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Matthew 3: 1 — 12

Advent 2     Year A

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

 

1    1 2  In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching
       in the desert of Judea

2     (and) saying, “Repent, 3  for the kingdom of heaven is
       at hand!”

3     4  It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when
       he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare
       the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.'”

4     5  John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a
       leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and
       wild honey.

5     At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region
       around the Jordan were going out to him

6     and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as
       they acknowledged their sins. 6

7     When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees 7 
       coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of
       vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

8      Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.

9      And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have
        Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up
        children to Abraham from these stones.

10    Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore
        every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down
        and thrown into the fire.

11    I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the
        one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not
        worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the
        holy Spirit and fire. 8

12    His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his
        threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but
        the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

1 [1] Unlike Luke, Matthew says nothing of the Baptist’s origins and does not make him a relative of Jesus. The desert of Judea: the barren region west of the Dead Sea extending up the Jordan valley.

2 [1-12] Here Matthew takes up the order of Jesus’ ministry found in the gospel of Mark, beginning with the preparatory preaching of John the Baptist.

3 [2] Repent: the Baptist calls for a change of heart and conduct, a turning of one’s life from rebellion to obedience towards God. The kingdom of heaven is at hand: “heaven” (literally, “the heavens”) is a substitute for the name “God” that was avoided by devout Jews of the time out of reverence. The expression “the kingdom of heaven” occurs only in the gospel of Matthew. It means the effective rule of God over his people. In its fullness it includes not only human obedience to God’s word, but the triumph of God over physical evils, supremely over death. In the expectation found in Jewish apocalyptic, the kingdom was to be ushered in by a judgment in which sinners would be condemned and perish, an expectation shared by the Baptist. This was modified in Christian understanding where the kingdom was seen as being established in stages, culminating with the parousia of Jesus.

4 [3] See the note on John 1:23.

5 [4] The clothing of John recalls the austere dress of the prophet Elijah ( 2 Kings 1:8). The expectation of the return of Elijah from heaven to prepare Israel for the final manifestation of God’s kingdom was widespread, and according to Matthew this expectation was fulfilled in the Baptist’s ministry ( Matthew 11:14; 17:11-13).

6 [6] Ritual washing was practiced by various groups in Palestine between 150 B.C. and A.D. 250. John’s baptism may have been related to the purificatory washings of the Essenes at Qumran.

7 [7] Pharisees and Sadducees: the former were marked by devotion to the law, written and oral, and the scribes, experts in the law, belonged predominantly to this group. The Sadducees were the priestly aristocratic party, centered in Jerusalem. They accepted as scripture only the first five books of the Old Testament, followed only the letter of the law, rejected the oral legal traditions, and were opposed to teachings not found in the Pentateuch, such as the resurrection of the dead. Matthew links both of these groups together as enemies of Jesus ( Matthew 16:1, 6, 11, 12; cf Mark 8:11-13, 15). The threatening words that follow are addressed to them rather than to “the crowds” as in Luke 3:7. The coming wrath: the judgment that will bring about the destruction of unrepentant sinners.

8 [11] Baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire: the water baptism of John will be followed by an “immersion” of the repentant in the cleansing power of the Spirit of God, and of the unrepentant in the destroying power of God’s judgment. However, some see the holy Spirit and fire as synonymous, and the effect of this “baptism” as either purification or destruction. See the note on Luke 3:16

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible,
revised edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian
Doctrine, Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the
copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American
Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing
from the copyright owner.

 

 

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