John’s Call to ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near!”
Welcome to week 3 of our Journey Through the Gospel of Matthew sermon series and Bible study.
This week’s reading opens with the unique character of John the Baptist, with this story (pericope) extending all the way through Matthew 4:17 with John’s eventual arrest and the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.
The abrupt and sudden appearance of John the Baptist, calling for people to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is near,” in Matthew is a matter of theological importance. Matthew points to the fact that God’s actions in history are often sudden, unexpected and even intrusive into our lives. John’s call for repentance and life transformation can certainly be seen as intrusive into what we have settled in to expect from our lives.
Just like John the Baptist, thrust onto the stage here in Matthew’s Gospel, standing at the edge of the Jordan River in the wilderness of Judea, looking like a wild version of Elijah, we’re shocked by his entrance. Who would have guessed it? John with his crazy appearance and exotic diet, represents how God’s ways with the world are often foreign to us, unforeseen and unpredictable.
John’s call to worship here isn’t some light-hearted ‘good morning God’ type message, but rather it’s a bold and courageous call to a life of worship….a call that shakes the cobwebs from our faith, knocks the dust off our Bibles, and moves us from our pews to the streets!
The Baptism of Jesus
Up to this point in Matthew’s Gospel there’s been no contact between John and Jesus, yet John recognizes Jesus as his superior (“who’s sandals I am not worthy to carry” – 3:11).
It is also evident from the very beginning that Jesus is in charge of the scene. Jesus makes the decision to come down to Galilee and when John tries to reverse the roles, Jesus rebukes and John consents.
Jesus says “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (3:15) Righteousness means here, as in many cases in Scripture, doing the revealed will of God which is accomplished through the baptism of Jesus.
Matthew also combines several Jewish revelatory elements believed only to be given during Biblical times (remember it had been 400 years of silence since the last prophet and the coming of the Messiah), but would reappear during the last days. Including the heavens opening, God speaking directly to the people, and the Spirit descending on an individual, Matthew sets up the Jewish readers of his time to understand Jesus’ coming as the beginning of the eschatological (end of days) events.
This weeks Reading: Matthew Chapter 3 (17 verses)
Prayer for the Week:
Heavenly Father, we come before you today, obedient to your calling. Baptize us with your Spirit, so that we may have the wisdom and strength to accomplish the mission you’ve set before us. And like your Son Jesus Christ, may we also be seen as your beloved servants in whom you are well pleased. Amen.
Heavenly Father, I come before you today, obedient to your calling. Baptize me with your Spirit, so that I may have the wisdom and strength to accomplish the mission you’ve set before me. And like your Son Jesus Christ, may I also be received as your beloved servant in whom you are well pleased. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
- How do the harsh words of John’s call to repent impact you?
- When has God abruptly interrupted your life? – Was it a wake-up call like John’s message?
- What do you make of this text that leads us to the understanding that baptism is a matter of obedience and receiving the Spirit just as Jesus did? (Especially the aspect of ‘obedience’?)
- Considering how you spend your time and resources, does it paint the picture of obedience to self or God?
These questions can be used for individual reflection or small groups. We appreciate the opportunity to share these resources with all of you we’re connected to throughout the world. We pray these resources are a blessing to you and yours.
Praying for You
The community, both local and global, of Bethel Church believes in the power of prayer. Throughout Scripture, Jesus and countless others turn to their life of intentional prayer as a source for understanding God’s redemptive work in their individual lives, as well as all of creation.
Therefore, we believe a representative nature of this ongoing, intentional life of prayer, is to pray for one another.
So how might we be praying for you this week?
Let us know in the form below. We look forward to being a vessel of God’s grace to you as we lift you up in prayer.