17 John Prepares the Way

UNIT #: 

Repent and Believe - Be Fruitful

Bible Passage: 

Matthew 3:1-12

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Proclamation of John the Baptist

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 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.’”

Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

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? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. 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. 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.

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. 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.”

Main Ideas: 


God has a purpose for all prophets sent to inform and prepare his people of His upcoming actions. John was a prophet sent to set the stage for Jesus' mission on earth. Jesus grew up in a normal family in normal circumstances and no one considered Jesus as special until His glory was reveled by John the Baptist. However John had a unique life and led his life as a Nazarite and was thought of highly by the people as a God’s messenger. Hence John's revelation of Jesus was easily accepted by the Israelites as the Messiah.  Here are some of the most relevant prophesies about John the Baptist.

Isaiah prophesized hundreds of years before the arrival of John as the person to prepare the way for the arrival of Jesus. Isaiah 40:3: A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare  the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert  a highway for our God..."

Malachi 3:1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty.

Malachi 4: 5-6 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” This is a reference  to John who had spirit and power of Elijah.

John's Ministry: Preparation for Jesus

John's ministry included the following;

  1. preaching about the "arrival of time" and the need for baptism of repentance with water
  2. reveling himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy (John 1:23) as the preparer of way
  3. reveling the light (Jesus) unknown to world even when it existed before John (John 1: 9-11)
  4. introducing Jesus as the Sacrificial Lamb to the world(John 1: 29-30)
  5. bear witness that Jesus as "God's Chosen One" who will baptize by Holy Spirit (John 1:32-34)

In Mark 1:4, it says "  And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River

in Bethany, when Jewish Priests questioned John if he himself is the Messiah or Elijah or a Prophet, (John 1:23) John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord' "

John 1: 9-11 is revealing Jesus as a light who was already in the world, however the world neither received nor recognized His glory. "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

in John 1: 29-30, John is introducing Jesus to the world as the Lamb who will bear the sins of the whole world. 'The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Finally he is bearing the witness that Jesus is "God's Chosen One" who will baptize by Holy Spirit. John 1:32-34 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

John's Role

John clearly knew his role prescribed in God’s Word. He understood that Jesus is well above his status  and says "He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not even fit to remove His sandals". John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less”.

9 months before his birth, Gabriel, the angel of God appeared to John’s father, Zacharias (Luke 1:16-17), and said about John “He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Comparison to Elijah.

Prophet Elijah is considered as a strong personality who had the courage to challenge a mighty king Ahab (who worshiped pagan gods to please his wife Jezebel) and the 450 prophets of Baal  in Mount Carmel and slaughtered them (1 King 18:18-40). Malachi prophesied about John bearing the spirit of Elijah. In a similar way,  John also can be seen rebelling against the Pharisees and Sadducees as calling them by names "brood of vipers" in Mathew 3:7 and in Luke 3:19 John rebuked  King Herod because of his marriage to Herodias

Lesson Review: 

Fill in the blanks

  1. Jewish Priests questioned John if he himself is the Messiah or Elijah or a Prophet in __________
  2. ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the _________  ____________.’ 
  3. John 3:30 “He must become _______________; I must become _____________”.

Answer the Questions

  1. Explain 2 of the prophesies about John as the preparer of the way for Jesus
  2. Explanation how John introduced Jesus to the world
  3. Explain why John the Baptist is compared to Prophet Elijah
Values for Life: 

Response of Believers

John created a favorable environment by Baptism by repentance for remission of sins for Jesus to enter and operate in.  Matthew 3:6 tells us, "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River."

In Luke 3: 10-14, we can see the people, tax collectors, soldiers etc genuinely touched by the warnings of John and seeking advice on what to do. John’s answer was simple;

  1. Share what you have with the poor and needy
  2. Do not be greedy and be happy with what you get paid
  3. Do not accuse others falsely

Hence, we need to set the stage ourselves for the second coming of Jesus. Hebrews 12:14 says “without holiness no one will see the Lord”. We need holy spirit in us for repentance.  1 John1:8-9 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. Proverbs 28:13 says “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” 1 John 1:7-10

Memory Verse: 

Matthew 3:2

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

scope and sequence