Friday, November 22, 2013

JOHN THE BAPTIST: Matthew 3:1-12



Link: Matthew 3:1-12                     

Symbol: John the  Baptist 


John the Baptist was similar to us as we celebrate the advent of Christ’s birth. John was preparing the way for Christ’s ministry by telling the people to repent. Do we need to prepare our hearts by repenting of some sin or wrongful attitude? Advent is the perfect time to rededicate our lives to the furthering of God’s kingdom. Only then can we “make ready the way of the Lord.”

Here is an audio of me telling this story in a narrative way:John the Baptist 

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

Specific to the Matthew account: 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, A.D. 29. Tiberius ruled over the Roman Empire from A.D. 14 to A.D. 37 and Pilate was the governor of Judea from A.D. 26 to A.D. 36. The reigning Jew over Galilee and Tiberius is Herod Antipas who we have already mentioned in a previous post. His brother, Philip, ruled east of the Jordan from 4 BC to A.D. 34. Annas was the high priest from A.D. 6 to A.D. 15. Caiaphas was his son-in-law and the Romans would replace him as high priest from A.D. 18 to A.D. 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 had for 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."

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 p. 636). 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 exhorts 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. All three are tied to money and material possessions.  It is 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. 

REFLECTION/APPLICATION

Try the Loyola Method of meditation as you imagine John the Baptist in the wilderness.

There is also an entire handout on many methods of meditation for download HERE.

Get Totally Involved -The Loyola Method

(Note: Here’s an approach to meditation 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. 

Loyola Method exercise 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. 
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