Matthew 3: “Jesus, Baptized By John”

John’s Ministry

If I was to place myself in John’s shoes I’m not sure I would be so eager or excited to hand over my congregation to an unknown shepherd/carpenter just because it was claimed he was going to be something big.

I mean, if you stand back and look at the situation, John’s ministry at this point was very popular and even expanding. Why wouldn’t God want both of them to succeed? The scripture tells us that John was attracting large crowds from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley (v. 5)Scholars believe that the area where John was baptizing here was six miles north of the Dead Sea by the city of Bethany (not the same Bethany by Jerusalem). It also says that the large crowds went out to see and hear John (v. 5). So I think it would be okay to think that John may have struggled with the idea of handing over all of his people to Jesus.

In a world where pastors are measured by the size of their congregations, Matthew 3 challenged me in a different way then I thought.  I found myself standing in John’s shoes wondering what would I do? Would I be so willing to give people over to another pastor? Would I be as willing to recognize that someone greater than me was coming and I should be okay with taking the back seat? Truth is, we all have to ask ourselves the same questions. Just because you’re not a pastor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be challenged by the same thoughts. John’s integrity and true purpose of ministry was challenged upon’s Jesus’ arrival.

But think about how Jesus handled the situation. Jesus, the son of man, was coming to John to be baptized…?

Jesus Baptized By John

Matthew 3:13-14 (NLT)  13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

Now this would be an interesting situation. John knew that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for repentance, in fact, he knew ultimately it was him who would want to be baptized by Jesus. We know that John knew about the power of Jesus’ baptism from his words in verse 11 and 12.

Matthew 3:11-12 (NLT) 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

What’s interesting in this passage is Jesus’ comment that, “he must carry out all that God requires.” The reality, however, is that God didn’t require baptism. In fact, you can search the Old Testament and you won’t find any “law’s” requiring baptism. So what did Jesus mean? Well, scholars believe that Jesus’ desire to be baptized fulfilled to specific points:

  1. Complete the relationship connection between Jesus (Son) and God (Father)
  2. To advance the cause and purpose of baptism as a part of God’s redemptive work

So think about it: The one who didn’t need to be baptized made is a specific point to be baptized in order to give validity to baptism. Even though Jesus didn’t need to be baptized he still placed himself in the humble position of baptism as a representative of all the people of Israel.

The amazing thing to consider today is this: Jesus began his ministry by symbolically taking on the sins of the people of Israel, he ended his ministry on the cross, taking on the sins of the world.

Titus 2: “Teach, Teach, Teach”

In this section, 2:1-10, Paul turns his attention from the issues of church leadership and false teachers to the various groups within the church. His goal is for them to be aware of the moral obligation they have to the people in their particular age group and community.

Here’s the breakdown of each group:

  • (v. 2) Older Men
  • (v. 3) Older Women
  • (v. 6) Young Men
  • (v. 9) Slaves

The theme in Paul’s instructions is not only what each group is to do, but the responsibility for Titus to “promote the kind of living that reflects wholesome teaching.” Yes we can learn from Paul depending on the category we fall into, but the important contextual takeaway is that Paul is writing regarding what he wants a young pastor to learn.

Here’s the takeaways of each group:

  • (v. 2) Older Men
    • exercise self-control
    • to be worthy of respect
    • to live wisely
    • Must have sound faith
    • Be filled with love and patience
  • (v. 3) Older Women
    • live in a way that honors God
    • Must not slander others
    • Be heavy drinkers
    • Teach others what is good
    • Must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children
    • Live wisely
    • Be pure
    • Work in their homes
    • Do good
    • Be submissive to their husbands
  • (v. 6) Young Men
    • Live wisely

What’s interesting in the category of “Young Men” is Paul’s instructions not to young men, but to Titus himself.

  • And you yourself (Titus) must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized.
  • (v. 9) Slaves 
    • Must always obey their masters
    • Do their best to please them (their masters)
    • They must not talk back
    • Must not steal
    • Must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good

I know this may seem redundant to read, but we can learn a lot about the culture and community when we read this with a first century perspective.

Closing Statement

Titus 2:11-14 (NLT) 11 For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was quoted as saying, “I fear that Christians who stand with only one leg upon earth, also stand with only one leg in heaven.” Bonhoeffer is concerned for Christians who disengaged from the world and don’t take responsibility to bear witness for Christ in the world they actually live in.

The InterVarsity Press Commentary pointed out an interesting suggestion regarding the passage above: The language of this text, especially verses 11-14, is majestic and somewhat allusive. Content, tone and form suggest the passage was probably originally constructed for a baptismal service. Its use of terms that were widely popular made it applicable in this context in which Paul seeks contact with the outsider. But despite these points of contact, the theological basis for the new life that Paul establishes places this life into an entirely different category.

In a few short weeks we will be celebrating our Church Picnic and Baptismal Service. When I think about texts to use, this one will for sure be up there on my list.

Re-read (v. 11-14) from the perspective of baptism and allow that to challenge the way you choose to live today.

Acts 8: “Why Not Now?”

Acts 8 is the location of one of my favorite stories in the bible. It’s the story found at the end of the chapter when Philip baptizes the Ethiopian Eunuch. If you haven’t yet, take the time to familiarize yourself with the story. Acts 8:26-40 (NLT)

I LOVE the eunuch’s response to hearing the Good News of the Gospel:

Acts 8:36-38 (NLT) 36 As they rode along, they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “Look! There’s some water! Why can’t I be baptized?” 38 He ordered the carriage to stop, and they went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.

I LOVE IT! Look, there’s some water, Why can’t I be baptized? We’re not told how big the water was, we’re not even told the condition of the water, and I think that’s important because… IT’S NOT ABOUT THE WATER! The eunuch heard the Good News; and the only thing he could think to do in response was to be baptized. The Good News didn’t penetrate his pores, it penetrated his heart! The eunuch was washed in the Gospel…and he was baptized too. Continue reading Acts 8: “Why Not Now?”

Luke 3: “You’re Going the Wrong Way”

If you’ve ever been exposed to youth sports, you’ve probably experienced the inevitable…a child going the wrong way.

You’ve seen it, a little tike picks up a fumble on the football field and starts running towards his own end-zone. Or the one where the ball is hit off the “T” and the batter begins to head towards third instead of first. I’ve even seen adults in a basketball game get confused and tip the rebound back into their own net!

Typically in those situations all the parents just stand around and applaud the valiant effort of the child…NO! Sometimes the most animated time on the sideline is trying to convince the kid they’re GOING THE WRONG WAY!

This was exactly what John’s ministry was all about! He was moving throughout the region surrounding the Jordan River proclaiming to everyone… YOUR GOING THE WRONG WAY! Continue reading Luke 3: “You’re Going the Wrong Way”