Friday, January 1, 2010

Fearless John The Baptist

This is a continuation of my commentary on the book of Matthew as a result of my personal devotion.

Sermon of John the Baptist by Jan Brueghel the Elder

Decades have passed after Jesus was born; a man named John became the focus of attention in all of Judea.   In many ways, this man was very special.  He's sticky in the sense that once you met him you can't get rid of the thought of him.  This man is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, now turned into a superstar.  He was John the Baptist, the pioneer evangelist; the man who paved the way for Jesus. 

John was Unique 
He was not your ordinary guy who would just conform to the world in order for his ministry to succeed.  He carried himself in unconventional manner.  Often times, Christians try to be like the people they minister to.  It was not the case for John; he made himself different and he stuck out.  

  1. Location for his ministry - The Dessert of Judea (v.1):  John did not teach in the traditional places like the synagogues or at the city gates.
  2. Clothing - Camel's hair with leather belt (v. 4):  I think that wool and linen were the traditional materials.
  3. Food - He ate locust and honey (v. 4):  Not a real vegetarian
  4. He attracted people not only so people would listen to him but also they subjected themselves to baptism and confession (v. 5-6)
  5. He recognized those whose with wrong intentions (v. 7-10)
  6. He was not afraid to tell the truth.
JKF once said that conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.  We often do what is already established and shun the opportunity to break them at the expense of progress.

John had a Message 
Produce in keeping with your repentance (v. 8):  John made a clear point that repentance results in something.  Repentance is not just a concept to assimilate; instead it is a process that causes change.  Repentance is not proclaimed by words but rather announced by the transformation that it yielded to. 

Beware, your genes cannot save you  (v. 9):  He said to the Pharisees and Sadducees,  who were clothed in obvious superiority, that it is not enough that they are related to Abraham in order to be considered righteous.  Abraham pleased God through his faith and obedience therefore the same standard will be applied to his offspring.  John said that God does not need Abraham's biological offspring to fulfill His promise.  (For us who are not connected to the Jewish lineage, this is the very hope that we hold unto.) 
The Great One is coming to save you (v.11-12):  John's ministry was booming.  He was undoubtedly a celebrity in his time.  He had fans following him wherever he went.  In his position it would have been easy to wallow in his success and forget his purpose but he did not.  At the peak of his career, he announced to his fans that he is not the man.  He told them that the Great One is coming.  The Great One has power beyond him that he is does not even qualify to be His valet.  How many time have we seen people who when they get to the top forget that there is a ceiling above them.  But John was different, he knew his limits and it was not for him to hide.  He paved the way for Jesus to start his ministry by preparing the hearts of the people.  He contrasted himself against Jesus (v.11-12) to allow his followers to consider him correctly so that Jesus would get the appropriate glory.

When God puts us in a position of power, He wants us to exercise it to the fullest without forgetting our original purpose and our relationship with Him.

John Dunks Jesus into the River
Baptism is derived from the Greek word bapto or baptizo which means to wash or to immerse.  In slow-motion picture imagine this:  John holds Jesus' crossed arms tucked against His chest with one hand.  The other hand support His back just like the way your pastor does in your bath-tub size baptismal...  Wait a minute.  If baptism is a representation of death to old self and rising anew, then I would imagine something more splashy than that.  If submitting to baptism was considered an act of obedience then it must have required more struggle than pinching your nose to avoid inhaling water and changing your clothes later on.  I'm imagining John tripping Jesus.  He falls into the water while John makes sure that he is all the way immersed.   Jesus struggles for balance and air before he stands up.   I am not really sure about it because they were not recorded in the bible.  One thing is sure, when Jesus came out of the water; whoever was there witnessed something sensational.   It was more dramatic than watching from an IMAX theatre with complete surround sound effect.  The heaven opened and the Spirit of God came down and it lighted on Jesus.  Then God announced, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." 

The chapter ends with the physical appearance of the Holy Trinity in one place.  We see Jesus being filled by the Holy Spirit.  God the Father with his own voice authenticates His relationship with Jesus and His pleasure towards Him.  Authority, title, and honor have just been given Him. This scene reminds me of the recent knighthood of Patrick Stewart.   Interestingly, these events mark the preparation of Jesus for His ministry.  At this point He is given the power and authority that He needed to carry out His mission.

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