John the Baptist prepares people to meet Jesus
1 This report is about John, the son of Zechariah. It happened when Tiberius Caesar was ruling the Roman world. He had ruled for about 15 years. Pontius Pilate was ruling the country called Judea. And Herod was ruling the land called Galilee. Herod's brother Philip was ruling the countries called Iturea and Trachonitis. Lysanias was ruling Abilene. 2 At this time, the leaders of the priests were Annas and Caiaphas. John was living in the wilderness. While he was there, God spoke to him.
3:1Tiberius Caesar was the second man to lead all the countries Rome was ruling. He began to rule in AD 11 after Caesar Augustus died. See Luke 2:1. Luke wants us to know when John the Baptist was teaching. So he tells us all these things about the rulers. This report about John began in AD 25-26.
3:1Galilee, Iturea, Trachonitis and Abilene were the names of some of the different parts of Israel.
3 John went to many places near the Jordan river and spoke a message from God. ‘You have done many wrong things,’ he taught everybody. ‘You must turn away from them and change how you live. Then God will forgive you and I will baptize you.’
4 The prophet Isaiah wrote this message from God in his book:
‘Somebody's voice is shouting in the wilderness,
“The Lord will come soon, so prepare a way for him to follow.
Make the paths straight for him.
5 Fill in every valley and make every mountain and hill flat.
Take away every curve so that the road is straight.
Take away all the rocks so that the road is flat.
6 Then everyone will see how God can save them.” ’
3:6See Isaiah 40:3-5. Isaiah was using a picture to show people how to prepare themselves for the Lord to come. At that time, people mended the roads before a ruler arrived. To be ready for Jesus, they should stop doing wrong things and they should start to do what is right.
7 Crowds of people were going out into the wilderness. They wanted John to baptize them. He told them, ‘You are like dangerous snakes! God is angry. You are trying to run away from him. But he will soon punish people like you. 8 You have to show that you are sorry. Change how you live. Stop doing things that God does not like. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We are in the family of Abraham. God will surely not punish us.” Listen! God can take these stones and make children for Abraham out of them! 9 You are like trees that have bad fruit. God has an axe ready to use. He will cut down every tree that does not make good fruit. He will throw those trees into the fire.’
3:8The Jews knew that they were God's special people. But how they lived was important to God. God wanted them to live good lives. At that time, many of them did not seem to understand that. When they did not obey him, he was angry with them. He was ready to punish those people, if they would not obey him.
3:8The Jews called themselves ‘children of Abraham’. God had used Abraham many centuries before to start their family.
10 ‘So, what should we do?’ the crowd asked.
11 John answered, ‘If you have two shirts, give one away. Give it to someone who does not have even one shirt. If you have some food, give some of it away. Give some to someone who has no food.’
12 In the crowd, there were people that took taxes on behalf of the government. These men also wanted John to baptize them. They asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ 13 John told them, ‘You must take the right amount of money from people. You must not take more money than the rules say you should take.’
14 Then some soldiers asked John, ‘What about us? What should we do?’
‘Do not rob people of their money,’ John replied. ‘Do not say that a person has done something wrong, if he has not. It is wrong to get money by doing that. You should be happy with the money that you receive for your work.’
3:14Many people who took money on behalf of the government were not honest. They often took too much money. They took it for themselves. John told them that they should be honest. God would then know that these people really wanted to obey him.
15 At this time people were thinking, ‘Is John the Messiah that God has promised?’ They were all hoping that he might be. 16 John knew what they were thinking. He said to them, ‘I baptize you with water. But someone else is coming soon. He is much greater than I am. I am not good enough even to undo his shoes for him. This other person will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is like a farmer that brings the wheat home from his field. He uses a special tool to throw the wheat up in the air. He does this to make the wheat seeds separate from what remains. Then he cleans his yard. He carefully stores all the seeds to keep them safe. But he burns everything else in a great fire that nobody can put out.’
18 John said many more things to the people. He was telling them the good news about how God could change their lives. 19 One day John told the ruler Herod that it was wrong for him to marry Herodias. Before that, she had been the wife of Herod's brother. John also told Herod that he had done many other bad things. 20 So then Herod did an even worse thing; he locked John up in prison.
3:19Herod had married Herodias. She was already the wife of Philip. Philip was Herod's brother.