

In fact, if I were to revive the W.W.J.D. wristband trend today, I would make a slight tweak to it.
I would still keep the same letters, but they would mean differently than the original.

It’s actually what this passage is about, for I ask myself the question after reading it: W.W.J.D.?

Not “What Would Jesus Do?”

I would ask: “What Would John (the Baptist) Do?”

Over 2,000 years later after paving the way for Jesus Christ to be baptized before starting His earthly ministry, in an age where we have smartphones, social media, artificial intelligence, Teslas, electricity, colleges, and the most advanced stages of civilization that the world has ever witnessed…

What would John the Baptist be doing right now?

2,000 years after the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ…if John the Baptist was living right now, I believe he would be doing the same thing that we ought to be doing as Christians.

John the Baptist would be calling on people each day to “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!”

It sounds simple, but that’s the message behind this whole passage and this whole sermon.

The main takeaway from this sermon as we go through Matthew 3:1-17 is best summarized in another acronym: K.I.S.S.

What does K.I.S.S. stand for?

Keep It Simple Sinners.

Keep It Simple Sinners.

To be honest, I don’t need three points to this sermon. For if John the Baptist kept saying one line consistently with the people he encountered and then proceeded to baptize those people as a reflection of their repentance away from their sins and their dedication towards following God, if he doesn’t need three points, I don’t need them either.

Now, to be clear, we are all sinners. You, me, and everyone who is watching, listening or reading this sermon right now. And I don’t mean to use the word “sinner” as a derogatory term, especially in a time now where many preachers and pastors are afraid of using the word “sin” or “sinner” in fear of offending their congregation and seeing their church membership dwindle at the risk of closing down the local church.

As the Bible says in Romans 3:23: “for ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” All means every one of us. All of us except one person. His name is Jesus. The only sinless human being to walk this Earth who was also God. He came to Earth on a rescue mission to save you, me, and billions of other sinful human beings from the punishment we deserve of death and eternal separation from God because of the sins we commit each and every day.

At the time of this passage, the Jewish people were awaiting a Messiah to save them. Prophets in the Old Testament had already prophesized the coming of such Messiah from the line of King David. And as we discussed in previous weeks, Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew to prove to his Jewish readers that, indeed, Jesus Christ is the Messiah that we have been waiting for.

In this passage, John the Baptist plays a significant supporting role (similar to Joseph earlier) in making way for Jesus to come in and begin his earthly ministry. As John the Baptist preaches in the Judean wilderness, he fulfills another Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 40:3 stating: “A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight!

Following the prophets of the Old Testament, John the Baptist was the first true prophet in roughly 400 years, and many people from Jerusalem, Judea, and surrounding areas came to the wilderness to hear him preach his simple message, convicting both common people and religious leaders. Once people repented of their sins, John the Baptist baptized them as an outward sign of commitment to God’s way of living and as a public declaration of repentance and forgiveness of their sins, as an initiation of conversion for the Jewish people.

Now, you may be asking yourself (or asking me even)...


“Philip, what does repentance mean?  What does it mean to repent?”

The Oxford Dictionary defines repent as to “feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.

We shouldn’t feel proud to be sinners.


When we sin, we offend and rebel against the one true, living and holy God. God is so good that He cannot be in the same place as sin. He cannot mix with sin. It’s the case as we read in the Old Testament numerous times that God’s people, because of our sin, have to sacrifice animals and such bloody sacrifices helped us as sinful people become reconciled with God again (temporarily) and our sins forgiven.

How we should feel about sinning should be very similar to how we should feel when we hurt the person we love the most in our lives. Take a moment and think of the one person you love more than life itself. Now imagine doing the most hurtful thing to him or her and witnessing his or her reaction in real-time.


How do you feel about yourself afterwards?

Do you feel sorry? Do you feel remorseful?


Do you wish you had never hurt that person in the first place?

That is exactly how we should feel towards God when we sin. We hurt God when we sin.

And John the Baptist is calling us to repent, to feel remorseful about the wrong we admittedly have done towards God and towards others, and to turn away from such sin by making a 180 degree turn from wrong to right. We were going down a wrong path, but we make a decision to stop, turn around and go down the right path that pleases God.

John the Baptist is calling us to repent…

To repent from not loving our neighbor as ourselves…

To repent from worshipping other gods or idols like fame, money, popularity, status, and ourselves over God…

To repent from lying to make ourselves look better than others or to cheat our way towards success…

To repent from lusting after other women and feeding to our addiction to pornography and sexual immorality…

To repent from murdering God’s children and not treating them like the images of God that they truly are…

John the Baptist is calling us to repent of all our sins, which also includes lying, cheating, stealing, coveting, and gossiping. If we’re honest, the sins we collectively commit are too numerous for us to list here.

And why should we repent now?


Because the Kingdom of Heaven is here. 

What does that mean?

The Kingdom of Heaven has come near once God became a man and entered the Earth from a virgin Mary as a baby. And as we see in verse thirteen, Jesus comes to John the Baptist to start His ministry to bring the Kingdom of heaven to earth by being baptized.

Now, you may be asking…I know I was when I first read this…

"But why is Jesus, of all people, getting baptized?”

In fact, John the Baptist had the same question in verse 14 and tried to stop Jesus from doing so. When Jesus responds in verse 15 that “this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness”, while Jesus was without sin, He knew that baptism was part of God’s plan for Jesus to identify with His people, start His public ministry in support of John the Baptist, and to set a righteous example for them on how to become like Him, leaving their sinful ways to put their trust and faith in Jesus, bringing them back in relationship with God.

Now, before Jesus got baptized by John the Baptist, you may have noticed that John the Baptist was not too happy with two groups of people that attended his baptisms: the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

What did they do to deserve the “Brood of Vipers” response from John the Baptist?

You see, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two major religious groups within Israel at the time of Jesus’ ministry. The Pharisees carefully followed the laws of the Old Testament, as well as the oral traditions that were handed off to them over centuries. They had nothing to do with anything that was non-Jewish. However, the Pharisees were hypocritical in how they posed themselves as “holier than thou” but were not graceful and merciful when acting towards others.  They followed the letter of the law so close that they completely missed God’s desire of forgiveness of the sins of others and the extension of grace and mercy.

The Sadducees believed in only the first five books of the Old Testament (from Genesis to Deuteronomy) to be God’s Word. While they believed strongly in the Mosaic law and were more practically minded than the Pharisees, the Sadducees relied more on logic than on faith. They also were willing to compromise their religion and values in order to maintain their social status or advance their political position and influence with the Romans at the expense of serving God wholeheartedly. 

Why is this important?

Let me ask you a question: what do you believe is at least one of the reasons why more people are either walking away from the Christian faith, denying Jesus as Lord and Savior, or identifying as agnostic, atheist, or “none” in the world, especially the Western world?

One reason.


Many of us Christians are acting just like both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Are you holding fast to a legalistic religion that is void of love, grace, and mercy towards your neighbor?

Have you put excessive hurdles, obstacles and boundaries on how unbelievers can approach you to learn more about Jesus: maybe you turned them away from you because of the way they look, the way they speak, or the way they dress, or the way they smell?

Have you put more faith in what you can prove without a shadow of a doubt scientifically than in faith itself in God?

Are you claiming to be Christian more because of what the “status” can get you for your career than who you can help?

Did you check the box as Christian (in name only) but ultimately do not have a biblical worldview on how to approach life and you are willing and eager to compromise what you believe to be popular in your circle of friends at any moment?

If you said yes or agreed to any of these questions, you may have some Pharisee or Sadducee tendencies. And we should be aware that such tendencies may repel people from knowing Jesus Christ, which can affect their lives both now and in eternity.

This is where John the Baptist warns the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and us to “produce fruit consistent with repentance” (verse 8), meaning that if we truly are repentant of our sins and follow Jesus, then our thoughts, words, and actions should reflect that in relationship to God and to each other.


Our fruit on the outside must be congruent with our root on the inside.


We can’t claim to be Christian today but then hate our neighbor tomorrow. That is hypocritical. We can’t share how God is so important to us on Sunday, but then ignore him from Monday – Saturday.  We have to be consistent in applying our faith in our everyday walk, and people are watching us to see if we have integrity as believers.

And other people – both believers and unbelievers – are not the only ones watching us.


God – the all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful God – is watching us as well. He will ultimately judge us if we are obedient to Him in heart and deed. He is looking for us to live productive lives for Him by obeying His Word, resisting sinful temptation, serving others, speaking the truth about our faith with love, and helping the needy and less fortunate.


Otherwise, He has no use for us.


As John the Baptist warns in verses 10 and 12: “The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire…. His [Jesus’] winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.” 

For context, a farmer would use a winnowing shovel – similar to a pitchfork – to toss grain in the air to separate the wheat from the chaff. The chaff – the useless outer shell of the grain – would blow away from the wind, while the useful wheat would fall to the ground, and the farmer would gather the wheat for good use.

What is John saying to us here?

Jesus is looking for believers that will stand for Him and unite with Him apologetically and publicly through baptism and by the way we live our lives to be more like Jesus Christ. He is looking for people that will not only claim Jesus as their Savior but also respect Him as the Lord over their lives. How we take God seriously and treat others lovingly is a reflection of how important Jesus is to us.


We will either produce good fruit and be the useful wheat that Jesus gathers as part of His mission and God’s plan to save the spiritually lost throughout the ends of the earth, or we will be rotten fruit, bland with no salt, and useless chaff that is separated from God’s people and tossed aside to the wind and burned in the eternal fire when our lives are over, forever separated from God. 

We have a choice in which path we want to have in our lives.


Will we be the useful wheat or the useless chaff?

How do we choose?


Keep It Simple Sinners.

Every day, we repent of our sins and ask God for forgiveness, since we are sinners and will never stop sinning until the end of our lives when we see Jesus face to face and become glorified like Him. In the meantime between now and eternity, we put our trust and faith in Jesus to be more like Him and to help bring others into God’s family by sharing the same one-line sermon from John the Baptist: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.

The Kingdom of Heaven came near when Jesus first walked the Earth. And the Kingdom of Heaven will come closer to completion with a new heaven and a new Earth to restore what Satan and sin had corrupted when Jesus comes back again to rule over His kingdom. We have a choice on whose side we will be on when that time comes: God or Satan. 

It really is that simple.


So simple that we should keep it that way.

We are to follow the lead of John the Baptist and to help prepare the way for Jesus to come back to Earth again. If we truly love God and His people, let us do our part to sharing the Good News with unbelievers, helping people understand the seriousness of their sins and ask God for forgiveness, and modeling for other believers what it is like to follow Jesus, so that we can bring unbelievers to salvation and disciple them to be like Jesus and repeat the cycle to rescue as many sinners as possible for their good and for the glory of God before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

For children growing up, they can be known as a number of things: Bad boy, Goodie Two-Shoes, Momma’s Boy, Daddy’s Girl…

What was I known for growing up…Grandmomma’s Baby.

My grandmother meant the world to me, and in her eyes, I could do no wrong. In fact, I loved my grandmother so much that I always wanted to do my best to make her proud of me. The best way I knew how to do that was to be the best student possible in my classes and to attend church with her on Sundays.

However, as I got older into a young man, I realized that there was someone else’s attention I was craving.

And I did not realize this until I was much older.

As a young man, like many children, especially sons, we long for the attention and appreciation of our fathers.

I didn’t see much of my father growing up, even though we lived in the same city. And my family did its best to surround me with other father figures to be present in my life, check up on me, attend my basketball games to help fill the void I had of not having my dad around.

Even as a father today with children of my own, I wish I had a better relationship with my dad, where I felt like I could trust him with my vulnerability, my questions, and fears as I navigate parenthood and the married life in a way where I could confidently model his example of how to be a godly man for the sake of my wife and children.

However, even though as I approach the age of 40, that void still is present despite trying to cover it up or overlook it, despite much heartache at times, I learned from my grandmother to trust in my Heavenly Father and in His Word, particularly Psalm 27:10 where it says “Even if my father and mother abandon me, the Lord cares for me.”

As I learned in my short lifetime, the grass will wither, the flowers will die, and even beloved family members will pass away, the Word of God stands forever and I can depend on the living God to help order my steps in how to please Him and to be the type of godly man He would be proud of.
For when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove, and the Bible says in verse 17: “And a voice from heaven [God the Father] said: ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”

I long for God, my Heavenly Father, to say that He is well pleased with me. And I know that it is impossible to please God without faith. What I long for is at the end of my life, when I go up to Heaven to spend eternity with Jesus, that God tells me, as in Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!

After repenting of my sins and accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, what can I do now towards hearing these great words from my Heavenly Father at the end of my life?

Keep It Simple Sinners.

Tell others to repent for the Kingdom is near like John the Baptist. Share the Good News that Jesus Christ has come to forgive us of our sins and reconcile us back into relationship with God when we trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. And finally, help others come back home to God and become more like Jesus every day until He returns.

Now, what about you?

Let’s keep it simple: have you repented of your sins and placed your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

If the answer is No or Not Yet, I invite you to come home. 

Jesus loves you.


And He wants you to come as you are, flaws and all, and put your trust not in yourself but in Him. He will forgive all of your sins and help you become more like Him as you walk with Him until you meet him face to face in Heaven.

Of all the things I have done in my life, following Him is the best decision I ever made. And I want you to make the best decision in your life too.

All we have to do is ask Jesus into our hearts and make Him the Lord and Savior of our lives.


It really is that simple.

If you’re ready to take that step, would you pray this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I believe that you came from Heaven to Earth to live, die and rise again just for me, so that my sins may be forgiven. I trust you with my life. By faith, I make you my Lord and Savior. Thank you for your love and sacrifice. In Jesus name, Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, let me be the first to congratulate you on the best decision you could make in your life. Let me also welcome you to the family, as the angels in Heaven are rejoicing on you coming back home. I encourage you to find a local, Bible-based church to connect with and to join its community as you do life together with other believers.

If you already are a believer, and you want to do your part like John the Baptist and make way for Jesus in the life of someone who does not yet know Jesus, please share this message with him or her. God has a great plan for you, and it involves bringing the spiritually lost back to God through Jesus Christ. 

Let us continue the good work ahead of us to globally spread the Good News about Jesus Christ and to welcome more into His family. God bless you for watching, listening to or reading this sermon. Thank you and take care.

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