Monday, July 13, 2015

Fulfilling Righteousness

Matthew 3:11-17

John the Baptist was not one to mince words or placate self-important people. He was focused on the job at hand. He had been given a clear calling. His parents knew before his birth that his life was going to be special, set apart for a specific purpose. And now it was his time to fulfill that purpose. He avoided distractions, wore simple clothes and ate only what the desert provided, usually locusts and honey scavenged from the barren landscape. He didn’t mind. He had more pressing concerns to occupy his attention.

He told anyone that would listen: it was time! The Messiah was coming and his kingdom was drawing near. The people needed to
turn from their sins and prepare their hearts. It was the reason John spent so much time preaching and baptizing. He knew the time was growing close when the long awaited Savior would make his appearance. Those who were not ready would miss him and continue to be carried along by the strong winds of the world, blowing them here and there, but never toward anything of true meaning.

He cautioned the religious leaders, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” They did not appear to heed his warning. But he could not let it trouble him for long, there were hundreds, thousands more that needed to hear God’s message.

One morning as he was baptizing new believers in the Jordan River a man named Jesus approached. He wanted to be baptized by John. But as John met him he realized this was no ordinary man. This was the One, the Savior! John was astonished by Jesus’ request for baptism. How could he, John, a sinner, baptize the Holy One? And for what purpose? Jesus did not need to repent. So “John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me’” (Matthew 3:14)? John looked into his eyes, seeking answers, and Jesus thoughtfully met his gaze.

“Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented” (v. 15). As John baptized Jesus, lowering him into the cool water and then lifting him up the amazing occurred. “At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (vv. 16-17). And then John knew: this was right. God was pleased and it was a part of his plan. John’s role was beautifully fulfilled, and the predictions true for standing in the water before him, still dripping from his baptism was the Messiah and Son of God.

“Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:29-31).

Part 4 from series: Matthew - Back to the Beginning.

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