Thursday, January 3, 2013

Matthew 3 - Repent for the Kingdom of God is at Hand

LINK: Matthew 3

BACKGROUND


16. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus (Matthew 3:1-12, Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-18) 

Matthew tells the story of the Messiah-King. So, he skips from Jesus' infancy to the introduction of Jesus by John the Baptist who was Jesus' relative. 


The rest of this background will include information from all three parallel accounts.



It is the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, AD 29. Tiberius ruled over the Roman Empire from AD 14 to AD 37 and Pilate was the governor of Judea from AD 26 to AD 36. The reigning Jew over Galilee and Tiberius is Herod Antipas whom we introduced in Matthew 2. His brother, Philip, ruled east of the Jordan from 4 BC to AD 34. Annas was the high priest from AD 6 to AD 15. Caiaphas was his son-in-law and the Romans would install him as high priest from AD 18 to AD 36 even though the Jews continued to recognize Annas.

John has been growing, becoming strong in spirit and living in the desert until his public appearance in Israel (Luke 1:80). This is that public appearance. As a descendant from the priestly line of Aaron, John could have been a priest, but God wanted him to be His messenger (Malachi 3:1) preaching a very special message in the Judean desert and the country around the Jordan River. His message was direct and to the point:

"Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Matthew 3:2

We know from our reading of the Old Testament that the concept of a coming kingdom with a reigning king is huge. The idea of repentance prior to entrance into that kingdom was the new concept for the Jews. They thought that entrance was automatic for them. John said that they needed to "repent." This Greek word metanoéō comes from the base word noéō which means to "perceive, think, know." Repent means to change your opinion, feelings, or purpose from what you thought you always knew. If what you thought you always knew was wrong the word takes on the sense "to regret" (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Kittel). They thought they knew the way into heaven, but John had come to tell them about the real way, and it came via a man who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

John the Baptist exhorted his audience to bear fruit in keeping with righteousness. Just being baptized and Abraham's descendants would not give them an "in" with God!  The Luke account goes into more detail about what would give evidence of genuine repentance: generosity, honesty, and contentment. It is interesting to note that all three are tied to money and material possessions.  It is also interesting to note that the Luke account is the only one that proclaims that "all mankind" (not just the Jews) will see God's salvation (Luke 3:6). This is probably because Luke's audience was non-Jewish. 

17. The baptism of Jesus: Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22


File:Baptism-of-Christ-xx-Francesco-Alban.JPG
Francesco Albani [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
After John's announcement, Jesus reappears after an 18 year absence from the narrative. Jesus came to "fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15) by being baptized; but the Law did not require baptism. What did He mean by this statement? Jesus did not need baptism for repentance, but he needed to identify with sinners.

Only Luke's account (Luke 3:21) states that Jesus was praying at His baptism (one could argue that He was always praying because He was always in connection with the Father). God broke into the course of HISstory when the heavens were opened with the revelation of His Son! Doesn't it sound like Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1?  WOW!

The Holy Spirit descending like a dove marks a time when all three members of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are mentioned. 

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

It would have been amazing to be there when Jesus was baptized and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were all present as One. Put yourself in this scene by trying the Loyola Method of meditation explained at the end of this post.

There is a handout on many methods of meditation for download HERE.

Also, don’t forget that "Kingdom/Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven” is a key word/phrase in the Matthew, Mark, and Luke accounts of the Gospel. By the way, "Kingdom of Heaven” is used exclusively in Matthew, but means the same thing as "Kingdom of God."

Ask yourself inductive questions as you encounter this in your reading. 

What is the Kingdom of God? 
Who is in the Kingdom of God?
When did/will the Kingdom of God come? Is it now, in the future, or both? 
Where is the Kingdom of God?
How does one enter the Kingdom of God?
What does the Kingdom of God mean to us personally? 

 Here is my husband's definition:

"The Kingdom of God is the sphere or realm of God's influence.
Theoretically it is everywhere, but God chooses to limit Himself because He wants us to choose to be 'in' it."


Let's really concentrate on what life in the Kingdom really means in our everyday life! Let's allow Him to bear fruit through us!

Get Totally Involved -The Loyola Method

(Adapted from the “Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius Loyola. He was a spiritual director in the 16th century. The Loyola Method works better when you have a passage that involves a narrative story.)

PART ONE (Preparation)

a. In prayer, ask God for grace to direct your thoughts, words, and actions to service and praise of his Divine Majesty.

b. Read the passage upon which you intend to meditate. Read unhurriedly, but without attempting yet to meditate on the passage. Your goal now is simply to familiarize yourself with the passage.

c. Determine an objective for your meditation time and ask God to help you accomplish it. If the passage you choose, for example, is the account of Jesus’ birth in Luke 2:1–7, your objective may be a sense of awe and humility as you contemplate the mystery of-your Savior’s entry into the world.

Usually this preliminary request is formulated in terms of some emotion you wish God to give you as a result of your meditation. Ignatius Loyola believed that the ultimate purpose of meditation is application (that is, an act of the will), and that the will is motivated primarily by emotion rather than reason.

PART TWO (Meditation)

a. Visualize the scene. In the case of Luke 2:1–7, see in your mind the road from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Is it level, or does it wind through valleys and around hillsides? See Mary, in her ninth month of pregnancy, riding on a donkey, accompanied by Joseph who is perhaps leading an ox. They are going to Bethlehem to pay a tax. What kind of people are they passing on the way? Soldiers? Peasants? Merchants? Other families?
Study in your imagination the place of the Nativity. Is it spacious or cramped? Clean or dirty? Warm or cold? How is it furnished?

b. Assume the role of one of the characters in the passage, or of someone else who might be present. In Luke 2, for example, you could be the hotel’s servant or maid.

c. Now apply your five senses to the scene. Look carefully, watching all the action. Use your ears as you listen in on conversations. Apply your senses of smell and touch. What odors are present? What quality of garments are being worn? Feel the woodwork of the manger. Smell and feel the straw. Apply your sense of taste—is there anything there to eat?

d. Analyze your own feelings as a member of the scene. How do you feel about what is happening? How do you feel about the persons involved? How do you feel about yourself?

PART THREE (Conversation)

Talk to Joseph, or Mary, or someone else in the scene. Talk to them about the thoughts that have come to your mind as you have meditated on this passage. Talk to God or to the Lord Jesus.
    
          This conversation should in most cases lead to some form of action or personal application. 

Adapted From Discipleship Journal, Issue 6 (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress)

PRAYER

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming to fulfill all righteousness and being righteousness on my behalf. We desire to do Your will, God. Amen.