Matthew 3:13-17: “To Fulfill All Righteousness”

Read: Matthew 3:13-17

Up to this point in his Gospel, Matthew has been building a case for Jesus based on who he was and where he came from with a particular emphasis on prophecies. Here, Matthew switches to Jesus’ adult ministry and life with his baptism being the first episode in the gospel with Jesus as an adult. It serves as a bookend to Jesus’ ministry, with the other bookend being the Great Commission. The connection between Jesus’ baptism and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is uncanny. In both texts we see a reference to obedience, all members of the Trinity, and a reference to baptism. When Jesus starts his ministry, he comes to John asking for baptism of repentance, rather so he could “fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to save people from their sins, but in order to do so he had to do what they could not: live a perfect life in obedience to the law. The first act of obedience that is recorded in Matthew is baptism. Jesus had nothing to repent of, but it serves to show that he was in submission to the will of the father willing to do deeds in accordance with righteousness.

A key difference here though is that all the members of the Trinity are present at the event. Jesus is being baptized, the Spirit is descending like a dove, and the Father is speaking from heaven. The Father’s statement by themselves underscore Jesus ministry if nothing else won’t. These same words are spoken in Matthew 17 at the transfiguration of Christ which Peter also recalls in his 2 epistle (2 Peter 1:17). The transfiguration account however tags the remarks with “Listen to him”. In both instances though, the Father is acknowledging the Son before people so that they too will listen to Jesus and his message of salvation.

When Jesus ended his ministry on earth, he was not one under authority, rather one with all authority. He acknowledges this fact in verse 16 in the Great Commission, then offers a command for his disciples to make disciples of all nations. Jesus is commanding the disciples to teach others to obey the commands that he had them to follow. The same commission goes out to all those that followed too. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 tells Timothy to teach what he had learned to others who could teach it. By implication, there are 5 generations: Those that taught Paul, Paul himself, Timothy, those that Timothy would teach, then those who who be taught by Timothy’s learners. Christians today stand on the authority of Christ and are commanded to do no less than the disciples did: make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey the things God commanded, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Lord, all authority has been given to you so help me to obey you by making disciples of all nations!

Matthew 1:18-25: God’s Will God’s Way

Read: Matthew 1:18-25

Mary becoming pregnant with Jesus certainly raised eyebrows. Based on what we do know about her, she was a devout Jew betrothed to the righteous Joseph. The Bible records that both Mary and Joseph followed the traditions of the Jews by observing festivals and rites and religious observances at the temple (Luke 2). Mary getting pregnant before she was married among a community of devout Jews was certainly taboo, and the penalty for such was death (Deuteronomy 22:23-14). Joseph knew this and did not want to make a spectacle of Mary or see harm come to her even though under the law she could have been killed, so he decided to to dismiss her quietly.

Twice in this text though Matthew affirms that the baby Mary was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit. An angel reveals this to Joseph and also reminding him that he was the Son of David. The common belief of Jews was that the Messiah would come from the line of David. Luke 1:34-35 also confirms that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, a baby conceived by the Holy Spirit means that Mary broke no law — rather it pointed to the fact that this was indeed God’s will and God was using Joseph and Mary’s lives to bring about his purposes.

Matthew shows the importance of the virgin birth by invoking the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, which is echoed in Isaiah 8:10 and Isaiah 9:6-7. Isaiah is speaking about a prophecy concerning the coming of the King of Assyria that was coming as a conqueror to Israel, but it wouldn’t happen immediately. It would come some time after the child was born to a virgin. When this boy came of age, then the judgment would come. This would be followed by a time of restoration and this child would assume the role of King David. While this prophecy was literally fulfilled in part during the time it was given, the restoration with a King in the line of David was not and is where Jesus comes in. Like the Isaiah child, there will be a time of relative calm between of his birth and second coming, but after that judgment will fall and Jesus will be enthroned forever (Revelation 22).

But if fulfilled prophecy wasn’t enough, even the names given to Jesus pointed to God’s purposes. Emmanuel, as the text states, means “God is with us”. Jesus is the Anglicization of the Greek, which as a transliteration of the Hebrew “Yeshua” which means “God Saves”, and Matthew notes that Jesus would save people from sin.

Jesus’ first coming was not to judge the world, but to save it (John 3:17). His second coming will be the time of when he returns to judge the world. Christians today are living in the interim period between his first and second coming and God is still accomplishing his purposes through ordinary individuals like Mary and Joseph. Every believer has the Holy Spirit working in him or her like Mary guiding and directing believers (John 14:26). Christians therefore ought to be as Joseph and Mary and respond in obedience to what God wants from them so that his will can be accomplished on earth!

Lord, I am willing. Use me as you see fit for your glorious ends!

Luke 5:27-32: A Call to Repentance

Read: Luke 5:27-32

Right after Jesus demonstrates his authority to forgive sin, Jesus does something else rather alarming: Jesus calls a “sinner” as one of his followers and then participates in a feast in his honor that is attended by more of these so called “sinners”. Jesus’ propensity for breaking social taboos was already known when he touched a leper (Luke 5:13). Tax collectors in the day of Jesus were one of the most despised members of society for a number of reasons. First, they were seen as traitors because often times they were indigenous members of a conquered who were hired by the conquering Romans to collect taxes for Rome. Second, tax collectors were also extortionist, wringing more money out of taxpayers than the taxpayer owed. Tax collectors got to pocket this extra as profit.

Levi, also known as Matthew (Matthew 9:9), was one of these, nevertheless Jesus saw it fit to call Levi as his disciple. Levi would go on to write the Gospel of Matthew. Levi abandoned everything and followed Jesus when Jesus called him, just like Peter, James, and John (Luke 5:9-11). He had almost certainly heard of Jesus and was nearby at the healing of the lame man. By implication, Levi like Peter was confronted with the awesomeness and holiness of God and repented of his sins. His natural response was obedience, so that when Jesus did call him he obeyed and obeyed immediately just as Peter did.

The Pharisees grumbled against Jesus because he, being a righteous man, associated with sinner which is something that a Pharisee would never do. Jesus replies with a metaphor pertaining to a physician coming to heel the sick, and he relates to his mission to calling the sinner to repentance. The Pharisees were zealous about following the law and for that reason did not, at least outwardly, appear as one of the “sinner”. Jesus on other occasions though does point out their sin (Matthew 6:1-2, Matthew 22:18, Matthew 23:11-31).

Later, Jesus would commission Levi and the rest of the disciples to make disciples of all nations as Jesus had done with them in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The first step in making disciples though is to find sinners and present them with the gospel. Part of the gospel is telling people about the reality of their sin (Romans 3:23) and the call to repentance as Jesus did in verse 32. To those that do repent, they are called to obey, as Levi did. In the Great Commission tells his disciples to teach others to obey. The same commandment goes out to all who call themselves Christians too. Associating with sinners is not an endorsement of their action. Christians shouldn’t be be afraid to be seen with sinners. In fact, it is necessary if one is to be about the work of making disciples, which starts calling people to repentance and obedience to Jesus’ commands.

Lord, I believe!
Help me to proclaim repentance and obedience to the world!

Luke 4:1-13: Jesus’ Temptation

Read: Luke 4:1-13
Jesus’ temptation is an interesting episode in the scriptures. Here, Satan comes to Jesus while Jesus was in the wilderness fasting for 40 days, which resulted in hunger. Satan tempts Jesus with food to appease his hunger, but Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. In the context of Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding Israel of the testing that they went through in the wilderness for 40 years after the Exodus. God used this time to shape Israel such that they realized in their humility that they were utterly dependent upon God for their well being – even something as simple as food. It was God that provided manna everyday for Israel. When Jesus came to earth, he submitted himself to the will of the Father and became obedient to God’s will (Philippians 2:1-11). While he was more than capable of turning stones to bread, he chose not to out of a desire to remain humble.

For his second temptation, Satan takes Jesus to a high place and shows him all the kingdoms of the earth and says that he will give them to Jesus if Jesus were to bow down and worship Satan. Here, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:13, which speaks of the jealousy of God for his people. He commanded the exclusive worship of the people of Israel. The irony of the situation is that Jesus is divine, and would one day rule the nations (Revelation 21) and Satan would be subjugated (Revelation 20:7-10). The temptation here again is showing the humanity and humility of Jesus. Jesus refused circuit what would be his anyways after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension so that he could fulfill his mission and defeat death and Satan and redeem humanity.

For his third temptation, Satan tempts Jesus by taking him to the pinnacle of the temple to where he says that Jesus should throw himself off so that the angles would catch break his fall. This time though, Satan quotes from Psalm 91, which speaks of God as a refuge and how God will protect those who love him. Jesus replies again quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16. The context here follows from where Jesus previously quoted on the second temptation about worshiping God alone. Here, Moses is reminding Israel not to test God as they did as Massah, where they grumbled against God because they had no water. God miraculously provided water from a rock for them (Exodus 17:1-7). Satan was correct in quoting from Psalm, but he twisted the scripture, wanting Jesus to demand that God do a miracle instead of resting in God’s providential care.

Jesus was tempted in every way that Christians today are. And because Jesus was tempted, he is able to empathize with all humanity, yet he did not sin This makes Jesus the perfect great high priest that can help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). James 4 speaks to sin among believers and says that the remedy for it this is submission to God and resisting the devil. This is precisely what Jesus did: he he stayed humble and obedient to God and Satan was unable to gain a foothold. With Jesus’ help, believers can overcome temptation and do so triumphantly. To do this though, when needs to know what God’s word says concerning sin so that when temptation does come ones way, he or she will not fall prey to temptation (Psalm 119:11).

Lord, help me to stay humble and obedient so that I may resist temptation!

Luke 2:51-52: Treasuring the Moments

Read: Luke 2:51-52

Although Jesus knew that he was the Son of God, he didn’t claim this position while he was on earth. In fact, Jesus submitted himself to the same laws and customs that all good Jews would submitted themselves to, including honoring his father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Luke notes that Jesus was “submissive” to them – the idea that he was under their tutelage for the time he was a young man and young adult years. Jesus’ obedience to his parents was in line with his will to be baptized by John so that he might be able “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15) and have the authority to send out the 12 to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus obedience didn’t go unnoticed either, as Luke notes that he grew in favor with God and man.

These glimpses into Jesus’ early life were small moments leading up to the ministry that he undertook during the three years leading up to his death, burial and resurrection. Luke in his effort to record a history about Jesus wanted to investigate Jesus to the fullest (Luke 1:1-4). He mentions “eyewitnesses” to events of Jesus life, and it is likely that the eyewitness for the accounts in Luke 2 is Jesus’ mother. Luke makes a special note in the midst of each of the three episodes in the chapter about Jesus’ mother reflecting on these events. She “ponders” and “treasures” the events about his his birth (Luke 2:19), along with Joseph “marvels” about what was said about him (Luke 2:32), and again “treasures” what happened in Jerusalem (Luke 2:51). These events were remarkable to her because she didn’t know what to make of them at the time they occurred, but nevertheless knew that Jesus was special.

While Jesus was on earth, he didn’t claim the authority that was rightfully his, rather he was obedient and humble even to the point of death (Philippians 2:1-12). Paul uses Jesus’ example to encourage the readers of his letter to do the same: be humble and obedient even if it means forfeiting something that is rightfully yours. When Christians do this, they do it out of a desire of love, and in doing so others take note. In many cases, those who later come to know Christ do so because they remember an episode where a Christian did something for them or someone else and it stuck with them and profound impact on their lives as the events of Jesus’ childhood did on Mary. Years later, even long after the person remembered may have forgotten, the one who does remember can testify to a moment and recall God at work in and through another person.

Lord help my obedience be a testimony that will lead others to you!

Luke 2:39-40: “According to the Law of the Lord”

Read: Luke 2:39-40

Two verses sum up the first 12 years of Jesus’ life on earth, but these two short verses in their context speak volumes about Jesus as a child. Jesus was born into a family with God-fearing parents. His earthly parents were meticulous about following the laws and customs of the Jewish people as demonstrated by their presentation of Jesus at the temple as an infant and their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Luke notes the Jesus as a boy grew strong and was filled with wisdom, which greatly impressed the scribes at the temple later in his life (Luke 2:47). Luke also notes that God’s favor was on him. Naturally, this should be expected being that Jesus was God incarnate, nevertheless Jesus was also a human being that had the same challenges people struggle with, including learning.

It seems that through God’s providence, Jesus was placed in a God-fearing home so that he would indeed fulfill the Law of God. Jesus parents were instrumental in this in that because of their obedience to the law, Jesus was able to fulfill the law and was taught the law from a young age onward similar  to when Jesus underwent baptism to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15). By fulfilling the Law, Jesus was able to be the perfect and final sacrifice for sin to all who believe (Matthew 5:17-18, Hebrews 10:3-12). When Jesus commanded his disciples to make disciples of all nations, part of the command is to teach the disciples to obey what he commanded.

Jesus’ fulfillment of the law made him the ultimate example to follow. He also had the authority to make the command to make disciples and that command was obeyed by his disciples onward. Part of disciple making involves parents teaching their children to obey the ways of God as Joseph and Mary did with Jesus. The Bible speaks to this in a number of places: Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 6:7, Psalm 78:1-8, Proverbs 4, Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 29:17, Ephesians 6:4, Hebrews 12:7-10. Statistics show that when both parents are involved in the spiritual upbringing of a child, that child is more likely to follow in their parent’s footsteps in do the same. It may be hard at times, but the fulfillment of a spiritual upbringing is both life to the child and a blessing for the parent!

Lord, help me to teach those in my care to obey what I have been taught to obey!

Luke 1:5-38: “May It Be”

Read: Luke 1:5-38

Gabriel was a messenger from God and describes himself as one who “stands in the presence of God”. To even be in the presence of God would be something of note, but to stand in God’s presence indicates that Gabriel was an angel of great importance. He was previously sent in Daniel to explain to Daniel the significance of the rams and goats and give the 70-week predictions (Daniel 8, 9).  He was dispatched to deliver the news concerning two great men: John the Baptist and Jesus. John would prepare the way as a prophet for Jesus, the Lord.

The angel Gabriel appeared to two different people – Mary and Zacharias. Luke notes that Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, was barren and could not have children. Nevertheless, Zacharias continued to pray for a son and God answered this prayer. Elizabeth conceived and had John. Although Zacharias and Elizabeth were both described as blameless and God-fearing, Zacharias when he has the vision asks for a sign, because he didn’t believe Gabriel’s message. Because of this, Zacharias became mute. On the other hand though, when Mary was told that she would become pregnant with Jesus, she asked how, but didn’t ask for a sign from God on the matter. Rather, she believed it and said let it be so.

Jews during Jesus’ day were always looking for signs and wonders as proof. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees when they asked for a sign and said that the only sign he would give them would be the “Sign of Jonah”, which is a rather cryptic response. He was referring to himself in that Jesus was calling them to repent and predicting his death and resurrection  as Jonah was in the fish for 3 days, Jesus was in the ground for 3 days (Matthew 12:38-41, Matthew 16:1-4, Luke 11:29-32). Jesus was the sign, and after Jesus ascended he gave the Holy Spirit to open the minds of Christians to the things of God so that they can know the truth (1 Corinthians 1:22, 1 Corinthians 2).

God is still communicating with people today through his word, which is “God breathed” (3 Timothy 3:16-17). Asking for additional revelation as Zacharias did doesn’t seem too harmful, but the evidence was standing right before his eyes (as if the presence of an angel wasn’t enough!) Rather than ask for a sign one should ask for wisdom and understanding as Mary did. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the minds of Christians can be illuminated to understand the truths in the scriptures, and respond to the commands of Christ as Mary did, saying “may it be”. It is okay to question God when one doesn’t understand, nevertheless asking for more proof that what is given shouldn’t be necessary, because enough proof already exists.

Lord, when you speak, help me say, “may it be”.

Hebrews 10:1-10: True Sacrifices

Read: Hebrews 10:1-10

Burnt offerings and sacrifices are not what the Lord delights in, nor does he require them, according to the Psalmist in Psalm 40. The author of Hebrews quotes from this psalm to make a point about the insufficiency of the blood of bulls and rams to atone for sin. On the other hand, the author of Hebrews argues that in these sacrifices is a reminder of the cost for sin. Israel on many occasions forgot this and got in the habit of rote ritualistic religion. What God really wanted them to do is come to him with a contrite heart and broken spirit (Psalm 51:16-17, 1 Samuel 15:22, Isaiah 1:11-17, Jeremiah 7:22-24, Micah 6:6-8).

The author of Hebrews then goes onto apply what David wrote about the obedience to Jesus who came to “do your will” – that is the will of God. The gospel of John over and over asserts that Jesus came to do the will of the Father (John 4:34, John 5:30, John 6:38, John 15:21). The work of Jesus, as the author of Hebrews notes, was to do away with the Old Covenant and establish the New Covenant by dying on the cross. His death was once and for all. There is no need for the sacrifice for bulls and rams anymore, and even so, they could not accomplish the task of forgiving sins in the first place.

When Christians approach God, they should do so by the blood of Christ, not through their own merits or through some other sacrifice other than Jesus’ sacrifice. God does not delight in any sacrifice made by means of rote rituals or contemptuous hearts. He desires a contrite, humble heart and obedience to his will. Jesus came to do the will of the Father, and so should those who call upon his name.

Lord, you desire obedience and humility – help me to offer these to you!

Hebrews 4:1-11: God’s Rest is Still Available

Read: Hebrews 4:1-11

The author of Hebrews in the first part of chapter four is making an argument the rest that was promised to the Israelites leaving Egypt was available to them, was available to David in the Psalms, and is also available to the readers of Hebrews. He does this by showing a chronology of God’s rest.

  1. God entered into rest after on the seventh day after his work was finished (Genesis 2:1-2).
  2. The Israelites that left Egypt had the option to enter rest but did not because of their disobedience (Psalm 95:11, Numbers 14:20-24).
  3. Joshua gave Israel rest (Joshua 22:4, Joshua 23:1).
  4. God spoke of another rest. The author of Hebrews shows that Psalm 95 was speaking to the Hebrews in the “today” of King David (Psalm 95:7).
  5. The author argues that the rest still remains available for his readers in New Testament times.

In light of this, the author encourages his readers to not harden their hearts as those many generations before them did; rather they should strive to enter into God’s rest.

Christians today are still living in the era between Jesus’ first coming and second coming like the original readers of Hebrews. The promise of rest is still available even today for those who do believe and who do not yet believe.  For those who do believe they should be encouraged by this and strive to enter rest rather than disobey. For the one who does not yet believe, upon seeing the real peace that comes from knowing God, they too should want to enter into God’s rest by believing in Jesus. As the Psalms says, “We are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand” (Psalm 95:7) and Christians can know that he wants the best for his people and will take care of them! (Psalm 23)

Lord, help everyone to find rest in you while it is still today!

Hebrews 3:7-19: Finding Rest

Read: Hebrews 3:7-19

The author of Hebrews gives another resounding warning, this time about the perils of unbelief. To illustrate this, the author of Hebrews gives a lesson from history. He quotes from Psalms 95:7-11 to summarize what happened in the desert at Meribah and Massah, where Israel tested God (Exodus 17). While they were in the wilderness, Israel had no water to drink. They complained to Moses about it, contending that they Moses had brought them into the wilderness to die. The Lord answered them giving them water, but nevertheless the place was named because the people were contentious with Moses and God. The Psalm uses this as a platform to make a general statement about that “generation”. They wondered in the wilderness for 40 years and God “loathed” them until they had passed away a new generation under Joshua came to claim the Promised Land. Because the old generation had unbelief, they did not enter the Promised Land, which was God’s “rest” for them (Numbers 14:20-24). Rather than enter the “rest” of God from the hardship in the wilderness, they had to endure forty more years of hardship because of their unbelief.

Notice, however, that the warning that he is giving is addressed to “brethren”. In the context, the “brethren” here refer to those who are part of the family of God because of Jesus, notably the “holy brethren” from Hebrews 3:1 who are made such by Jesus, as explained in Hebrews 2:11. The warning here concerning unbelief is given to those who already believe. The issue he is addressing is not about those who have not come to salvation at this point, rather unbelief – and by implication, disobedience and sin – among the brethren. The question here is not a matter of salvation, rather a matter of disobedience.

In the Christian life, hardship is inevitable. Jesus said that those who bear his name will possibly suffer for it. And even more so, there are plenty of other things in life that bring hardship. The “rest”, however, for Christians is found in trusting God. For those who don’t trust God, there can only be even more hardship as a consequence for disobedience and sin. For those that do trust God, one hope and comfort in the “rest” that God offers to those who are obedient. The choice, then, is pretty evident: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12) so that Christians will find rest.

Lord, help me to find rest in you!

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