After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.…
I. WHAT DID JOHN PREACH?
1. He delivered the whole law against sin; even in the case of Herod (Mark 6:18-20) and of the Pharisees (Luke 3:7). He showed how the law extended to the words and thoughts of men (Matthew 3:8, 9). He counselled circumspection in the walks of ordinary life, with a view to the final account. Thus he aroused the consciences of the people.
2. He made a demand for immediate repentance, and its fruits in a new life (Matthew 3:2).
3. He heralded Jesus as the Messiah predicted of old (Matthew 3:3). In this way he connected Moses with Christ. For himself he took pains to withdraw and resist every claim (John 1:20). Thus he gave a forward look to all his denunciations of sin in view of the true baptism cleansing from it.
4. He announced the special office of Jesus as the Redeemer of men. Thus he prepared the way for a gospel which based all its invitations of peace on the doctrine of sacrifice.
II. WHAT DID JESUS TEACH WHEN IT CAME TO HIS TURN?
1. Christ testified to the entire accuracy of John's doctrine. He accepted the ministry of His forerunner without one question.
2. He proclaimed the full necessity of an atonement, Not even John exceeded Christ in denouncing sin and requiring renewal of heart.
3. He declared that the necessary sacrifice was now to be accomplished by Himself (ver. 16).
4. He thus raised no new issues between man and God; but rather narrowed all the old into one: He made it clear that faith was the instrument of salvation (Chronicles 6:28, 29). He offered the freest gospel, but He left no chance of mistake to those who might suppose a simple issue was a weak one (ver. 18; Mark 16:16).
III. THE ORDER BETWEEN THE TEACHING OF JOHN AND JESUS. John's came earliest in fact and logical necessity.
1. The historic position of the two men is enough to show all that is here claimed. Our Lord's life was part of His teachings, and each step depended on whatever steps went before. John's work was a necessary and solemn prerequisite to the work of Jesus.
2. Their methods of procedure were similar, John presented the law first, then the gospel; but his of was was plainly to press the law into prominence. Jesus presented the law first, then the gospel: but His office was to bring the gospel into prominence. In both cases the law came earliest.
3. The conclusion, therefore, is inevitable. Law work precedes gospel work in all God's dealing with souls.
IV. PRACTICAL INFERENCES.
1. We see why religious instruction sometimes proves inefficacious; Jesus is preached without John. The Lord does not seem in the still, small voice, because men miss the preparation of wind, earthquake, and fire.
2. Why inquirers are so slow in finding peace. There has been nothing to awake conscience.
3. Why there is so much of unrest and misgiving among Christ's people. They have no intelligent sense of Christ's loyal work in bearing the curse of the law for them.
4. Why backsliding is so frequent as the sin of converts. Somebody has been daubing them with untempered mortar.
5. We see how the new life begins and continues according to the revealed plan (Romans 5:1, 2; Romans 8:1, 3).
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.