Sunday, June 3, 2007

Part 3 - The Beginning of Jesus' Ministry

INTRODUCTION TO SERIES

We started this series before Good Friday, Passover and Resurrection Day.

I began talking about what God has called us to do, and how we need to have an understanding of what salvation is before we can even begin to serve the Lord.

This week I want to look at the ministry of Jesus.

I want to look at how He was prepared, and how He began His ministry.

PRAYER FOR HOLY SPIRIT AND UNDERSTANDING

SCRIPTURE READING

Matthew 3:1 – 11 John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.'

4 John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I. JOHN THE BAPTIST

It is believed John the Baptist began his ministry approximately 6 months before Jesus.

We see John fulfilling the “great commission” even before Christ gave it to the disciples in Matthew 28.

This shows us that it has always been God’s desire to have us reconciled to Him.

GO, Teach, Baptize and teach them to obey all Jesus commanded.

a. KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS NEAR

John was preaching that all should confess & repent of their sin because the Kingdom of Heaven was near.

Again, nothing has changed since then. God still wants us to confess we are sinful and repent.

Confession + Repentance = Forgiveness

The Kingdom of Heaven was ushered in when Jesus was sacrificed. It was at that moment we were capable of having a relationship with the Father in Heaven once more, and the Kingdom of Heaven is here on earth.

Remember when the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray to the Father in heaven, and He answered, “Until your Kingdom comes, your will on earth as it is in heaven.”

When Christ was sacrificed, the debt of sin was paid, and Jesus reclaimed all that was lost because of the fall.

And now, we, the Body of Christ, those who have accepted Jesus as their savior, are in the Kingdom of heaven!

b. PROPHECY OF MESSIAH

While preaching, John quotes scripture of prophecy from Isaiah 40:3.

c. REPENTANCE & BAPTISM

John was preaching repentance. This means to recognize your wrong doings, and to go in the opposite direction.

For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand, and Christ is the Head of it!

Who was John preaching to? The Jews.

The Kingdom of heaven, Jesus, the Messiah, salvation, was being offered to Israel!

And John tried to show them that this was the Messiah prophesied about.

Some accepted, some refused, just as it is today.

But the Kingdom was offered first to God’s chosen people, then later to the Gentiles.

II. JOHN’S APPEARANCE

Many have described him as a wild looking man with unkempt hair and clothing, preaching in the wild.

a. CLOTHS

We can read that his clothes were camel hair, and he had a leather belt, sounds like he was dressed like Fred Flintstone.

b. FOOD

Now I know that we have all wondered and amazed at the fact that John the Baptist ate bugs. But the truth is the word that was translated “locust” here, is the Greek word akris, which literally means “the tops of vegetation”.

So he ate the tops of vegetation and wild honey.

III. JERUSALEM, JUDEA & JORDAN REPENTS

Israelites from Jerusalem, Judea and the Jordan area came to hear John preach of the Messiah, the Kingdom of heaven and baptism.

a. CONFESSED THEIR SIN

We read that they confessed their sin.

I believe that what this statement means, when taken into context with the fact that John uses the term repent, which simply mean to recognize ones wrong direction, and to change that direction, I believe that confessing their sin simply means they recognized their sinful state, and that they needed this messiah.

I do not believe they each took turns telling John all of the individual sins they had committed.

We can recognize our need for Christ without having to rehash and speak individual sin. We recognize we are sinful and need Salvation which only comes through Jesus Christ.

b. THEY WERE BAPTIZED IN THE JORDAN RIVER

Many still go to the Jordan to be baptized from all over the world.

Although this is not necessary, it would make a memorable journey and event in your life to be baptized in the same river Jesus was baptized in.

IV. SADDUCEES & PHARISEES CAME TO WATCH

The religious leaders of the day more than likely heard of the goings on here, and decided to check it out for themselves. They were two sects of self-righteous and zealous jews.

a. RELIGIOUS LEADERS

These leaders who knew the scriptures, and knew what was expected of them by God, were at odds with God.

They had taken the law and expounded upon it, making their own laws and decrees which they did not themselves keep.

These were mans laws, not Gods.

They were full of pride and arrogance, believing that they were above everyone else, especially the sick, diseased, sinful and poor.

The very ones God had commanded them to help.

b. BROOD OF VIPERS

They were used to, and loved the titles and attention that they received when they walked about in their robes.

They were accustomed to being addressed as “Rabbi”, which means teacher.

This was a title of honor, as a teacher of Gods law.

But John greeted their appearance with another title, “You brood of vipers!”

Brood or generation (gennēma in Greek) means children or offspring of.

John was saying that they were not the children of God, but of snakes, or the devil.

Jesus said the same thing to them in Matthew 12:34

“O generation of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak good things? for out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

And in Matthew 23:33

“You serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of Gehenna?”

c. WARNED TO COME?

John asked this question as if they realized their sin, and were there to confess and be baptized.

d. SHOW GOOD FRUIT!

John preached to the people, “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand…”

But to the religious leaders, these children of the devil, he preached, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance…”

He told them they need to produce good fruit, warning them that just because they are of the line of Abraham, they are not exempt from the coming wrath of God, judgment day.

They were not producing any good fruit, thinking that they were sealed and exempt from God’s wrath.

The Sadducees didn’t even believe in the spirit or the afterlife, so they really didn’t pay any mind to heaven or hell.

And the Pharisees were so focused on the ceremonies; they felt they were right with God because they kept the religious ceremonies.

V. YOU WILL NOT AVOID GOD’S WRATH

But John sets them straight, and tells them that no one is exempt from the coming judgment.

a. EVERY TREE WITHOUT GOOD FRUIT IS CUT DOWN

Every tree that is not bearing good fruit will be cut down.

b. EVERY TREE CUT DOWN IS CAST INTO THE FIRE

Every tree that is cut down is cast into the fire.

What trees were cut down and cast into the fire?

Romans 11:19 - 21

“You may say, Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20 Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.”

The branches that were broken off were the unbelieving Jews.

But Paul warns us not to be arrogant, because if God did not spare the Jews from the coming judgment because of their unbelief, He will not spare you.

We cannot think we are better than the Jews, or anyone else for that matter.

And no one, not even those attached to the vine (Jesus) will be spared from the judgment.

CONCLUSION

We should look at this story, and see how the people were preparing themselves for the coming of Jesus.

Have we done the same? Have we confessed we are sinful and in need of a Messiah?

Have we been baptized to outwardly show what has taken place in our hearts?

Or are we like the Sadducees and Pharisees in this passage?

A vain, and self-righteous group, thinking that we are right with God and therefore exempt from the coming judgment? Are we producing Good Fruit?

If not, we are in danger of being cut down and cast into the fire. That fire is Gehenna, the final eternal hell.

The only way to avoid the wrath of God and the eternal damnation of Gehenna, is to have paid for your sins.

Jesus paid your debt, but you have to claim it, otherwise on that last day, you will have to pay it.

ALTAR CALL

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