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Matthew 3





SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3

Sometimes when we are reading in the Bible, we miss the timing of the Scripture.  For example, some 30 years has passed between Matthew 2 and Matthew 3.  We left Jesus as a child in chapter 2 and meet him as an adult in chapter 3.

But there is another timing thing at work here.  When we get to Matthew 3, it had been 400 years since the nation of Israel had heard the voice of a prophet.  Except for his written word, God went silent for four centuries.  That silence was broken with John the Baptizer (Baptist) arrived on the scene.  Not only is he the first “Old Testament” prophet that was heard from in 400 years, he is also the last “Old Testament” prophet.

His message for the masses was a call to repent.  Repent basically means to change but it has the notion of a complete, 180 degree change.  Most folks tend to push back on repentance.  So, it is interesting that such a strong message of repentance was received so well by so many as we see in verse 5.  I’m not sure our culture would be as receptive.  

But John’s message to the religious leaders of the day was really straightforward.  Actually, it was kind of in their face. John basically said they were like a wad of snakes that were more interested in proving their ancestry than they were living a life of repentance.

One of the interesting things about Old Testament prophet types is once they get started, they tend to keep on going.  John the Baptizer just keeps going.  He begins to talk about the coming Messiah.  He speaks of Jesus’ unparalleled power and ultimate worth.  He speaks of the Holy Spirit’s work. And he warns us that Jesus will separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats, the real from the imposter.

Then Jesus shows up with the purpose of being baptized by John.  That created a little conversation between John and Jesus.  John understood that Jesus had nothing to repent of; therefore, He had no reason to participate in a “baptism of repentance”.  In fact, John thought it would be better if Jesus baptized him.  But Jesus insisted and was baptized.  The question is why did Jesus submit Himself to be baptized. 

One reason may be that Jesus needed to demonstrate obedience to God given authority.  John was sent by God to baptize.  Jesus submitted to that as an undeniable example for us to submit to any and all God given authority.  

Another reason is Jesus came into the world to identify with men and to identify with men is to identify with sin.  So, Jesus’ baptism was a willing identification of the sinless Son of God with the sinful people He came to save.

A third reason is His baptism was the first step in His redemptive plan.  He who had no sin (Jesus) took His place among those who had no righteousness (us).  In this act, the Savior of the world took His place among the sinners of the world.  And since baptism is a picture of death and resurrection, Jesus’ baptism pointed not only to His death and resurrection but also to the necessity of our spiritual death and resurrection.

The chapter ends with an undeniable picture of the Trinity.  Jesus, the Son, comes out of the water.  The Holy Spirit, like a dove, descends on Jesus.  And God the Father speaks from heaven about Jesus.  What a moment that must have been!

Posted by Joe Ligon with

Matthew 2




SCRIPTURE: Matthew 2

Yesterday, when we left off at the end of Matthew 1, the birth of Jesus had been reported.  As chapter 2 opens, we are introduced to Herod the king (not a nice guy at all) and some wise men from the east (nice guys who were really curious).  These wise men were looking for the One born the King of the Jews.

Typically, our manger scenes have the wise men at the manger.  And there is nothing actually wrong with that but Jesus was probably closer to two years old than he was a new born when the wise men came on the scene.  That probably means they didn’t find Him at the manger.  That doesn’t mean you should dismantle your manger scene.  It just means that our traditions are not necessarily Biblically accurate.

King Herod was all shook up over the birth of this King and set plans in motion to kill all the baby boys two years old and younger.  As a result of that Joseph took his little family and fled to Egypt to escape the persecution.  

I don’t know if you have ever thought about it or not but there is a lot of connections to some very current issues wrapped up in this part of the story.  To begin with, Jesus’ home was heaven.  In a very real way, He immigrated to earth when He was born in Bethlehem.  And then because of Herod’s persecution, Jesus literally became a refugee when his family fled to Egypt.

I don’t mean to stir up anything with this.  But I do think that in the midst of all of the current controversies over immigrants and refugees in our country, we would do well to take a look at what the Bible says about these folks.  We really do need a theology of immigrants and refugees to inform the modern American church of our role in this crisis.  

As Matthew 2 closes, Herod the king dies.  Joseph and his family come back and settle in the city of Nazareth in Galilee.  At the time of Jesus, Nazareth was one of the most despised cities in all of Israel.  In fact, later in Jesus’ life we read, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

There are many things to be learned from this chapter.  But one of the things that struck me is that when things seem so out of control, God is still in control.  Our plans may not be working out (Joseph probably hadn’t planned on moving to Egypt) but God’s plan will always work out just like He has always planned it.  I know it is hard to trust God when things are swirling around us and seem on the verge of falling apart.  In fact, when things seem to be falling apart, God’s plan is often coming together.  That very well the very best time to trust God and His good plan for your life.

Posted by Joe Ligon with