Devotional Thoughts – Matthew 3:1-17
January 5-11, 2015
Monday, January 5, 2015
“Repent for the kingdom of God has come near” (Matthew 3:2).
Diego was following the directions of his GPS but he had a nagging feeling that he was going the wrong way. The neighborhood that he was driving through didn’t look familiar to him. When the GPS announced that he had arrived at his destination, he hadn’t. Admitting that he was lost he pulled over at the next gas station and asked directions. He was turned around and headed in the right direction after a few minutes of conversation.
It is not uncommon for us to be lost, confused and headed in the wrong direction in life. We might have good advice, but it doesn’t resonate with the voice in our heart. Our challenge is that we don’t know what changes we need to make and the direction we need to take to be headed the right way. It is when we encounter a living God—when God’s kingdom comes near to us—that we realize which path we are to take and are able to change our direction.
God’s kingdom has come. The Spirit of God is upon us inviting us to follow—to turn from our way and go the way of the Spirit.
Forgiving God, we are often lost. Find us when we wander away and give us the desire to follow only you so that we may do your will. Amen.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
“This is the one of whom the prophet spoke when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord”’” (Matthew 3:4).
Preparation is part of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ. Recently we have been in the Season of Advent when the theme is preparation—for the birth of the Christ Child and for the coming of the King of Kings. The ministry of preparation doesn’t end on Christmas Day, however.
John the Baptist’s ministry of preparation was that of calling the people to repent from their sins, to change the direction of their lives and to be baptized. John’s ministry probably won’t work for most of us. Jesus’ command to “Love one another,” and his demonstration of a life of service provide a clearer understanding of what our ministry of preparation is to be. We are called to live lovingly and graciously by serving others and sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with them in our words and our deeds. In what ways might we be able to accomplish this in our lives today?
Loving Lord, use us today to serve others, share your good news and prepare for you. Amen
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
“Bear fruit worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
John the Baptist was a popular figure. People from Jerusalem and Judea came out to hear him and to be baptized by him. It was, in a sense, the “religious” thing to do. The Jewish religious leaders—the Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees—didn’t want to miss an opportunity to show how religious they were, so they went out to hear John and to be baptized by him, also. They had no intention, though, of repenting—of changing their minds—they were set in their ways.
The temptation to go along with the crowd or to go through the motions is often tempting. Baptism and following Jesus, though, are not something that we can do and then forget. They are not able to be put into a box in our lives and taken out only on Sunday or when it is convenient. Baptism and following Jesus is transforming—not just once but every day.
The Spirit moves in our lives so that we become faithful, obedient disciples of Jesus Christ. The Spirit enables us to move our attention off of ourselves and onto the needs of others. The fruit of the Spirit (listed in Galatians 5:22) of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. become evident in our lives. Transformation is not an option for the disciple of Jesus Christ, it is a reality.
Nurturing God, may you move within us so that we are fruitful in our lives as your people. Amen.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
“I baptize you with water … he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11).
Brenda and Carla were having a bit of a theological discussion. They had differences of opinion about the Holy Spirit. Brenda stated that she believed that a person received the Holy Spirit at the time of his or her baptism. Carla on the other hand had experience that she called being “baptized by the Spirit.” She maintained that the Spirit came at some point later in a Christian’s life. They both missed the main point.
The point is not to determine when a person receives the Holy Spirit. There is substantial evidence to suggest that God bestows the Spirit in a number of ways. God is a God of diversity and surprise. The important point is that God blesses God’s people with the Spirit. The Spirit is God’s presence. While present in our lives, the Spirit guides us and shapes us into God’s image—a process called sanctification. Instead of arguing with each other, let’s together praise the Lord and give thanks for God’s generous gift to us in the person of the Holy Spirit.
Gracious God, you bless us in so many ways. Thank you for giving us your Spirit to be a part of us. May the Spirit work within us without us hindering the Spirit’s movement. Amen.
Friday, January 9, 2015
“Then Jesus came to Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him” (Matthew 3:13).
This has been a very troubling verse for some people. They question why Jesus felt he needed to be baptized. Jesus was, after all, sinless and certainly didn’t need to repent. He had always been totally committed to accomplishing God’s will and carrying out God’s plan, so Jesus didn’t need to “change his mind.”
When John objects to baptizing Jesus, Jesus tells him that it must be done. Jesus wanted to identify completely with humankind. As a man, he was no better than anyone else—he needed to be baptized.
Jesus, by his actions, underscored the importance of baptism in the life of Christians. Baptism has always been at the center of life in the Church. It is more than something we have to do. Baptism is a sign of what God has done in our lives. The love and grace of God in our lives, which baptism reflects, can be an anchor in a raging storm, comfort when we fail or grieve, and strength when faced with challenges. During these times we can say with countless saints before us, “I have been baptized!”
Loving Lord, thank you for how you have moved in our lives at the time of our baptism. Empower us to live in the reality of your love and grace. Amen.
Saturday, January 10, 2015
“Just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were open to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending” (Matthew 3:16).
We know very little about Jesus as a boy. Luke includes a story in his gospel about Jesus when he was around thirteen years-old. There are other “gospels” that have not been accepted by the Church: The gospel of Peter, the gospel of Thomas and the gospel of Judas to name a few. Some of these gospels contain stories of Jesus demonstrating his supernatural power and accomplishing miracles during his childhood. There are many reasons to doubt that these stories are real. One of the major reasons for rejecting these stories of childhood miracles is that Jesus had not received the Holy Spirit.
Jesus had shed his godliness (Philippians 2:5-11). He was fully human and by himself could not cast out demons or feed the multitude. At his baptism, though, Jesus received the Holy Spirit. By the Spirit’s power he was able to heal the sick, cast out demons, still storms, feed the multitudes and raise people from the dead. It was the Spirit of God who brought life into the crucified corpse of Jesus and conquered death by Jesus’ resurrection.
It is an awesome truth that we have the same spirit within us that accomplished miracles through Jesus and raised Jesus from the dead. We have been given the task of being God’s witnesses and presence on earth. We can’t accomplish this calling by ourselves. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that lives will be touched by the love and grace of God through our words and actions. How humbling and awe inspiring it is to see the Spirit work through us.
Powerful Lord, empower us with your Spirit that lives might be touched and transformed by your love and grace. Amen.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
“And a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I’m well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
What child doesn’t crave to hear these words from his or her parents? They are powerful words that ease the fear of rejection and the self-doubts that are a part of being human. They may have been especially meaningful to Jesus. It was commonly known that Jesus was born out-of-wedlock and that he was Mary’s son. Jesus probably withstood quite a bit of ridicule by other children over the fact that Joseph wasn’t his real father. After his baptism, Jesus heard these words. He was claimed as God’s son, and was assured that his father was well pleased with him.
The love of the parent for the child is usually what inspires these assertions of lineage and affirmation. Like Jesus, God speaks these words to us at our baptism. They are not based on what we have done. Rather, they are spoken because of God’s overwhelming and steadfast love for us. The Spirit continues to speak these words to us not only when we do something good, but during times of struggle, stress, self-doubt, persecution and despair. They remind us that no matter what, nothing can separate us from God’s love and that nothing we do can make God love us more or love us less. God’s love is unchanging.
God of love, thank you for naming us as your children and for declaring that you are pleased with us. May we rejoice in this affirmation and allow it to inspire us to great service for you. Amen.