September 12, 2021 – Matthew 3

Lesson Date: September 12, 2021

Focal Scripture Passage: Matthew 3:1-17

AIM: To lead students to discover the significance of Jesus’ baptism as the first act of His earthly ministry, and to urge any who have never accepted Jesus as Savior or followed Him in believer’s baptism to do so.


Before class: Read the notes on Matthew 3 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Post the pictures of a graduation, a wedding, and a baptism in your classroom.  Write the word “Ceremonies” on the marker board or chalkboard.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the students’ attention to the word “Ceremonies” on the board.  Tell them people participate in ceremonies to mark important milestones in their lives.

Point to the picture of the happy graduates.  Ask: “What ceremony does that picture represent?” (graduation).  Ask: “Why do we have graduation ceremonies?” (to recognize the achievement of the graduates).

Point to the picture of the bride and groom.  Ask: “What ceremony does that picture represent?” (a wedding).  Ask: “Why do we have wedding ceremonies?” (to join a man and woman together as husband and wife, establishing a new family).

Point to the picture of the man being baptized.  Ask: “What ceremony does that picture represent?” (a baptism).  Ask: “Why do we have baptism ceremonies?” (so a new believer can publicly identify with Christ and His church).

Tell the students that ceremonies such as these accomplish three things:

  • They celebrate achievements and milestones in life.
  • They announce to the world the beginning of a new era in life.
  • They recognize the new status of those involved.

Write those three things on the board below the word “Ceremonies.”  Tell the class today’s lesson from Matthew 3 is about The Baptism of Jesus.  We will discover that Jesus’ baptism was a public ceremony that did those very same three things.



  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that we have just begun a six-month study of the Gospel of Matthew.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (the unquestioning obedience of Joseph to God’s instructions).
  2. The Preaching Ministry of John the Baptist.
    • Read Matthew 3:1-4.
    • Tell the students that John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus (Luke 1).
    • Ask: “Where was he preaching?” (in the Wilderness of Judea – locate on the Map of Judea and Galilee).
    • Ask: “What was John’s message?” (repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand).
    • Ask: “What do these verses tell us about his appearance?” (he wore rough clothes made of camel hair and had a leather belt around his waist).
    • Explain the following:
      • John the Baptist was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy quoted in verse 3 (Isa. 40:3).
      • His appearance reminded the Jews of the prophet Elijah, who was prophesied to reappear before the coming of the Messiah (Mal. 4:5).
      • John the Baptist was the messenger God promised to send before the coming of His Son (Mal. 3:1).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 3:5-6.
    • Use the Map of Judea and Galilee to explain that people from Jerusalem and all over Judea went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John.
    • Ask: “What did these people do when they were baptized?” (confessed their sins).
    • Summarize: John the Baptist warned his listeners to repent of their sins. Many came to be baptized as an outward symbol of their desire to turn away from their sin.
  3. John the Baptist Rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees.
    • Read Matthew 3:7-8.
    • Tell the class the large crowds coming to John attracted the attention of the Pharisees and Sadducees, respected and powerful Jewish religious leaders.
    • Ask: “What did John call the Pharisees and Sadducees?” (generation [offspring] of vipers; in other words, sons of snakes).
    • Ask: “What did John ask them?” (who had warned them to flee from the coming wrath of God’s judgment).
    • Ask: “What did John tell them to do?” (bring forth fruits fitting for those who have truly repented).
    • Explain that it is one thing to say you have repented of your sins; it is quite another thing to actually live a changed life that gives evidence that you have truly repented.
    • Here is a good lesson for us: if we have truly repented of our sins our behavior will be different than it was before we repented.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 3:9-12.
    • Explain the following:
      • The Jews were proud of their lineage as descendants of Abraham.
      • They knew God had made special promises to the children of Abraham, so they thought they were right with God simply by being born.
    • Ask: “What did John say about that in verse 9?” (God can raise up sons of Abraham from the very stones under their feet, if He so chooses).
    • Here is another good lesson: no one is right with God because of who his parents are; each of us must individually repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ.
    • Tell the students in verse 10 John warned that God’s “axe” was ready to bring judgment upon those who don’t belong to Him.
    • Ask: “What will God do to those who do not bring forth the good fruit of true repentance?” (cast them into the fire).
    • Tell the class that John baptized people with water in the Jordan River.
    • Ask: “What did he say the one coming after him would baptize with?” (the Holy Ghost [salvation] and fire [judgment]).
    • Explain the following:
      • The word fan in verse 12 literally means a winnowing fork.
      • In ancient times grain was harvested and then taken to a threshing floor, a large flat area on top of a hill.
      • The threshers took winnowing forks (something like pitchforks) and threw the grain up into the air.
      • The wind carried away the very light chaff (the useless hull or husk of the grain), and the usable grain (which was heavier) fell back to the threshing floor.
      • This process separated the wheat from the chaff.
      • The grain was stored in a garner or granary, while the useless chaff was burned.
      • Jesus will one day thoroughly purge His threshing floor, gathering the wheat (true believers) into heaven and casting the unrepentant into hell fire.
    • Summarize: John the Baptist rebuked the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, warning that God’s fiery judgment was coming.
  4. The Baptism of Jesus.
    • Read Matthew 3:13.
    • Remind the students that Jesus grew up in Nazareth (locate on the Map of Judea and Galilee). He traveled more than 60 miles on foot to be baptized by John the Baptist.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Matthew 3:14-15.
    • Ask: “Why do you think John the Baptist was hesitant to baptize Jesus?” (John’s baptism was an outward sign of one’s repentance from sin; John knew Jesus was the sinless Son of God who had no need to repent).
    • Explain the following:
      • Jesus told John to baptize Him in order to fulfill all righteousness.
      • Jesus never sinned and did not need to repent.
      • By allowing John to baptize Him, Jesus identified completely with the sinful people He came to save.
    • Tell the class when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River two very important things happened.
    • Ask them to listen for those two things as you read Matthew 3:16-17.
    • Ask: “According to verse 16, what happened when Jesus came up out of the water?” (the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the bodily form of a dove).
    • Ask: “According to verse 17, what happened next?” (God the Father spoke audibly from heaven, announcing that Jesus was His beloved Son with whom He was well pleased).
    • Explain the following:
      • Some people foolishly deny the existence of the Trinity, since that word does not appear in the Bible.
      • The verses we have just read prove that all three members of the triune godhead were manifested at Jesus’ baptism:
        1. God the Father spoke audibly from heaven.
        2. God the Son was obediently baptized by John.
        3. God the Spirit was visible in the form of a dove.
    • Summarize: John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River. God the Father used that event to announce that Jesus is His beloved Son.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Direct the students’ attention to the three ceremony pictures you used during the introduction of today’s lesson.  Remind them that the graduation, wedding, and baptism ceremonies accomplish three things.  Read those three things from the list on the board.  Tell the class those same three things happened when John baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.

  • First, it celebrated a significant milestone: God had come to dwell among men in human flesh, completely identifying with the sinful humans He came to save.
  • Second, it announced to the world the beginning of a new era: the public earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.
  • Third, Jesus’ baptism included a miraculous public affirmation of His status as God’s Son. Just as the person presiding over the graduation ceremony announces, “I now present to you the graduating class of 2021,” and the preacher at the wedding announces, “I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. ____________,” God announced to the watching world that Jesus was His Son.  He stated His complete approval of Jesus and His message.

Direct the class’ attention again to the picture of the man being baptized.  Explain that believer’s baptism in the Christian church does the same three things.  It celebrates a new life in Christ, announces the beginning of a new era of life for the person being baptized, and recognizes his or her new position and status as a child of God.  Baptism does not save, but it is the first act of obedience for a child of God.

Tell the students if any of them have never truly repented of their sin and trusted Jesus Christ for salvation, those three things do not apply to them.  Urge any who have never accepted Jesus as Savior to do so today.  Urge any who are saved but have never followed Him in believer’s baptism to request baptism today.  Voice a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Matthew 3:8.  Remind the students that if we have truly repented of our sins our lives and behavior should be different.  Urge them to live this week as those who have turned away from sin.

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