Read Matthew 3:1-12 with your family.
As we read the Gospel stories from Matthew throughout this year, we have to remember the stories from the Hebrew Scriptures that are also referenced. So much of the message in Matthew only makes sense if we know what they are talking about from those Hebrew Scriptures.
In today’s story, the writer of Matthew is referencing Isaiah 40:1-8. In that story, the Hebrew people were celebrating. The Persian Empire had defeated the Babylonian Empire and the Persians were in charge of al the Hebrew territories. The Persians didn’t want the Hebrew priests kept away from Judea and Jerusalem, so they let them return AND helped rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah 40:1-8 talks about the return and how the respected prophets and teachers in their community were leading the path home to Jerusalem.
The writer of Matthew wanted people to see John the Baptist talking about hope and new opportunities, just like the hope and new opportunities experienced by the Hebrew people returning to Jerusalem. John told them they were able to be in a great relationship with God as long as they turned away (that’s what the word ‘repent’ really means) from bad behaviour and decided to act more like Jesus. The announcement of Jesus’ coming is a celebration and a chance to change some poor behaviours into better behaviours.