Monday, December 17, 2018

Devotional: Recognizing Your “God” Moment, Matthew 3:1-17

Outline of Matthew 3.1-17

Matthew, in chapter 3, jumps ahead in the story of Jesus to the initial revelation of the adult Jesus to the nation at his baptism. Jesus is revealed by God through John the Baptist as the one promised by the prophets and for whom Israel had been waiting to deliver them from exile and bring in God’s kingdom. The Father Himself announces Jesus to be (3:17) the Son of God (Psalm 2), the promised Servant (Isaiah 42) and God come in the flesh (Isaiah 40). John announces to the nation that their moment of decision was about to come. God was about to visit his people in the person of Jesus. Their future would depend on their response. John’s message was simple: Repent! In other words “Quit living your life for yourself and give your total allegiance and trust to Jesus and his mission. John calls all of us to pay attention and listen and look for our “God moments” and respond to them by giving our lives to follow Jesus and serve his people.

The chapter begins by identifying John as the prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-22, Isaiah 40:3) and God’s special messenger (Malachi 3:1) who would come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Malachi 4:5) to herald the coming of YHWH, in the flesh, to his people. John lived a lifestyle, like Elijah, that rejected luxury so that he could stay focused on his mission of  boldly calling the nation to submission to God. He called the nation to a change of lifestyle (repent) to become ready for the kingdom and denounced the religious leaders who had misused their positions for personal gain. The message was urgent because the nation and its leaders were not ready. The coming of God meant that their misuse of God’s promises and blessings was about to be judged. Jesus was about to become the stone that could be the foundation for life and blessing or he would be the stone that smashes things to pieces. The nation’s response to Jesus, and ours, would determine how they, and we, would experience God in their lives.Many in the nation recognized this and came to John to be baptized and confess their sins.

This is a lot to claim for a person so Matthew shows how the events of Jesus’ baptism verify that he was the coming one to whom the prophets were pointing. John, with prophetic insight, immediately recognizes Jesus as his superior. With passionate language he identifies Jesus as the one who “will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” and has the divine authority and power to separate good from evil and determine eternal destiny. (3:11-12) John tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized because he knows he does not need it. But John agrees to do it when Jesus responds that his baptism is necessary to “fulfill” all righteousness. Jesus would take on himself the burden of the sins of the nation and the world and submit himself to a baptism of repentance and, ultimately, the “baptism” of death on a cross for their and our righteousness. Their God moment had come and everything hinged on their response. 

Now, every time Jesus is presented a “God moment” comes. First, he calls us to trust that he has “fulfilled all righteousness” and that his baptism in death paid for our sin and defeated death, his righteous life saves us, and he baptizes us with the Spirit to experience his life now. Jesus’ example then calls us to offer our lives, as he did, to serve God and benefit others. God may not call us to a diet of grasshoppers and honey but he does call us to adjust our values to his and change our lifestyles to focus on his kingdom as our highest priority. Are you having a “God moment” right now?

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