THE UNPARALLELED RIGHTEOUSNESS
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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,
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.'"
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.
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
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,
let's pick up with Matthew's text.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
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.
the Baptist's story is found in all four gospels ... Here in 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. Then, suddenly, one day John was there ... a loud, fiery visage of a man ... out there in the wilderness ... clothed with camel's hair garments ... living off the land ... and booming out the 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 Israel 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 to prepare the hearts of the people of Israel. Repentance of sin was the essential key that would prepare God's chosen people for the coming 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 for righteousness got themselves right with their God ... repenting of their sins and following up with the ceremonial cleansing of the washing of water by baptism. In the Jewish mind, washing with water was intricately associated with purification. For example, in the law, when a leper had been cured, 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 throughout Israel and those who received it repented and were baptized.
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 Sadduccees, for example, didn't believe in Heaven or the afterlife, for that matter, nor the resurrection. Some Wag has said, That's why they were sad you see! Both these factions of the Jewish religion showed up to John's preaching and baptizing as observers, but 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.
was their mistake. Their hard, self-righteous and rebellious hearts
were exposed by their conduct and John called them on it. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? he
bellowed at them! The Scriptures were clear. When the Holy One of
Israel arrived, 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
However, John, by the way, had the same mindset as the rest of the Jewish people when it came to Messiah's coming. He too fully expected that at Messiah's appearing he would set everything straight and immediately establish his long prophesied kingdom on earth. The scriptures further predicted that Messiah would not only deliver and bless his righteous people ... but he would also judge and purify out of them the unrighteous Jew as well ... separating out and destroying all those among them who were rebellious and stubbornly set in sin and unrighteousness. As you have it in Psalm 50:3-5,
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 Cycle Judgments occur, as described in Revelation 14:14-20.
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 sins". Our passage states that Jesus came to John to be baptized by him. Jesus
had no need whatsoever to repent, you see, for he was the only sinless
man who ever walked the earth. He himself challenged his enemies on
this 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
So, Jesus could not repent for he had nothing to repent of! But,
he could be baptized, fulfilling the rest of God's word to Israel through John explaining to John it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. Clearly
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 out of the waters of John's baptism, things exploded around John in amazing supernatural manifestations! First, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending upon Jesus. This was the sign John had been told to look for. As we have it in John 1:32-34,
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 ... an amazing event and an amazing
demonstration of the triune nature of the true and living God, was it
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 Jesus came into this world on a mission and immediately after that mission was instituted by his baptism, by the Spirit of God he virtually ran out to take Satan on ... who's house, by the way, he was about to destroy and ransack! The first two humans came off second best when they came up against this dark lord of the spirit world and god of this age (Cor. 4:4). It would not be so with the Man, Jesus, however!
account of Jesus temptation is also found in Mark 1 and Luke 4. It is
not found in John's gospel, however. That is because it does not fit
his theme. John presents Jesus to us as God of very God, you see, and God is not temptable.
The first temptation Satan presented to Jesus was aimed at Jesus' 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.
you wish to pursue this further see: Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; Eph.
3:9. As Creator, Jesus could have easily complied with Satan's
suggestion to prove who he was by
changing the stones into bread as Satan desired ... but why would he
need to prove anything to Satan? Therefore, he chose rather to counter
Satan's quote 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 countered with his humanity rather than his deity and, frankly, left Satan speechless and flatfooted!
The second temptation that 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, once again Satan asks
Jesus to prove who he was. This time, however, he targeted 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 knows all about the deity of Jesus Christ. He only tries
to muddy the water when he's speaking to and dealing with ignorant
sinful men. 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 come to earth in the flesh! Compare John 1:1, and John 1:14, and see if it is not so.
The third temptation that Satan aimed at Jesus was again aimed at his humanity. Satan took Jesus up to a high mountain and displayed all the kingdoms of the world to him, enhanced by all their glory.
This was a legitimate offer. Make no mistake about it, the
kingdom systems of this present age are all under the control,
supervision and authority of Satan. 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 wrapped up in one neat little package. Satan offered it lock, stock
and barrel to Jesus that day with 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, dear saint, 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
Our text says that Satan then left him and angels came and ministered to him. Adam, the first man fell. The Second Adam, Christ Jesus, stood!
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:
hearing of John the Baptist's imprisonment, Jesus moved further away
from Jerusalem, settling in Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. Doubtless,
he anticipated what was coming ... yet in spite of it all, he set about
spreading light such as the people of Israel had never before seen. 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
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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