Thursday, January 2, 2020

Friday - Matthew 3 - The Work of a Country Preacher

HE continuity in Matthew 1, 2 & 3 is noteworthy. Jesus is presented as the sinless Son of God, a true Jew, a descendant of David, the King of Israel and now (in this chapter) as the willingly humble Servant of the Father. His cousin John was busy blazing a trail for Him (through preaching) when Jesus came to him for baptism. What was John's message like? Well, in keeping with the developing theme of the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptist preached concerning the closeness of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 3:2). Naturally, if the King had arrived, then there had to be a kingdom to consider. Now, His kingdom, particularly at this first Advent, was not of this world. His kingdom was just exactly what John said it was: the kingdom of heaven.  Someday God's great kingdom will come to earth, but Christ came originally to rescue souls from the kingdom of darkness and to usher them into His kingdom of light.

It may seem odd that when the Creator became a creature, He became a very lowly one.  Christ was a poor, obscure carpenter. No less unexpected is the style of Jesus' announcer.  John the Baptist was the one who was assigned the glorious task of declaring Christ's arrival. But look at him! The description of John is obviously intended to remove any ideas about him being an angelic herald. He was a country preacher.  He literally preached out in the countryside.  His clothing was strange.  His diet was weird.  His message was as blunt as could be. He called everybody a sinner (or a snake).  He declared God's anger. He told everybody to repent. And, apparently those who were converted confessed their vices publicly as John baptized them (Matthew 3:6). I suppose John never read "How to Win Friends & Influence People" or "The Power of Positive Thinking" - but he did have God's power on his ministry, and of course, that was enough. Droves of people came out into the country to hear John thunder and watch him hurl his spiritual lightning bolts.

John was not the least bit interested in building his own kingdom though. Without reservation he declared that although he baptized with water, the Messiah had arrived and would be baptizing with fire (Matthew 3:11). What a message! And, just think about what must have gone through John's mind when he had the privilege of baptizing the Messiah; when he saw the Spirit of God descending visibly to land on his cousin (John 1:33). This simple country preacher had a position of unsurpassed privilege. He was the messenger sent to declare that the King had come. What a work!  John didn't lead the nation like Moses or fight great battles like David. He didn't write great books like Jeremiah or Solomon.  He didn't perform marvelous miracles or erect famous landmarks. He just stood on the banks of a small river and preached the simple truth, but according to the King, he was great (Matthew 11:11). He was faithful to his task. Are we faithful to ours?

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