Thursday, March 17, 2011

Matthew 3


1 Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, primarily along the Jordan River Valley to the Dead Sea saying, 2 ``Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matthew uses "kingdom of heaven" in place of "kingdom of God" 32 out of 36 times. This kingdom is not a place, but a rule-a presence of God on earth.

'' 3 For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, ``THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, `MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!' John's ministry was announcing the end of the old and introducing the new that is to come through the coming of the Messiah. '' 4 Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem was going out to him and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6 and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

Who were going out to be baptized? Those who went out from Jerusalem must have heard of John's preaching and were interested enough to check him out. They must have had some discontentment with what they were experiencing. When they heard John's preaching to "repent", they submitted themselves to be baptized in this new way, confessing their sins of rejecting the way of the Messiah.

NOTE "repent" means to change your mind about what you believe or are doing and turn around in your thinking or behavior. The Jews had more reason to REPENT-to turn around and back to a personal relationship with their God.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ``You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 ``Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9 and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10 ``The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John wasn't easy on the religious who came out to the wilderness to be baptized. He pointed out that they were so close to the axe and/or fire of judgment before making this decision to repent.

11 ``As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 ``His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.''

John came to open the door of change-to repent-to make way for God's Messiah. John baptized with water to move people into repentance. Jesus will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Jesus' baptism will be an inside job by His Spirit and will be a purifying work of fire.

13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ``I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?'' 15 But Jesus answering said to him, ``Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'' Then he permitted Him. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ``This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.''

John didn't want to baptize Jesus, the One he spoke about earlier as mightier than he. However Jesus was determined that John would baptize Him to fulfill all righteousness. Why is it that Jesus was determined to submit Himself to this baptism?

1. Example to follow-Jesus set the way for all those who will live out the Kingdom lifestyle. 2. Identification with sinners-Jesus wanted to identify Himself with sinners. This is very interesting. He identified Himself with sinners, so that we sinners would trust in Him and identify ourselves with Him. 3. Affirmation of John's ministry/teaching-Jesus wanted to give affirmation to the teachings of John to prepare the way for the Kingdom of Heaven.

BAPTISM-The meaning of baptism is identification. The root meaning of "baptize" is to immerse or dip something into something else. For example, if you take a cloth that is identified by "white" and dip it (baptize) into a bucket of "red" dye, the white cloth will have a new identification-RED. When a person is baptized into Jesus, he is identified as a follower of Jesus-in one with Him.

I see water baptism as the "kingdom ID card" for all of those who want to walk with Jesus in His kingdom. New Testament baptism seems to be believer's baptism and not infant baptism. There are all kinds of good reasons given for baptizing babies, but this "kingdom ID card" is for those who have made a willing decision to be identified with Jesus in His kingdom.

So, have you picked up your "kingdom ID card" yet?