New Testament in 6 months – day 2

2 Apr

Matthew 3:1-4:25
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ ” John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptised by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptising, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptise you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God, ” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. “All this I will give you, ” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

2 things strike me about these chapters.
The first is that life on God’s path is not easy. We see this with the way John lived his life, a prophet who lived off locusts and honey. But not just his way of life, but how he lived out his calling. He was called to be a voice crying out and the words he cried out were not always easy to say. On first glance it might seem easy to insult the Pharisees, but remember that they, and the Sadducees, were the Jewish ruling elite. They had their own guards and ran the temple, meaning they could declare you unclean and do the equivalent of excommunication if they felt like it. John would have known this, what with his father being a priest, but he still carried on. It must have taken enormous faith in God and immense bravery to stay in the same place day after day after he had called them a “brood of vipers” but he did it until he was arrested.
Then we have Jesus, who we see getting tempted by Satan when He is possibly at the second most weak point He will ever experience in His life. He has fasted for 40 days, which would mean refusing to give in to the temptations of His rumbling belly that would have come up long before Satan started his tempting. And when He is at this weak point Satan decides to strike. First at the immediate issue of hunger, then questioning the voice from Heaven that Jesus heard at His baptism and finally tempting Jesus with an easier way to what He knows He can only get through the pain and suffering of the cross if He does it the Father’s way.
Life on God’s path is not easy, whether you know what is going to happen or not. Our challenge is to keep faith and hold fast, relying on God’s strength to keep us there.

The second observation I made was that Jesus’ reputation spreads throughout Syria. Syria was not a Jewish area, indeed Syria and Israel had been at war during the time of the kings, yet people were coming from there and other surrounding areas of a not particularly Jewish persuasion to see this Jewish healer and teacher. Even from the beginning, despite His main calling being to the Jews, Jesus’ ministry bridges the divides of centuries of conflict and bring outsiders in.
And surely that is our model as a Church. Surely the Great Commission is all about bringing those outside, who don’t know Gd’s love and forgiveness, in to His presence and relationship with Him.

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