Commentaries
English
Matthew
  
B - JOHN THE BAPTIST PREPARES THE WAY OF CHRIST
(MATTHEW 3:1-4:11)

1. The Call to Repentance (Matthew 3:1-12)
1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew4:17; Mark1:1-8; Luke3:1-18)


John the Baptist, son of Zacharias, spent time contemplating in the wilderness where God revealed to him exciting plans for God's kingdom. God sent him to the Jews to cultivate their hearts, change their thinking, and prepare the way of the soon coming Christ.
A bath was required for every Gentile who wanted to become a Jew, according to the Jewish law. Plunging oneself into the river and coming up out of the water was symbolic of death and then a new life of godliness being reconciled to God.
The interesting thing about John's baptizing is that he did not practice it on the unclean Gentiles, but directed it to the godly Jews. He preached in the wilderness where the sin bearing goat was sent out (Leviticus 16:22), which was considered the residence of Satan. The godly Jews had to guard against deceiving themselves, for every man is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21) and is in need of sincere repentance. God is still working through his word and his Holy Spirit to bring all mankind to repentance and renew their minds to the will of God. This work of God does not nullify man’s duty with regard to repentance. The Lord is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance, but every person must respond to his drawing.
John's call to baptism with water contained more meaning than his demands to put away selfishness and to bear good fruit. True repentance is far more than human efforts; it is a heartfelt cry to the Lord that results in a cleansing of the soul, a radical change in the depths of the heart, and a renewal of ones intents. He who thinks works of repentance is God's whole plan for man makes a mistake thinking that man alone is able to reform his own conduct to the glory of God. John was preparing the way for God's salvation, which renews the man enabling and driving him to do good deeds that glorify God.
John planted in men the knowledge that they were sinners. He invited them to confess their sins, to abstain from them, and to hate them—to reject their old way of living, and deny themselves—not to believe in human godliness, and not to trust to their own works for justification. John does more than call you to reform your conduct; he calls you to be baptized. No man has hope unless he dies to sin. He remains corrupt and unclean until he throws himself into the river of God’s love and holiness and allows God to cleanse and renew him.
While John was isolated in the wilderness, God proclaimed to him the mystery of the coming of the kingdom of heavens. He knew that God would begin a new age, overcoming sin and corruption. He also observed that the Lord himself wanted to come in his Christ to renew unclean hearts through the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them. From here he preached that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. This expected coming of the kingdom of heaven became the reason for his call to repentance.
The heart of John’s message is not the calling to repentance. It is rather the good news about the coming of God and the establishment of his kingdom on earth. For this purpose, the Baptist asked every man to be prepared to receive the Lord.

Prayer
O Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, because my thoughts are unclean, my words are deceit, and my works are evil. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your Holy Spirit away from me. Create in me the acceptable repentance that I may observe your glory, and know that I am walking in your light. You are my measure and compared to you, I see clearly that I am a sinner. In your mercy I trust, and for your grace I hope.
Question
What is acceptable repentance?