Matthew ◦ Chapter 3
1 When Jesus was still living in Nazareth, John the Baptist began preaching in the desert of Judea.2 He called out to the people: "Turn away from fear and selfishness, and surrender your hearts to God, for the kingdom of heavenly love is upon us!"3 John is the one who God's spokesman Isaiah foretold, "A voice calling in a dark and desolate land: 'Prepare your minds, untwist your hearts, and make ready for the Lord to come with his healing Remedy.'"4 John wore clothing made of camel's hair and tied with a leather belt. He ate locusts and honey found in the wild.5 From Jerusalem and all Judea, large crowds went out to hear him speak.6 Those who immersed their hearts in the truth and acknowledged their selfishness, he dipped in the Jordan River.7 But when he saw the lawyers and theologians of the Pharisee and Sadducee schools arrive where he was dipping people in the Jordan, he said to them: "You poisonous snakes! What are you doing here? Do you think you can get right with God by washing in the Jordan?8 Your hearts must be cleansed and characters renewed, so that your lives bring forth actions in harmony with God's character of love.9 And don't try claiming that you're right with God just because you're genetic descendants of Abraham. Biological descent is irrelevant. The descendants of Abraham are as numerous as the stones lying on the shore.10 The axe of selfishness is already cutting through the roots of Israel, and every person who refuses to be renewed in love and bring forth character of righteousness will be cut off and destroyed.11 "I immerse people in water, which symbolizes their repentance. But One is coming after me whose sandals I am not even fit to hold. He will immerse you in the Holy Spirit and in the cleansing fire of God's love and truth.12 He sifts the wheat from the chaff, purifying his people by consuming all defects with unstoppable fire."13 Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River to be immersed in water by John.14 But John recoiled, saying, "I am the one whose mind and heart need to be immersed in your perfection, and you want me to symbolically wash you with water?"15 Jesus gently said, "It must be this way in order for me to complete my mission of restoring humanity to righteousness." So John agreed.16 After Jesus was immersed, he walked out of the river. Immediately the sky parted, and he saw the Spirit of God come down out of heaven in the form of a dove and gently rest upon him.17 Then a voice from heaven said: "This is my Son whom I love dearly; with him I am totally pleased."