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Day 237 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Matthew.
Matthew 3 – John the Baptist’s preaching provides a picture of what is entailed in repentance or conversion. Repentance involves a change in one’s thinking, that results in a heart-change in perspective that leads to a change in the fundamental direction of one’s life. Those who repent, confess their sin. In other words, they admit they have not been obedient to the law of God, failing to love and worship Him as He deserves and failing to love others as God desires.
It’s important to understand that once you have confessed that you are a sinner, the cross of Jesus covers all your sins – past, present, and future. Some people struggle with understanding how their future sins could already be forgiven, but consider this, how many of your sins were “future sins” when Jesus went to the cross for you?
We do not need to continually ask God for forgiveness, we are fully forgiven. We do, however, remain mindful that our current sins do hurt ourselves and those around us (though our salvation is no longer in question). Therefore, we do continue to repent (changing our minds about what we’ve falsely believed that lead to our sin) and seek reconciliation with those affected by our sin.
Those who repent also understand that they deserve God’s punishment for their sins. Therefore they come to God not relying on anything in themselves, such as their prestigious family or their national or tribal affiliation, but trusting only in the mercy of God. Furthermore, repentance leads to a change in the pattern of one’s life from sinful behavior to behavior that honors God and deals lovingly with others.
People often misunderstand the order of these elements. Repentance does not begin with changed behavior that in turn brings God’s acceptance. It begins with a change in one’s perspective on oneself, on God, and on the consequences of one’s rejection of God. The change in one’s perspective then brings about a change in behavior (cf. Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23–24).
In verses 3:13–4:11, Matthew emphasizes the sinlessness of Jesus. John was surprised to see Jesus coming to him for baptism because, as John has just said, he was baptizing those who needed to repent (3:11). The words “Let it be so now” (3:15) show that Jesus knew John was correct: Jesus knew He was sinless. But Jesus also knew that He needed to be baptized for another important reason. That reason is implied in “to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15), by which Jesus indicates He needed to show others the importance of submitting to this sign of identification with God’s kingdom.
Because 3:13–17 emphasizes Jesus’ sinlessness, it forms a fitting introduction to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (4:1–11), where Jesus refuses Satan’s attempts to persuade Him to rebel against God. The geographical location of the temptation—in the wilderness—recalls Israel’s experience in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. Israel rebelled against God through their idolatry (Exodus 32), their complaining (Exodus 14:11; 15:24; 16:2; 17:3; Numbers 11:1–3; 21:5), and their refusal to submit to the leaders whom God had appointed (Numbers 16). As a result of their sin, God punished His people. Unlike Israel, however, Jesus succeeded in obeying God in the wilderness.
The whole passage helps believers to appreciate the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death. Toward the end of Matthew, Jesus will explain that the Lord’s Supper signifies the outpouring of His blood as a sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). Jesus’ sacrifice could bring about the forgiveness of sin by a just God, however, only if Jesus Himself were without sin (Romans 3:21–26; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:11–28; 1 Peter 3:18; see also Isaiah 53:9, 12).
Understanding the implications of Jesus’ sinlessness should encourage Believers both to avoid repeating the idolatrous, ungrateful sinfulness of Israel in the wilderness and to be profoundly grateful to Jesus for His willing sacrifice on their behalf, since we know we won’t live perfect lives.
How does this help you understand your right standing before God through the finished work of Jesus?
Matthew 4 – Jesus fulfills the expectation of Isaiah that the most northern part of Israel, the section of the country that first experienced God’s judgment in the invasion of the Assyrians in the eighth century b.c. (Isaiah 8:1–10; 2 Kings 15:29), would also be the first part of the country to experience God’s climactic act of redemption as Jesus began His ministry there. Darkness and death (Matthew 4:16) were appropriate metaphors for the horrors of enemy invasion, the consequence of human rebellion against God. Now, in the preaching of Jesus in this same geographical region, God shines the light of His truth on His people and urges them to choose life. God would have been just to reject His people and leave them to the darkness and death they had chosen for themselves in the eighth century, but He is a “merciful and gracious” God, “slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:1–16).
Jesus’ call to repent in advance of the coming kingdom, then, is part of God’s continuing mercy toward those who had previously rejected Him. His proclamation of the coming kingdom remains a merciful reminder that the heavenly kingdom will one day arrive in all its glory and bring light and life only to the repentant.
Everywhere Jesus goes, He brings the kingdom of God with Him, and the nature of God is evident in the goodness that results from Jesus’ ministry. In the presence of Jesus, disease, affliction, pain, demonic oppression, and disability all begin to disappear. Moreover, Jesus does good to people from many lands, not merely to His own people. In these ways, Jesus fulfills ancient promises regarding the Messiah who will heal His people as well as make them a light to the nations (Isaiah 19:16–24; 35:5–6; 49:6).
The church today is similarly called to be a people who help the needy. We do this in the name of our all-gracious God, breaking through social barriers by extending mercy to people of every social group and expressing Jesus’ mercy to those of all backgrounds and nations. For we are ourselves recipients of mercy.
How do you allow God’s mercy to flow through you others?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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