My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of Matthew’s gospel. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.
John the Baptist was a cousin of Jesus who became the forerunner for the Messiah. Isaiah had foretold that such a forerunner would appear and prepare the way for the Lord (Isa. 40:3). John was a rugged outdoorsman, and he did most of his work in the wilderness of Judea. John’s message could be summarized in just a few words: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matt. 3:2); Jesus would begin his ministry with similar words (Matt. 4:17). Both John and Jesus preached to the people of Israel, the nation of God. John worked to prepare believers in God to receive God’s Son. As a nation, their faith had weakened, and their idea of the Messiah was flawed. They needed to repent and be ready to obey Jesus.
People from all around flocked to hear this rugged man of God preach. Those who came to hear included the Pharisees and Sadducees, two prominent sects of the Jews. The Pharisees controlled the synagogues and the Sadducees controlled temple activities. Although they were deeply religious, they were not all spiritual. They interpreted the Law to suit themselves, and sometimes used religion for their own benefit. Such people held sway over the nation of Israel and considered themselves judges of any who claimed to represent God. John called them out bluntly, demanding repentance. Sometimes one’s religious training must be undone in order to appreciate the truth. And certainly, character habits are always subject to the message of repentance. John’s baptism was for those Israelites who repented and pledged to accept the teachings of the Messiah. It was for wayward OT children of God. Once the Gospel of Christ was preached, John’s baptism was no longer valid (Acts 19:1-7). John warned that the One who followed him would sort out the souls of men.
John was shocked when Jesus also came to be baptized. The Son of God was sinless, perfectly pure. Unlike others, he had no need of repentance because he was flawless. Jesus was baptized to demonstrate that all people must submit to the will of God. He identified himself with those who were choosing to pledge themselves to him. God approved of Jesus’ life and actions, speaking from heaven. The Holy Spirit visibly descended upon Jesus. When we decide to come to Jesus by obeying the Gospel, God will be well pleased with us as well. If we believe Jesus is God’s Son, repent of our sins, and submit to baptism, we will be forgiven and added to God’s family, the church (Acts 2:36-47).