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2. The forerunner

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

Matthew 3, Luke 3, Mark 1, John 1


It began just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

and he will prepare your way.

The messenger prophet Isaiah was talking about was John the Baptist. It was about him that Isaiah said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,

‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!

Clear the road for him!

The valleys will be filled,

and the mountains and hills made level.

The curves will be straightened,

and the rough places made smooth.

And then all people will see

the salvation sent from God.’”

It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptised to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. People from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptised them in the Jordan River. His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food John ate locusts and wild honey. His message was, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”


But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptise, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. “Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.

Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. John answered their questions by saying, “I baptise with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

The crowds asked, “What should we do?”

John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptised and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”

He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”

“What should we do?” asked some soldiers.

John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”


 


The Testimony of John the Baptist

The Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said, “I am not the Messiah.”

“Well then, who are you?” they asked. “Are you Elijah?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”

“No.”

“Then who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us. What do you have to say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,

‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”

Then the Pharisees who had been sent asked him, “If you aren’t the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet, what right do you have to baptise?”

John told them, “I baptise with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not recognise. Though his ministry follows mine, I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandal.”

This encounter took place in Bethany, an area east of the Jordan River, where John was baptising.


 

The Baptism of Jesus

One day when the crowds were being baptised, Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptised by John. When John saw Jesus coming he said “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognise him as the Messiah, but I have been baptising with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”


But John tried to talk Jesus out of being baptised saying. “I am the one who needs to be baptised by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptise him.

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”


John testified about Jesus shouting to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’”

From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.[f] For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God,[g] is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.


 

Luke 3 23-38, 4:1-13; Mark 1:12-15, Matthew 4:1-11, John 1:19-28


The Temptation of Jesus

Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. He was out among the wild animals. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.


During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say,

‘People do not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.


Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,

‘He will order his angels to protect you.

And they will hold you up with their hands

so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’”

Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’”


Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.”

“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,

‘You must worship the Lord your God

and serve only him.’”


When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came. The angels came and took care of Jesus.


 

John the Baptist Arrested

John the baptist frequently spoke out against wickedness with no fear of social authority and when he rebuked Herod the Tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.


Side note: The marriage of Herod the tetrarch to his brother’s wife meant both were committing adultery because Herod’s brother was still alive. In levirate laws, under certain circumstances- if a married man died childless, his brother was supposed to marry his widow in order to bear an offspring who would continue the late brother’s family name. In this instance, Herod the Tetrarch’s brother (also confusingly called Herod - but distinguished with the suffix- II ie Herod II) was alive. And if this scandal wasn’t bad enough, the woman in question was the Neice to both brothers..

Well, this family grew up with the worst of examples, Herod the Tetrarch and Herod II were both sons of Herod the Great- himself of the massacre of the innocents. If you grew up with a father who thought nothing of killing some of your brothers in order to protect his throne, perhaps the moral compass is somewhat warped to say the least.


Jesus Begins to Preach

Matthew 4 12-25

When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

“Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,

Galilee of the Gentiles—

the people living in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the shadow of death

a light has dawned.”[f]

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”


SideNote: What is the Kingdom of God? The Kingdom of God is not just heaven. Otherwise why would Jesus say it has come near. God didn’t call us to live just for benefits after we die. He called us to live His way here on earth so we can experience the peace and benefits of His Kingdom here on earth. Jesus said in the gospel of Luke 17:20-22 that the kingdom of Gos is not a physical place you can go to but its within. The Kingdom of God is a different way of living. It is different to the previous laws of living: an eye for an eye, each man for himself etc. This Kingdom has a different set of laws.

The Kingdom laws. Kingdom laws include trusting God to vindicate you when someone offends you- not seeking payback. It includes trusting that God has put you on earth for a purpose and that there focussing on the purpose God put you on earth for

Knowing that God’s resources are unlimited and God is creative in problem solving

Caring for others

Always seeking to do what will help others

It is allowing the Spirit of God to transform your thinking and be a companion to you.

It’s not naïveté or being stupid, its knowing others can let you down but being able to trust in God


The Kingdom benefits for citizens.

Not having to obsess about what is in your bank, pantry or wardrobe because you know God can be trusted to clothe you, feed you and provide for you. You can read my story here

Knowing your God is never off-duty and can be trusted to protect you, answer for you and protect you.

How you become a citizen of the Kingdom

Your passport to adoption and legitimacy to claim all the rights above is simple: Accept God as your Father and Jesus as His messenger sent to give you these rights.

Then live according to the laws, study the bible (ie constitution of the Kingdom) and see what happens in your life.

Jesus gives the rules, laws and benefits of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the mount.


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