Are you aware that God’s intention for us was a sinless life, one that was righteous and holy? His desire was a spiritual relationship untainted by anything but goodness and blessing. If you check out the first few chapters of the book of Genesis in the Bible, you’ll see that man didn’t understand that. Eve was deceived by the “father of lies,” Satan. She shared the deception with her husband, Adam. They fell under the serpent’s age-old tactic of creating doubt about God’s goodness. Sadly, they believed his lies, and since then, there was only one person in all of mankind that has been able to fulfill God’s intention for a sinless life. His name is Jesus!
The Good News is that Jesus made it possible for each human being to take what He was able to do, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and make that gift their own. Jesus came to Earth with us in mind. Everything He did, He did on our behalf. He chose to not sin. He chose to lay down every part of His life for us, despite the fact that He had no need. He was sinless!
Meditating on the book of Matthew, I came to the third chapter. We find Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, parked in the desert, dressed in camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey. I’m sure many came to gawk at this unusual man who is pointing out the need for mankind to repent (to think differently, or to reconsider in the Hebrew.) John’s cry reaches the area surrounding the Jordan River, and once the people hear his message, their hearts are touched, and their lives changed.
As they understand what they’ve become, and surrender to the God of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua, they step into the water that separated the desert from the Promised Land. Their lives are changes as a result. Their hearts are again open to God, and they are ready to hear, understand and receive all that God has in store for His people!
However, John is made aware, by the Holy Spirit, of the religious leaders that are coming to be baptized in the Jordan. John is able to know their hearts, which have little desire for repentance. Most have an ungodly desire for an outward show, which has the appearance of righteousness. In the Hebrew righteousness means equity (fairness, justice or impartiality) ~ or justification (the action of showing something to be right or reasonable.) So these men were not fair, just or impartial. They had no intention of showing John, or his call to repentance, to be right or reasonable.
As a matter of fact, John calls them a “brood of vipers!” How would you like to be called a nest of snakes? But John was aware that their hearts were not surrendered to God. Their agenda was to control the people by focusing on God’s Law, which He gave for direction and guidance, as well as all of the man-made laws they added over time to satisfy their own agenda! They saw themselves as untouchable since they were the children of Abraham! John saw their true intentions and told them that God could raise “children of Abraham” out of the very stones if He wanted! He added that there was destruction ahead if they didn’t change their ways and begin to bear Godly fruit!
God hates deception! His greatest enemy is Satan, the father of lies! These religious leaders were focused on deceiving the people, and God was using John to make His point! But God’s mercy is also great! Despite the rules and regulations that had multiplied over the years, God’s heart was for the true repentance and salvation of His people! And so, Jesus enters the scene.
John knows who Jesus truly is ~ the long-awaited Messiah! He hesitates to baptize the only perfect human, knowing his own need to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus says, “Permit it to be so now, for this is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” This is God’s grace and mercy at work in His Son! This perfect God-Man is standing in the gap for every human being that has ever been born into this world, each one tainted by the inheritance of sin that passes from generation to generation. As Jesus enters the water, He repents on behalf of each one of us. He expressed sincere regret for OUR wrongdoing; our sin. He never needed to do this, but He, the Father and the Holy Spirit are present at this great event ~ the baptism of the only perfect human for the sin of every imperfect human being ever born.
The process of redemption continues as Jesus obeys His Father. And so, each of us, must stand in agreement with all that Jesus did for us! We begin with repentance. We tell God that we are sorry for all that we’ve done to separate us from Him, and we don’t want to do those things any more. We look to all that the sinless Son of God did on our behalf, and we receive His great Gift of salvation ~ through Jesus!
In the days ahead, we will continue this journey through Matthew. This former tax collector ties together the Old Testament prophesies, and the unfolding physical presence of our Messiah on Earth. Join me as we meditate on the great mercy and amazing grace of Almighty God!