Archive for April, 2009

The Cousins

Matthew 3 is setting the stage for Jesus’ public ministry, because who knows just how He was ministering during His 30 year in the carpenter shop of Joseph!

The Voice for God

Matthew uses this passage from Isaiah 40:3 to identify John the Baptist as the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. In this role, John’s purpose was to prepare hearts for the Messiah, and to bring an awareness of sin among Israel so they could receive the salvation from sin offered by the Messiah (Matthew 1:21).

His ministry has in mind building up a great road for the arrival of a majestic king. The idea is to fill in the holes, and knock down the hills that are in the way.

So John’s main message wasn’t “You’re a sinner, you need to repent.”

John’s main message was “The Messiah is coming.”

The call to repentance was the response to the news that the Messiah was coming.

The Frauds against God

John accuses the religious leaders of the day of wanting to appear anxious for the Messiah, but not truly repenting and preparing their hearts; John demanded fruits worthy of repentance.

The Purpose of God

Baptize you with the Holy Spirit: This is the promised out-pouring of the Holy Spirit promised with the New Covenant (Ezekiel 37:14).

And fire: To baptize with fire means to bring the fires of judgment, which will purify the pure, but destroy the wicked like chaff. Chaff is the worthless residue of a wheat stalk after the kernel of grain has been removed. These proud and unrepentant leaders are just as useless to God.

The Jewish leaders thought that the Messiah would come with judgment, but only against Israel’s enemies. They were blind in their self-righteous confidence that only others needed to get right with God.

The Baptism of Jesus (God)

The purpose was for Jesus to completely identify Himself with sinful man. This is exactly what He did in His birth, His upbringing, and His death. So here is Jesus standing again in the place of sinful man.

The Voice of God

It was important for God the Father to publicly demonstrate that Jesus’ baptism was not just like anyone else’s, in the sense of being a display of repentance. It was not a display of repentance, but instead it was a righteous identification with sinners, motivated by love, was well pleasing to the Father.

This is an occasion when the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all manifested at the same time.

This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: When this voice of God the Father spoke from heaven, everyone knew that Jesus was not just another man being baptized. They knew Jesus was the perfect (in whom I am well pleased) Son of God, identifying with sinful man. By this, everyone knew that Jesus was different. Jesus was baptized to be identified with sinful man, but He was also baptized to be identified to sinful man.

O Father, Jesus is so much more than well-pleasing to us! He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. And this step of baptism is just another way in which He associated Himself with us sinful creatures. Thank You for loving us so much so as to make a way for us to be reconciled to Yourself.

Father we do not want to be caught in self-righteousness, but desire a spirit of repentance. We know we have needs. We change our minds and agree with John the Baptist that You are right and we are wrong. Help our hearts and minds to line up with Your way of thinking and doing!

John’s ministry must have looked mighty weird during his day, and I can only imagine how that would translate to today! But You blessed him with success. I pray that You will bless St. Philip’s ministry to the Bright Zone with success as well. Not for their namesake, but for the hearts of the people who live, work and worship in the Bright Zone. But even more importantly, that more people will fall in love with Jesus and give Him the worship due His name.

I pray especially for the Birds, Babbili’s (be with auntie Barbara, Willie, Helen, Manas and Shreeker), Brinkmans, Goforths (may they serve the same God with the same zeal as the Goforths of China), Harrisons, Harringtons, Lundes, Mirzaie-Golkahageh, and the Wintons (that Steven, Deven, Wren and Asa would find complete and total satisfaction in You). May they all draw closer to You especially during this time when the world seems to be crumbling! In Jesus’ name, Amen!

In the Beginning…

Yay!! We are in the New Testament in the 3-Year Bible Reading Plan at St. Philip’s! Aside from the Psalms and Proverbs, the Old Testament books are behind us for a while!

And to think the New Testament opens up with a book written by that dirty, lo-down, rascally tax collector, Matthew. At least that is what he was before Jesus got ahold of him!

While we read through Matthew it would be good to notice how often he refers to the Old Testament, whether by outright quoting, or simply alluding to it. He seems to be concerned about the transition from Old Testament Judaism and it’s prophecies, to the New Testament Christ and His fulfillments!

And the first verse is a great example of the prophecy/fulfillment idea! Jesus is the prophesied Son of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16), the promised Seed of Abraham by Whom all the nations will be blessed (Genesis 12:3).

In this legal lineage of Jesus which goes through Joseph, Matthew records five women, a rather unusual event for a Jewish recorder.

Women were rarely mentioned in ancient genealogies, and the five mentioned here are worthy of special note as examples of God’s grace. They show how God can take unlikely people and use them in great ways.They are

Tamara: She sold herself as a prostitute to her father in-law Judah to bring forth Perez and Zerah. (Genesis 38)

Rahab: She was a Gentile prostitute, for whom God took extraordinary measures to save from judgment and her lifestyle of prostitution. (Joshua 2)

Ruth: She was a widow from enemy territory, Moab, a Gentile. (Book of Ruth)

Bathsheba (Uriah’s wife): was an adulteress, infamous for her sin with David. (2 Samuel 11)

Mary: was just an innocent young woman (teenager) of whom it was rumored had become pregnant from a Roman soldier. But yet even with these suspicions (John 8:19, 41), she bore the Son of God who was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is no greater wonder than the creation of the world by the Holy Spirit. There is no need to choke on this first recorded miracle in the New Testament.

The rest of Matthew 1 is Joseph’s chapter. He could have had her stoned according to Jewish law, but he graciously and quietly was just going to cut off the betrothal. He already seemed to know of a higher law called love!

He has the open heart and ears to hear and discern the voice of an angel. I may have just taken some Tylenol PM and try to get past my wild dreams and hallucinations! After all, nobody had ever referred to him as Joseph, son of David before!

The fact that the angel had to share the news about the Holy Spirit conceiving the Child inside of Mary makes me wonder if Mary hadn’t told him it was God’s child for fear of being thought insane. Or if she had told him, and he did think her insane!

Jesus, Jehovah Saves!

Jesus meets us in our sin, but His purpose is to save us from them.

  • First from the penalty of sin,
  • then from the power of sin, and
  • finally from the presence of sin.

Immanuel, God with us!

This title of Jesus refers to both His deity (God with us) and His identification and nearness to man (God with us).

1:22-23 gives us the first usage of Matthew’s mantra that it might be fulfilled!

What a man of integrity, openness, graciousness and temperance. The words did not know her till imply that Joseph and Mary had normal marital relations after Jesus’ birth.

Jesus had four brothers whose names were James, Joseph, Simon and Jude.

Matthew 12:46; 13:55; Luke 8:19; Mark 3:31; John 7:1-10; Acts 1:14; Galatians 1:19

He also had sisters, but they are not named or numbered (Matthew 13:56).

Lord Jesus, Promised One, Who delivers from sin and its power, I pray that You will be with us in a special way as St. Philip’s undertakes this outreach campaign in the Bright Zone. I pray especially for the Babbilis, Birds, Brinkmans, Goforths, Harrisons, Harringtons, Lundes, MG, and the Wintons.

Lord, let them experience the same creatorial work by the Holy Spirit in their lives as was demonstrated in creation and in Mary. May they bear forth good fruit that has its roots in heaven. Fruit not of this world. Fruit that will make a difference in their lives, that will sustain them through even economic recessions and spiritual confusion.

Thank You Lord, that You did, and can, use people with checkered pasts and reputations. That somehow You brought forth clean (Jesus) from the unclean (prostitute, deceiver, foreigner, adulteress, etc). I pray that You will use St. Philip’s to bring forth spiritual holiness in our neighborhood! In Your name, Jesus, Immanuel, I pray, Amen!