Day Three: Wednesday, June 10th, 2020
Bible Lesson: Matthew 3:1-17
Reflection from Pastor Wayne Eberly:
“Open for business”
John the Baptist and Jesus were contemporaries. The biblical narrative lay dormant for hundreds of years. The Apocrypha chronicles activities of God, but the completion of the canon of the Old Testament is followed by centuries of silence. And then not one charismatic figure, but two appear on the scene at the same time. Jesus appears first in the Gospel of Matthew, the infant born in Bethlehem. However, as an adult, Jesus does not come on the scene until after John the Baptist. This does not mean Jesus is less than John the Baptist.
The Christian tradition orders the books of the Old Testament to highlight the person of John the Baptist. The words of the prophet Malachi, strategically placed at the end of the Old Testament, are like a deep rumble of hope sustaining Israel through the centuries of silence with words of promise:
- “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come…” Malachi 3:1
- The final verse of the Old Testament sets the stage for the next act, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers….” Malachi 4:6
Bursting on the desert scene John the Baptist came preaching an urgent message of repentance. The kingdom of heaven has drawn near. All of the gospel writers identify John the Baptist as the “voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord.’” (Isaiah 40:3) The Baptist’s preaching drew great crowds, multitudes who confessed their sins and received baptism. In Matthew chapter three John the Baptist begins his ministry first. In Matthew chapter three John the Baptist draws great crowds. But in Matthew, as in Mark and Luke and John, the Baptist is clear about one thing. “I baptize you with water for repentance. 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.”
As adults, John the Baptist came first. In a sense, Jesus came last. But as is so often the case, God saved the best for last.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized…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.’”
Noah had his rainbow.
Abraham had a night sky filled with thousands of stars.
Moses had a pillar of fire to guide him in the desert.
Not a one of those signs compared to what God did when Jesus was baptized.
- The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.
- The divine voice said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
- Heaven itself was ripped wide open.
It was almost like God was making a bold announcement that was good news of great joy for all the people. “My Son Jesus is here. We are open for business.”
From Hebrews 1:1 “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, speak to us as we read these holy words about your life on earth.
The Holy Spirit descending on Jesus at his baptism fulfilled messianic texts such as Isaiah 11:2, And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, and Isaiah 42:1, Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. “While for Matthew Jesus was already Messiah at his conception, here at the Jordan…he receives divine empowerment through the visible conferral of the Holy Spirit. By this power he will be able to attack Satan’s forces and thereby exhibit the proximity of the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 12:28) The words of the heavenly voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased,’ confirm the application to Jesus of the prophecy of Isaiah 42:1: ‘Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my Beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased.’” (Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, pgs. 21, 22)