1In those days, John the Baptizer came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” 3For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness,

make the way of the Lord ready!

Make his paths straight!”

4Now John himself wore clothing made of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him. 6They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for his baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Therefore produce fruit worthy of repentance! 9Don’t think to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.

11“I indeed baptize you in water for repentance, but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his threshing floor. He will gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn up with unquenchable fire.”

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John would have hindered him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?”

15But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it now, for this is the fitting way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.

16Jesus, when he was baptized, went up directly from the water: and behold, the heavens were opened to him. He saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming on him. 17Behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

First-Century Politics: Pharisees and Sadducees

Topical study | Matt 3:7 | Daniel G Garland

Who were the Pharisees and Sadducees? There were four political and religious parties that influenced Jewish society at the time of Christ, the  Sadducees and Pharisees (who were also spiritual leaders), the former who were connected to the Temple, were theological liberals, and consorted with Rome. Conversely, the Pharisees were teachers of the law.

The Zealots wanted to overthrow Rome in favor of national independence. They were fanatical about the Law and saw themselves as warriors for God. They believed the pagan Roman Empire as the enemy of God, and thought it was their duty to engage in military resistance against Rome. 

Opposite to the Zealots were the Herodians,  who supported the rule of king Herod and were  supporters  of Roman rule.

In contrast to the Zealots were the Sadducees and Pharisees. The Sadducees are traditionally thought to have had their beginnings with Zadok, the high priest under King David, but their actual beginnings were with the Hasmonean “priest-kings” in the 2nd century B.C. At the time of Christ, they were economically affluent, politically powerful, religiously liberal, and represented by most of the high priests. Many served on the council known as the Sanhedrin. Holding only to the Law of Moses (the first five books of the OT), they denied the resurrection of the dead, life after death, eternal punishment, a literal kingdom, the existence of angels, and God's control of history (see Matt 22:23; Acts 4:1-2; 5:17; 23:6-8). 

The Pharisees, on the other hand, were religious conservatives whose cause probably derived from the Hasidim, their name meaning "to separate." They arose roughly at the same time as the Sadducees, perhaps as a reaction to them. Many had a distrust of the priesthood and chose to study the law on their own, and were considered doctors of the Law. Like the Herodians, another political party in Israel, though less influential, they favored local political autonomy. Like the Sadducees, they were well represented on the Sanhedrin. Unlike the Sadducees they held to the Talmud, Mishna, oral and rabbinic tradition with fanatical zeal. They believed in God's intervention in the affairs of men through angels, and a future kingdom in literal fulfillment of God's promise to David. Their most notable difference with the Sadducees was their adamant belief in the resurrection of the body, and life after death (see Paul's exploitation of this dispute in Acts 23:5-8). For all of their differences, Jesus warned His disciples against "the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees," which was later identified as their teaching (Matt 16:6-12). Both groups were spiritually blind, self-righteous, sign-seeking, and hypocritical (see Matt 3:7; 16:1; 22:29; 23:1-39; Luke 12:1).