Gareth Flanary

Jesus Wades Into the Waters with Us

Matthew 3:1-17


  • Matthew tells the Jesus story:
    • To a Jewish Christian community groping for direction in the midst of a changing world
    • To reshape their worldview to that of a true follower of Jesus…
    • To restore the second generation church to a Jesus’ centered missional identity (to the nations), not as a sectarian movement reserved only for Jews…
  • Matthew begins his gospel:
    • By emphasizing that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Jewish story of hope and promise(1-2)
    • Then, skips ahead three decades (from Jesus’ infancy to his public debut 4:17), and brings the reader to the Judean wilderness…where John, in classic prophetic style, is preaching repentance and the kingdom of God to Israel… and, where a brief, but momentous interaction between Jesus and John occurs in the waters of the Jordan River…

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”  Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 10 Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you withwater for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

  • The kingdom of heaven – God with us…
    • Time has come… It had been 30 years since Bethlehem and the Magi…  
    • Time has come… for salvation (Holy Spirit)…
    • Time has come… for judgment (fire)…
      • sectarian loyalty (children of Abraham; stones, brood of vipers)
      • get rid of the dead wood (axe; not producing fruit)
  • Repentance – to turn back to God and live in covenant with him – the beginning of a new path starts with repentance… ushers in REVIVAL…  
    • Contrite confession:  sin breaks us; hidden sins paralyze us; confession renounces all that alienates us from God
    • Submissive surrender:  declaration of dependence; indication of surrender
    • Earnest evidence:  in attitude and in deed – produce fruit  (Luke 3:10-14)
      • Justice:  Share with those in need…
      • Justice:  Do not extort money (tax-collector or soldier)
  • Jesus’ baptism:
    • What does Matthew’s story tell us?
      • Jesus wades into the mess of the ordinary to be with the people who confess that they don’t have it all figured out…where would he stand?… with the religious elite?… or with the common people: 
      • In a prophetic moment, Jesus instead chooses to be with the common people, taking on their sin, plunging it into this watery grave only to rise up again into the fullness of God where God says, I’m pleased. The Jesus who loves us is the one who wades into the waters with us.
    • God, in all his fullness, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was present in that moment – something significant had begun!!
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