Bible Focus: Matthew 3
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” For he is the one spoken of through the prophet Isaiah, who said: A voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Prepare the way for the Lord; make his paths straight!Matthew 3:1-3 CSB
As a young adult, I once spent countless hours listening to Skip Carey and Pete Van Wieren. If those names seem familiar to you, then I predict that you are (or once were) an Atlanta Braves baseball fan.
Skip and Pete never actually played for the Braves, or for any other team in Major League Baseball. Skip and Pete were broadcasters. For over thirty years, they anchored play-by-play and commentary for the Atlanta Braves on radio and television. In 2004, they were both inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Those guys were good at what they did. When I listened to Skip and Pete, I could easily keep track of the game and imagine the plays in my head as they described the action. Between plays, I listened to them chat about the ins and outs of baseball as they reviewed stats and told stories about players, coaches, umpires, and teams. They juggled all of these things with an enjoyable banter that seemed effortless, which of course showed the depth of their preparation and experience.
However, as good as they were, I wouldn’t have tuned in to hear Skip and Pete simply talk about their lives. I listened to them because they helped me experience Atlanta Braves baseball. In the same way, if we are followers of Jesus, then at some point we will realize that our true purpose is not found in ourselves. Our purpose is to help people experience the One greater than ourselves.
By the time Jesus was born, Jewish culture had changed significantly from the culture of their ancestors who went into exile hundreds of years before. Most Jews no longer spoke Hebrew or Aramaic; they spoke Greek. Their scriptures had been translated into Greek. Temple sacrifices and religious festivals were held in Jerusalem, but Jews worshiped more often in their local synagogues. All Jews were under the authority of Rome. The Romans allowed them to govern their religion and some of their local affairs, but the Jews could only dream of having a king of their own. No prophet had appeared in Israel for hundreds of years.
Meanwhile, an expanded Jewish religious system had sprung up. This system included priests, guards, teachers, scribes, and lawyers. The Jewish religious council was called the Sanhedrin, and its two primary religious parties were the Pharisees and the Sadducees. These two groups held much power and influence over Jewish life.
About thirty years after Jesus was born, God called a prophet named John the Baptist to deliver a message to his people. John lived in the wilderness, ate off the land, and dressed like a prophet of old. He declared that God’s kingdom was near and he urged people to repent. If someone was willing to repent, John would baptize them in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins. But to those who demonstrated no repentance–even if they were outwardly religious–John would give strong words of warning.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones. The ax is already at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.Matthew 3:7-10 CSB
A key part of John’s message was to point people to God’s promised Messiah. John emphasized that the Messiah would have the power to discern his people, give them the Holy Spirit, and gather them to himself. At the same time, the Messiah would condemn those who were unrepentant and not part of God’s people. John presented no middle ground in regards to the kingdom of heaven. People would either be in the kingdom along with the Messiah, or they would be outside the kingdom with no hope of return.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove his sandals. He himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing shovel is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn. But the chaff he will burn with fire that never goes out.”Matthew 3:11-12 CSB
One day, Jesus showed up at the Jordan River and asked John to baptize him. John was resistant at first, because he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. John tried to talk Jesus out of the idea, but Jesus reassured John that it was good and proper. So John baptized Jesus, even though Jesus had no sin to confess.
When Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”Matthew 3:16-17 CSB
Here’s the good news. God the Father has testified that Jesus is his Son. We can either repent and believe him–or not. There is no middle ground. But if we humble ourselves before Jesus, repent of our sin, and believe in him as our Lord and Savior, then Jesus will give us the Holy Spirit and the kingdom of heaven. And after we joyfully accept these gifts from Jesus, we can live our life announcing that others can trust in Jesus too.
Featured image from Paul Brennan on Pixabay.
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1 thought on “The Announcer”
The message is clear and encouraging as usual. Thanks.