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MATTHEW 3-4:16

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THE UNEQUIVOCAL RIGHTEOUSNESS

OF THE

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KING

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Before we get into the text here, let me say a few things about the Jewish thinking about their Messiah and his coming to earth. The people of Israel had long been anticipating the arrival of their Messiah when John the Baptist arrived on the scene.  They were also fully aware that the scriptures predicted that Messiah's coming would be proceeded by his forerunner. Further, they knew that that forerunner had been specifically named by the prophet Malachi,

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:5-6

These are the closing words of the Jewish Old Testament. So, naturally, the Jews were looking for Elijah and, I might add, the orthodox Jews still are. This being the case, the eschatology of the Jewish people of Jesus' day was simple. Elijah would first appear. Then, he would introduce the Messiah to Israel. Messiah would then deliver them from bondage, conquer all their enemies and establish his Kingdom over all the Earth. The Jew's Kingdom is an earthly kingdom, and rightly so, for so the scriptures predict.

However, what the Jews did not perceive was that the scriptures predict that Messiah would be coming to Earth twice. The first time, he would come as God's sacrifice for sins and establish with his own blood a new covenant with Israel. Then, later, at his second coming, is when he would deliver them from bondage, conquer their enemies and establish his Kingdom on Earth. This distinction in Scripture was lost on the Jewish mind. In fact, the concept of a suffering Messiah itself was unacceptable in their thinking. Nevertheless, the Old Testament scriptures are clear on both of these works of Christ.

That being the case, there was also not just one forerunner of Messiah in the scriptures ... but two as well! The named forerunner is Elijah ... but another forerunner that the scriptures predicted was unnamed. The reason Messiah has two forerunners is simple ... it was because he would appear on earth on two separate occasions and for two separate purposes. This reality really "snuck under the radar" of the Jewish mind.

So, the scriptures predicted that Messiah's first coming would be as the suffering Messiah, meek and lowly ... a sacrificial Lamb for slaughter ... God's holy offering for the sins of his people. This appearing and purpose of Messiah was completely overlooked by the Jews and remains so to this day. Yet such great and powerful scriptures as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, clearly spell out Messiah's suffering and work that he would and, in fact, did accomplish. That first appearing of Messiah is now history. It has come and gone and Christ's great work as the Redeemer of Israel (and, indeed, offering for the sins of the whole world) has been fulfilled. And, since Messiah's first appearing would be so completely unnoticed and rejected by his people, it is appropriate that his forerunner for that first coming would himself go unnamed in the Bible ... even though he is vividly portrayed in such passages as Isaiah 40:3, which is quoted here in Matthew's text,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'
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In Matthew 11:10, Jesus specifically said that John the Baptist was the messenger (forerunner) spoken of in Malachi 3:1-3,

Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,
Says the Lord of hosts.


But who can endure the day of His coming?
And who can stand when He appears?
For He is like a refiner's fire
And like launderer's soap.
He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver;
He will purify the sons of Levi,
And purge them as gold and silver,
That they may offer to the Lord
An offering in righteousness.

Orthodox Jews are still awaiting Messiah's coming in expectation of being delivered from their enemies and experiencing Christ's long promised Kingdom on Earth. And, rightly so. For, so it shall take place just as the scriptures predicted ... at Messiah's Second Coming. Further, at that time, Elijah, Messiah's named forerunner in scripture will also precede him ... just as the scripture prophesies. Each year, during Passover, the orthodox Jew sets an extra place at his table for Elijah, demonstrating their correctly placed belief that he will precede the coming of their Messiah one day. And, by the way, in my opinion, and very appropriately, so will Messiah's other forerunner, John the Baptist ... Elijah and John the Baptist being the two witnesses prophesied in Revelation. If you would like to read further on this subject, I invite you to go to my commentary on Revelation 11:3-6, at: https://www.biblebookofrevelation.com/article/revelation-10-11-14-the-mighty-archangel-of-revelation-10.

Now, let's pick back up with Matthew's text.

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JOHN THE BAPTIST

3:1-6

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'"

Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

John the Baptist's story is found in all four gospels ... Matthew 3 and 4 ... Mark 1 ... Luke 3 and 4 ... and John 1 and 2.

Speaking of preaching, John Wesley said, Catch on fire and people will come to watch you burn! John the Baptist was just such a preacher and crowds of Jews went out to hear and see him. For over 400 years, God had been silent to Israel (the inter-biblical period). Then, suddenly, one day John was there ... a loud, fiery visage of a man ... preaching out there in the wilderness ... clothed with camel's hair ... living off the land ... and booming out a message from God, REPENT! FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND! PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD! MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT! (Isa. 40:3).

The great hallmark trait of Messiah, which the Jews so desperately needed to hear, was that their Messiah was holy and righteous and, as such, he demanded holiness and righteousness of his people. Only those who respond accordingly would ever be allowed to enter his Kingdom. Hence, John the Baptist's essential work was to prepare the hearts of the people of Israel for their Messiah and his long awaited kingdom. Repentance of sin was the essential key that would prepare God's chosen people for the arrival of the Holy One of Israel. As you have it in Malachi 4:1-2,

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.  But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

Those who responded to the Baptist's clarion call got ... repented of their sins on the spot and followed up with the ceremonial cleansing of the washing of water by baptism. In the Jewish mind, living under the Law, washing with water was associated with purification. In the Law, when a leper had been cured, for example, we read,

 And when he that hath an issue is cleansed of his issue; then he shall number to himself seven days for his cleansing, and wash his clothes, and bathe his flesh in running water, and shall be clean. Lev. 15:13

The news of the Baptist's message and requirements spread like wildfire. Those who received it repented and were baptized.

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3:7-12

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,  and do not think to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham as our father." For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit [NU omits: and fire]. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'

The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the two major sects in the Jewish religion of their day. The Pharisees were the conservatives and the Sadducees were the liberals. The Sadducees, for example, didn't believe in a Heaven or afterlife, nor, for that matter, the resurrection. Some Wag has said, That's why they were sad you see! Both these pillars of Judaism showed up to John's preaching and baptizing as observers, but certainly not participants. As you have it in Luke 7:29-30,

And all the people that heard him, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

What a fatal mistake it is when one rejects the counsel of God against them, aye?! Their self-righteous, hard and rebellious hearts were exposed by their conduct, however, and the Baptist called them on it. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?, he bellowed! The Scriptures were clear. When the Holy One of Israel came, he would purge the unrighteous from among his people. As we had it above in the Malachi 3, passage, But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner's fire and like launderer's soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver...

John the Baptist, by the way, had the same mindset as the rest of the Jewish people when it came to Messiah's coming. They fully expected he would set everyone straight amongst his people and then immediately establish his long prophesied kingdom on earth. The scriptures said that Messiah would deliver and bless the righteous among his people ... and he would also judge and purify out the unrighteous Jew as well ... separating and destroying all those who were rebellious and stubbornly set in their sin and unrighteousness. As you have it in Psalm 50:3-5,

Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: a fire shall devour before him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him. He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people. Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.

In the for what it's worth department, this scripture will be fulfilled when the Sickle Judgments occur, as described in Revelation 14:14-20. You can read about it at: biblebookofrevelation.com.

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3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?' But Jesus answered and said to him, 'Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he allowed Him. When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'

God's word to Israel through his prophet, John the Baptist, was repent and be baptized for the remission of sinsOur passage states that Jesus came to John to be baptized by him. Jesus had no need whatsoever to repent, you see. He was the only sinless man who ever walked on the earth. He himself challenged his enemies on this very point, asking them,

Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? John 8:46

Jesus could not repent ... for he had nothing to repent of! But, he could be baptized, fulfilling the rest of God's word to he and his people. Thus, he explained to John, it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Clearly he was identifying himself as an Israelite. And, by the way, with sinners in general for, in the not too distant future, he would become sin for us all. As we have it in 2 Corinthians 5:21,

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

When Jesus came up from the waters of his baptism, in the spirit realm things exploded in amazing supernatural manifestations! First, the heavens were opened. Then, he saw the Spirit of God descending upon him. This, by the way, was the sign of Messiah that John had been told to look for. As we have it in John 1:32-34,

And John bore witness, saying, 'I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, "Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God."

Then, a voice spoke out of heaven ... This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased! Wow. Did you notice that all three members of the Trinity are present here in this account? In concert ... Jesus is coming out of the water ... the Spirit is descending out of heaven upon him ... and the Father is audibly speaking out of heaven. What an amazing event! And, what an amazing demonstration of the triune nature of the true and living God, was it not?!

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4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, 'It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."' Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, 'If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written, "He shall give His angels charge over you," and In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, 'It is written again, "You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'" Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.' Then Jesus said to him,(NU replaces: away with you with: 'Get behind me) Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him."

Our Lord came into this world on a mission. After his baptism, that mission was immediately instituted by the Spirit of God. God's Spirit caused Jesus to virtually run to take Satan on, whose house he was about to destroy and ransack! The first two humans had come off second best ... when they came up against this world's Dark Lord and god of this age (2 Cor. 4:4). It would not be so with this Man, Christ Jesus, however!

This account here of Jesus temptation is also found in Mark 1 and Luke 4. It is not found in John's gospel, however. That's because it does not fit his theme. The Gospel of John presents Jesus to us as God of very God, you see. God is not temptable.

    The first temptation Satan presented to Jesus was aimed at Christ's role as Creator of all things. And, make no mistake about it, Jesus was and is the Creator. As we have it in John 1:3,

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

If you wish to pursue this further see: Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; Eph. 3:9. As the Creator, Jesus could have easily complied with Satan's suggestion to prove who he was by changing stones into bread ... as Satan desired ... but why would he need to prove anything to Satan? So, he chose rather to counter Satan's quotation of Scripture with a quote of his own ... It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Quoting Deuteronomy 8:2, Jesus had countered with his humanity rather than his deity and, frankly, left Satan speechless and flatfooted!

    The second temptation Satan aimed at Jesus was aimed at his humanity. If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written, "He shall give His angels charge over you," and "In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone."  Don't you just love how our sovereign LORD dealt with this great conniver and deceiver? Quoting Psalm 91:11-12, Satan, once again, asks Jesus to prove who he was. This time, however, the target is Jesus' humanity. But, Jesus countered with his deity saying, It is written again, You shall not tempt the LORD your God. By the way, Satan knew all about the deity of Jesus Christ. He only tries to muddy the waters when he speaks about it to ignorant and sinful men and women. John writes,

By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist (Satan), which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. 1 John 4:2-3

Satan does not want men and women to get hold of the truth that Jesus is Jehovah, the true and living God, who came down to earth in the flesh! Compare John 1:1, and John 1:14, and see if it is not so.

    The third temptation Satan aimed at Jesus was again aimed at his humanity. Taking Jesus to a high mountain, Satan displayed all the kingdoms of the world to him, enhanced by all their glory. We can rest assured that Jesus was given a panorama of these United States of America, way down here in this 21st century, that day as well. Satan's offer was a legitimate one. If not, it would have made no sense. No mistake about it, the kingdom systems of our world are all under the control, supervision and authority of the god of this world. They belong to him and are his to do with as he pleases. That being the case, to an average unregenerate sinful man, this would have been a temptation too impossible to refuse.  All the money, all the power, all the people, all the things, all the real estate, all the authority, all the prestige ... all were wrapped up in one neat little package. Satan offered it lock, stock and barrel to Jesus that day with only one proviso ... All you need do is fall down and worship me and you can rule the world! But, again, Jesus answered from his deity. 

Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.'

Desiring for you and I to follow in his footsteps, our Lord would later write to us through his servant John,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:15-17

Satan then left Jesus and angels came and ministered to him. Adam, the first man fell. The Second Adam, Christ Jesus, stood! One final thought. Satan left Jesus because he could not prevailed once inch. But he was not through with our Lord. No, not by a long shot. Henceforth, he would seek to kill him.

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4:12-16

Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee. And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:
The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,
And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.'
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On hearing of John the Baptist's imprisonment, Jesus moved further away from Jerusalem, settling in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. What had happened to John was a harbinger of what would happen to him as well. Nevertheless, he set out spreading light such as the people of Israel and, indeed the entire world, had never seen before. As the Apostle John puts it in John 1:4-5,

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (NIV)

Or, in Jesus own words,

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12b

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

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