Today's Matthew 3-4
John the Baptist holds an essential role in the Gospel story; his job is to prepare the way for the Lord. His message is, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” Unlike the kingdom of Israel, this new nation is not defined by ancestry from Abraham, nor by obedience to the Torah. The kingdom of heaven is made of those who produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
What does “the fruit of repentance” look like? We believe that repentance must always be accompanied by action. This is about more than merely saying we’re sorry; it’s about living a transformed life. John calls us to live a life in the kingdom of heaven that is defined more by our humility than our holiness, and more by our willingness to change than our record of getting it right.
The kingdom John announces is unusual and unexpected, yet not nearly as perplexing as the king. Jesus, the king, comes to John, the servant unworthy to tie his sandals, and asks to be baptized. This is an act of such extraordinary humility and selflessness that John himself is reluctant. It should be shocking that after this act, we immediately have the amazing affirmation from God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus, we realize, is unveiling the true, humble character of God.
In his temptation in the wilderness, Jesus repeatedly refuses to be a king of power. He is a different kind of Messiah, one who will gain victory through suffering, and exaltation through humiliation. Satan tempts Jesus with the same fruit that worked so effectively on Adam and Eve, the desire to “be like God.” And yet Jesus,”being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.”
When Jesus emerges victorious from the desert, he begins his ministry with the same mission statement used by John the Baptist - “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (4:17). And yet this time, that promise of a new kingdom, a kingdom inaugurated with humble fisherman and healed sick, has a very different meaning. For John, the “nearness” of the kingdom is temporal. John tells the people that the king is coming to them soon. For Jesus, the “nearness” is spatial. Now we can reach out and touch the king ourselves. What kind of king comes near to these kind of people? What kind of kingdom is comprised of fishermen?
Some questions for today:
What are the fruits, the results of repentance in your life? Have you done more than merely apologizing?
Does Jesus act like the God you imagine? How can you begin to follow not the God you imagine, but the God Jesus is?
How can you reject the desire to “be like God” today, and allow Jesus to be God for you instead?
How near is the kingdom to you? How much of your life is lived in the kingdom of heaven, vs the kingdoms of this world?
Can you reach out and touch Jesus today?
Ok, put the Bible down and go do it!