God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Friday, October 4, 2013

October 4 - Matthew 3; Luke 3; Mark 1 - John and Jesus Teach the Same Message: Change Your Life

Today’s Reading: Matthew 3; Luke 3; Mark 1

The Message

English Standard Version

Thought to Guide Your Reading

John the Baptizer's message was simple but difficult for people accustomed to going along with the masses.

Summary in 100 Words or Less

John the Baptizer fulfilled prophecy by teaching his message: repent, the kingdom is near; being Abraham's descendents did not guarantee a good relationship with God; and soon one would clean lives and baptize with the Holy Spirit.
John baptized Jesus over his's initial objections. God showed His Approval.
After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus' began teaching "repent, the kingdom is here."
Jesus called Simon, Andrew, James, and John.
Jesus taught with confidence, excising demons and healing. Many flocked to be healed.
Early the next morning he left Capernaum. Soon he was unable to move freely because of the crowds.

How Today’s Reading Contributes to the Gospel: God is Setting All Things Right

John's message was clear: get ready for the Kingdom by changing your life.

John wanted to make sure everyone was ready for God's Presence. His message was clear—change your life. The three examples given in the text are a sample: give to those in need when you have more than you need, work honestly, and do not defraud others. This is how Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled and the Jews readied for Jesus' appearance.

"Chosen" status does not give a person an automatic right relationship with God.

What the Pharisees and Sadducees missed in their rush to join the masses in baptism was John's message—change your life. They thought by being Abraham's descendents ("God's Chosen People") God would bless and accept them regardless of how they acted. John's response was firm—being "Chosen" does not equal "right with God". God wanted them to be more righteous than the surrounding nations, but they preferred their status and forgot their holiness. The reason they were to be better than the nations around them was God's righteousness is better than the world's righteousness. In one conversation John has explained the problem Israel had their entire history.
The obvious parallel to today is humbling. We cannot use our "Chosen"—or to use a common word heard in churches today "Saved"—status to do as we wish. Our "saved" status is meant to push us to tell others about God. We are not holy because we are great. We are holy because God is Great. God does not "need" our obedience because He is too weak to work outside of us. We are His Lighthouses to the world that His Way works!

God's work in setting things right came together in Jesus' baptism.

As a Jew, Jesus was circumcised eight days after he was born. This was the sign a person was part of the Covenant with Abraham. Later, Jesus would change the "initiation" into Abraham's Covenant from circumcision to water baptism. Jesus' baptism bridged the two and merged the two worlds.

Jesus taught with confidence—not needing backup to prove his point. He only needed to prove His Authority.

People were greatly impressed with Jesus' teaching style. He did not need to rely on scholars or theologians to provide a foundation to His words. He spoke from the Word because He was the Word. His Authority, on the other hand, needed to be proven. The works that Jesus did from here on out were meant to show His Teachings were legitimate because He was from the Father.

Jesus came to set things right in the world, not only to heal the sick.

One of the biggest debates Christians have, especially between "conservative" and "liberal" Christians is over whether we should be concerned more over spiritual or physical issues. Should we focus on everyone becoming holy or helping the poor? Jesus provides a concern for both when He healed the sick and taught the powerful not to abuse their power. However, when Jesus was presented the opportunity to continue healing the sick He moved on because His Purpose was to teach people how to set things right, not to perform miracles. The miracles were meant to help legitimize His Authority.

Those healed by Jesus became His greatest evangelists.

When Jesus excised the demons, he told them not to speak to anyone. When Jesus healed the leper he also told him not to speak to anyone. The leper, however, could not keep the news to himself. Eventually Jesus could no longer travel outside without a crowd because they knew what He could do. People healed by God become the greatest bearers of Good News.
In churches today people who have the worst pasts are often the most ashamed to share it. I think the problem is two-fold and on both sides: churches are seen as the "museums of the faithful" and people who have been healed of great sin are afraid/ashamed to share their past. When we consider if our congregations are addressing this problem or not, we need to ask how much time we set for telling our healing story. If we do not have time for it, we are a museum. Churches should encourage people with bad pasts to share how God has removed their guilt and shame. This should be done to individuals and the whole congregation, if possible.

Have you changed your life or joined the crowd to be baptized?

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