Sunday 04 December 2016

Bible Book:

Matthew 3:1-12 Sunday 4 December 2016

Psalm: Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19


The importance of the presence, message and ministry of John theBaptist is underlined by the fact that his story is recorded (insome form) in each of the four Gospels whereas the 'nativitystories' so beloved of Christmas appear in just two. The quotation(in verse 3) from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah40:3), not only set the context of the revealing of Jesus asthe promised Messiah, but also served to confirm the status of Johnas the 'prophet-bridge' between the Old Testament hope and thegospel reality of the Messiah. He forms a bridge between thoseprophets who spoke of the coming of Jesus and the people who willsee him active in the world.

The Matthew account differs from that of the other Gospels inthat the writer specifically has "Pharisees and Sadducees comingfor baptism". In this Gospel, written particularly for Jewishreaders, and focused particularly in demonstrating how Jesusfulfilled the messianic prophecies, Matthew has the Jewishreligious establishment making an early exploration of thisunfolding story of Jesus and the challenge to repentance preachedby John. We note of course that the writer has these 'establishmentfigures' confronted by the real possibility of divine judgement, iftheir confidence rested on notion of having "Abraham as ourancestor" alone. The Baptism by John (as indeed the gospel (thegood news) of Jesus) was never about a status received from aparent or validated by mere words: it was about personal commitmentto God lived out day by day. So the writer issues a challenge to"bear fruit worthy of repentance". John's Baptism for repentancewas not simply about water or words, but about living the way ofGod.

To Ponder

John's task was to "prepare the way for the Lord" (v. 3). He wasto prepare the ground of people hearts to receive the Lord Jesuswhen he came.

  • What is there in your life or in the life of the Church thatmight make it hard for Jesus to be seen and received byothers?
  • How can you "prepare the way of the Lord" and "make his pathsstraight"(v. 3)?
  • What might "fruit worthy of repentance" look like in your lifetoday? 
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