Week 3, Day 2
READ: Matthew 3
BACKGROUND: John the Baptist, like Jesus, was a special character whose birth God foretold (see Luke 1-2). He was actually related to Jesus – via their mothers, Elizabeth & Mary – and God had a very clear purpose and plan for him from the beginning. John was to be one who prepared the way for Jesus by going before him and calling people to repentance for all of their wicked ways.
1 – The Wilderness of Judea is a barren desert wasteland on the coast of the Dead Sea.
3 – This prophecy is from Isaiah 40:3 (written about 700 years before John the Baptist).
7 – This is the first, but certainly not last, time in the Gospels that we see open challenging of the Pharisees & Sadducees. They were the religious leaders of the day, but they were constantly shown to be practicing outward religiosity rather than inward faith. Repenting of outwardly going through the motions without really having a relationship with God is exactly what John was preaching against!
9 – Some Jews clearly thought they were born into salvation. They thought their lives didn’t matter because they were Jews – descendants of Abraham – so they were “in” no matter what.
11 – Baptism is a form of identification. It doesn’t save people. It didn’t save people back then. When people got baptized by John the Baptist it meant that they were publically identifying themselves with his message of repentance. Jesus, though he had nothing to repent for because he was sinless, identified with that message of righteousness and repentance too. That’s why he got baptized.
11-12 – He is talking about Jesus.
15 – In being baptized by John, Jesus identified himself with the sinners he came to save.
16-17 – This is one of the greatest Biblical explanations/pictures of the Trinity. It is fundamental to our understanding that God is one in 3 persons: The Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit.
THINK: It isn’t easy to change. When I was a senior in college I had my appendix taken out (which is a long story for another day) but while the doctor was doing surgery he noticed that I had diverticulitis as well. Without getting into gross details about intestinal walls and stuff, I can tell you that his basic message to me was: If you don’t want this to be a problem for you later in life then you need to make a lifestyle change: you need to eat lots of fiber. That didn’t sound too hard to do, and so I went out and bought a giant thing of Metamucil – and I got a weird look from the lady who rang me up because not a lot of 21 year-olds buy fiber supplements. But here’s the catch: that fiber sat on my shelf for months before I even opened it. I knew what I needed to do, but I just never actually made the decision to do it.
It’s interesting to me that so many people in our world are in the same boat when it comes to following medical advice. For me it certainly wasn’t a matter of life and death; it was a matter of avoiding the possibility of discomfort. For others, however, the stakes are more serious. Studies show that even though almost all patients who receive heart bypass surgery are told that they need to change their lifestyles – healthy eating, exercise, etc. – if they wish to keep living, almost 90 percent of them do not change. They are staring a life or death matter in the face and they choose not to change. It isn’t easy to change.
John the Baptist preached a message of change. Doctors talk about physical change; John talked about spiritual change. He looked out at an evil and depraved generation who had lost their fire for God and gotten so caught up in the external stuff that they ignored what really mattered and he called them to make a change. He called them to repent. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 3:3
But what does it mean to repent? What does that look like? Well, repentance means to make a change. It means to choose to shift the way we think about God and rearrange our priorities. It means allowing a personal relationship with God to define our thoughts, actions, & decisions. Repentance, at the core, means turning around. It means turning around from this path of sin and destruction and separation from God that we are on and making a serious lifestyle change. Change isn’t easy. But if we are willing to confess the areas where we have fallen short and settled for less than God’s best for us and we are willing to turn away from the sins of this world, then God is certainly willing to forgive, heal, & cleanse us. He is so willing to forgive us that he sent his son – a son in whom he was well pleased – to die on a cross for us! The only appropriate response for us is to make a lifestyle change no matter how difficult that is to do.
Are there things in my life right now that I need to repent about – that I need to confess to God and turn away from? What are some lifestyle changes that I will have to make if I’m going to be spiritually healthy and give God his rightful place in my life?