Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,
(a) Pontius Pilate is known to us as the governor of Judea, but in Roman terms he was a prefect. Although he was in charge of the military, his primary job was financial. He was the man responsible for collecting taxes and rents, a glorified landlord who ran Judea for the benefit of Rome.
Prefects later became known as procurators. Pilate seems to have been a capable administrator for he served for a period of ten years. Normally resident in the coastal town of Caesarea, Pilate came to Jerusalem for the festivals to keep the peace and administer justice (Matt. 27:2).
(b) Herod was tetrarch of Galilee. When Herod the Great died, his kingdom was divided among four sons. Herod Antipas (4BC–39AD) was given control of Galilee. Since a tetrarch was a ruler of a quarter of a province, he was known as Herod the tetrarch (Matt. 14:1). This Herod was responsible for the murder of John the Baptist (Luke 9:9). He also tried to kill Jesus (Luke 13:31).
in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.
The word of God is the means by which God reveals himself and his will.
The word of God or the word of the Lord can be conveyed via prophecies (2 Sam. 24:11, 1 Kgs. 14:18), dreams (Num. 12:6), visions (Gen. 15:1), the Law (Num. 36:5, Deu. 5:5, Is. 2:3), and angels (Luke 1:35). Evidently John had received a commission to preach the word of God with a special emphasis on repentance and forgiveness. However, the chief purpose of John’s ministry was to prepare the way for Jesus, who is the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14).
See entry for The Word of God.
And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins;
(a) Baptism. The original word implies total immersion. See entry for Baptism.
(b) Forgiveness. The original word (aphesis) for forgiveness is a noun that is sometimes translated as remission and means a letting go or dismissal (see entry for Luke 24:47).
“Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
(a) The axe is already laid at the root. The law-keeping covenant that Israel had with the Lord was coming to an end.
(b) The root. The self-righteous root of unbelief cannot sustain you. We are meant to be rooted in Christ (Rom. 11:18).
(c) Every tree that does not bear good fruit. The fruitless tree is the unbelieving nation of Israel.
This warning is not directed to Christians, but self-righteous religious people such as the Pharisees and Sadducees of verse 7. See also Matt. 23:33.
Further reading: “The axe at the root”
John answered and said to them all, “As for me, I baptize you with water; but One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to untie the thong of His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
(a) Baptize. See entry for Baptism.
(b) Water… Holy Spirit; John’s baptism of water prophetically foreshadowed the baptism of the Holy Spirit. See entry for Mark 1:8.
So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people.
The gospel refers to the gospel of Christ or the gospel of God or the gospel of the kingdom. These are all different labels for the gospel of grace. See entry for The Gospel.
and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”
Beloved. The original word (agapetos) means dearly loved, esteemed, favorite and worthy of love. It is closely related to a verb (agapao) that means to be well pleased or fond of or contented. God the Father not only loves God the Son, but he is deeply fond of him and well-pleased with him (Matt. 12:18, 17:5, Mark 1:11, 9:7, 12:6, Luke 3:22, 9:35, 20:13, 2 Pet. 1:17).
This word also describes God’s heart for the one who is in Christ. Your heavenly Father is fond of you. You are his esteemed favorite and he is well pleased with you. He looks at you with a feeling of deep contentment knowing that you are his dearly loved child.
All the epistle writers referred to believers as the beloved or dearly-loved children of God (see entry for Rom. 1:7).
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