Matthew 3: Jesus Is Baptized by John the Baptist

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 11–12


The Joseph Smith Translation adds a brief summary of the time between Jesus’ childhood and when He was an adult (see JST, Matthew 3:24–26). Matthew 3 begins when Jesus was about thirty years old. In this chapter we are introduced to a man called John the Baptist, who bore witness of Jesus Christ. The story of John’s birth, which occurred six months before the birth of Jesus, is told in Luke 1:5–25. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that when Herod had the children aged two and younger in the land killed (see Matthew 2:16–18), John’s mother hid him in the wilderness, and John’s father was killed because he would not tell where John was hidden (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], p. 261; see also Matthew 23:35). John the Baptist held the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood (see D&C 13) and had a very important mission that was foretold by prophets hundreds of years before his birth (see Isaiah 40:3; Malachi 3:1; 1 Nephi 10:7–10). In Matthew 3 we read about how he used the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood in some very important ways.As you read Matthew 3, consider what you learn about the importance of baptism from what John taught, what Jesus did, and what Heavenly Father said.

Other Accounts of What You Read in Matthew 3

Matthew 3:1–12Mark 1:2–8; Luke 3:1–20

Matthew 3:13–17Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21–22; see also John’s testimony in John 1:29–34

Understanding the Scriptures

Matthew 3

Raiment (v. 4)Clothes 
Leathern girdle about his loins (v. 4)Leather belt around his waist 
Meat (v. 4)Food 
Pharisees and Sadducees (v. 7)Two different groups of Jewish leaders (see Bible Dictionary, “Pharisees” and “Sadducees,” pp. 750, 767) 
Vipers (v. 7)Poisonous snakes (often symbolic of wickedness) 
Wrath (v. 7)Anger 
Fruits (v. 8)Works, actions 
The ax is laid unto the root of the trees (v. 10)A symbolic way of saying the judgment is near or God is about to cut down the trees that bear no fruit in His land 
Bear (v. 11)Carry (the whole phrase is John’s symbolic way of saying that the Savior’s mission is much greater than his own; see JST, Matthew 3:38) 
Fan (v. 12)A tool or instrument used to separate wheat kernels from their lighter outer shell (called “chaff”), which is not eaten 
Purge his floor (v. 12)Clean his place of harvesting 
Forbad him (v. 14)Told him he would not 
Becometh us (v. 15)Is the right thing to do for us 
Descending (v. 16)Coming down 
Lighting (v. 16)Landing 
winnowing

Winnowing

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A and then either B or C as you study Matthew 3.

Activity A iconUsing the Aaronic Priesthood

  1. 1.

    Doctrine and Covenants 13 tells what John the Baptist said when he restored the Aaronic Priesthood to the earth in 1829. He spoke of three keys of the Aaronic Priesthood: (1) the keys of the ministering of angels, (2) the keys of the gospel of repentance, and (3) the keys of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. For each of these three keys, find a verse (or group of verses) in Matthew 3 that describes John using that particular key. (You may want to read Moroni 7:29–32 for help in understanding the key of the ministering of angels. This passage seems to especially apply to what John did.) For each verse you choose, give a brief explanation of how John’s actions demonstrate that priesthood key.

  2. 2.

    Describe ways Aaronic Priesthood holders today are allowed to use these same three Aaronic Priesthood keys.

Activity B iconThe Baptism of Jesus

Answer the following questions:

  1. 1.

    For what purpose did John baptize the Jews? (see Matthew 3:11).

  2. 2.

    For what purposes was Jesus baptized? (see Matthew 3:13–15; 2 Nephi 31:5–9).

  3. 3.

    Why do you think Jesus went to John to be baptized?

  4. 4.

    Why is immersion an important symbol of baptism, and what clues in Matthew 3:13–17 help us understand that Jesus was baptized by immersion?

  5. 5.

    How did Heavenly Father show He approved of the baptism? (see Matthew 3:16–17).

John baptizing Jesus

Activity C iconBe a Missionary

Write how you would use Matthew 3:13–17 to explain to someone who is not a member of the Church that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings.