In today’s reading, Matthew 3:13-4:17, Jesus goes to John for baptism and then on to the wilderness where He is tempted. There are really a couple of things going on here that we should look at, and while they seem disconnected, there is a relationship.
First, the baptism of Jesus occurs. This is seen by most of us as the start of His public ministry time--before this, He has perhaps done a bit of teaching but when it comes to thinking of the work He does in the Gospels, it all really starts here.
Moreover, this is one of the passages in Scripture from which we really get the idea of God’s eternal existence in Trinity, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. While this is not a doctrine that can easily be explained and must instead be held in faith, it is also easily gotten, well, wrong. It usually drifts into modalism where the idea is that God is sometimes Father, then Son, and now Spirit. But the Baptism Narrative disproves that, as all Three are present at the Baptism: the Father speaks from Heaven, the Spirit descends, and the Son is standing right there.
In all, we’re better off trusting by faith, as the church long has, that God is Trinity. One of the earliest explanations (translated, not by me) puts it this way:
That we worship one God in trinity and the trinity in unity,
neither blending their persons
nor dividing their essence.
For the person of the Father is a distinct person,
the person of the Son is another,
and that of the Holy Spirit still another.
But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one,
their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.
So, clear as mud? Good. Not everything is explainable, no matter our desire. The main point here is that Jesus went to John for baptism, and from this we take that we should be baptized as well, because if Jesus said it was part of His obedience, how much more might it be part of ours? Not necessary for salvation--after all, the One who needed no salvation was baptized--but part of walking righteousness.
The second part of this passage gives us the temptations placed before Jesus. We would do well to notice how He is tempted, how He withstands the temptations, and then to remember that it is very unlikely that this was the last time Jesus was tempted by sin. After all, we are not only tempted three times in a row then left alone, are we? And if Jesus is our Savior, Lord, and example to follow...
As you look at the three expressed temptations, also note that later on during His ministry, Jesus does multiply food--to serve others. He does walk right through an angry crowd that wanted to stone Him--protected because it was not yet His time. He consistently draws worship away from earthly things--what do you think cleansing the Temple partly included?
We see that not only does Jesus reject the temptations (not The Temptations, He probably likes Motown) in one setting--He shows that He could have done each of these things. Sometimes, we prepare ourselves to reject temptations that will be out of our power--what good is it that I say I would reject misusing great political power? I’ll never be elected President to have any! Be ready to face temptations that you will actually face.
After all, Jesus faced temptations that He could have done but rejected them. That is what He has strengthened you to do--if you will trust in Him.
(Above quote is from the Athanasian Creed)
Best explanation of the Trinity you'll find? This video:
Matthew 2:13-3:12 is today’s reading. It picks up with the Christmas narrative and shows Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fleeing from Herod into Egypt. Why Egypt?
This is fun, because there is both an eminently practical answer to that question and a spiritual answer. Practically, there had been a Jewish community in Egypt since at least the time of the prophet Jeremiah, so about 6 centuries at the time of Jesus’ birth. Egypt was a different Roman governing unit, so Herod could not just send his guys down to kill the baby. Roman senior leaders tended to help each other out, but you couldn’t just send armed troops into each other’s territory, and if you wanted a baby dead you would have to seriously explain the situation. Egypt, then, is practical and safe.
There was another reason, though. Hosea 11:1 refers to God summoning His Son out of Egypt. The Israelites would have long associated that to their own Exodus and deliverance, but Matthew connects it to Lord Jesus being brought back into Israel after the family’s flight to Egypt. This is often how God works: we see practical, He is working out promises.
Then we see the great tragedy of Christmas, the slaughter of the baby boys of Bethlehem. Some would minimize it, noting that Bethlehem did not have that many babies since it was a small town. Certainly the traditional image of 1,000s is overstated, but how many does it take? One child is one child too many--let us never underplay a tragedy because, since it didn’t impact us, it was too small.
Joseph, Mary, and Jesus then return to Israel and move to Nazareth. Here, Jesus would have been to grow up in the family business of construction/carpentry/stonework. It’s very likely Joseph work with all these materials, not just one or the other.
There’s a story here about how our culture affects our understanding: we mainly get the ‘carpenter’ image from the Reformation Era when Martin Luther, in the midst of a German forest, translated the word in Greek that usually means “builder.” What did they build with in Germany? Wood. So...that influenced his translation.
The rest of the section picks up John the Baptist as he declares his message of repentance. I’d lean hard on Matthew 3:8 and remember that we should bear fruit that shows repentance. That does not negate salvation by grace through faith. It just involves faith that results in action.
Good morning and Happy New Year! We are starting off 2023 with the goal of reading through the New Testament and Proverbs this year.
We’re going to start by tackling the Gospel of Matthew. If you have a study Bible, you can look at the information about authorship and audience for the Gospel’s original intention. For our purposes, we will stick with the tradition that Matthew was written by Matthew the Apostle, also known as Levi. He was called by Jesus from his work as a tax collector (Matthew 9 includes this event) and church tradition suggests to us that he was killed for his faith in Jesus.
He starts with the genealogy of Jesus, tracing the heritage of the Messiah back from Abraham down. That gives the placement of the Incarnation in the overall context of God’s work in the life of the world through the people of Israel. It also establishes Jesus’ lineage as heir to the throne of David.
These kinds of things are often considered less important by those of us who live in democratic nations, but for the 1st Century, this was a big deal. Further, the connections are noted throughout the changes in Israel’s life. Special note should be taken of the women mentioned explicitly in the life of Jesus. None of them matched the “ideal” of the era--and likely would never be featured as “ideal” Biblical women by some even today.
The passage does not stop with the genealogy, though, but goes on to record one of the two birth narratives of Jesus. Matthew gives us the story of the angel appearing to Joseph and the visit of the Magi, two subjects well worth your further reading.
To summarize it all, briefly, though, is this: the birth records show Jesus as the King of Israel, the Virgin Birth shows Jesus as fully human, and the visit of the Magi reminds us that He is with not only Israel but all humanity.
As Matthew 1:23 reminds us: He is called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”