New Testament Journey Day 5. Read Matthew Chapter 3 vs. 1-12 – “John Prepares the Way for Jesus.”
I want to just start off by saying I think the Hollywood producers who have made John look like a large, heavy set man had to have had it wrong. The man ate locusts and honey! (Maybe he ate a lot of honey?) But in my minds eye he was more likely a tall, maybe a bit unkempt man who looked very different from the religious leaders of that day as he wore clothes woven from camels hair and a leather belt around his waist. He definitely didn’t fit in with the meticulous religious leaders of that day. I think he looked different by design. Here he was, the first true prophet in 400 years, entering the scene about 30 years after the events we read in Chapter 2.
John arrives with a message of repentance of your sins. He told the people they needed to repent (to make a 180 degree turn) from the kind of self-centeredness that leads to wrong actions; such as lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing, and indulging in sexual immorality. Remember – God is the only one who can get rid of sin. You can’t be good enough to earn it – and you can’t do it without Him! So many people are under the false idea that they have to get it all together first, then come to God. God says “This is a come as you are gospel! Come broken, busted, disgusted, angry, sinful and I will forgive you and give you the gift of the Holy Spirit that will help guide you into truth on this journey.” If we try to do it on our own – or wait until we have it all together – we’ll never get there.
John was baptizing in the river… when you wash your dirty hands, the results are immediately visible. But turning from sin happens on the inside with the results not always being immediately visible on the outside. John used baptism as a symbol of repentance of your sins and forgiveness from God.
Why did John attract so many people? First he looked different,, and then he spoke different… he publicly blasted both Herod and the other religious leaders using daring words that fascinated the common people. But John also had a message for his audience; they too were sinners and needed to turn from their sin. His words were powerful and true. Can you imagine someone going just to check out this guy out of curiosity and ending up getting baptized?!? Like John, we are called to stand out from the world and not be a Christian in name only. If we are a Christian in name only, we are of no use to the kingdom and he says in verse 10 and 11, “those who are not producing good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.” In other words, we can’t call ourselves Christian and live like the world. The bible clearly tells us often to be set apart. Like John, we need to prepare the way for Jesus in the lives of others by looking different (No, I don’t mean wearing camel hair and eating locusts) but by having peace in the storm… by loving when others would hate… by being kind when someone doesn’t deserve it… by not indulging in sin while those around you do. One day they are going to say “There’s something different about you”… and then you can introduce them to Jesus. Who are you preparing the way for?
It’s Friday friends – enjoy the weekend and remember to keep your eyes off this world and on Jesus! It’s where you will find peace amidst the chaos.