Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Matthew 3 Sermon Notes

Matthew 3:1-17
Sermon Notes
A Father’s Pleasure
Lynchburg, Virginia

         Your daily duty before the Lord is repentance. Repent, all of you, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
         We do this here each Lord’s Day as a congregation. We repent of corporate sins, sins of the Church. We repent of National sins. And we make time to repent of personal sins. Do you? Do you repent?
         You may think I am being impertinent or forward to ask such a thing, so early in the sermon. Maybe you want to build up to repentance? But you don’t have to build up, you just have to repent. And the more you don’t repent, the more you won’t repent.
         Do you? Do you sin? What kinds of sins? Anger. Bitterness. Envy. Lust. Gossip. Fear. Anxiety. Unbelief. Drunkeness. Greed. The desire to be cool. Or maybe some other sin?
         What is ailing you? What is under your skin? What is it that keeps you from dwelling with peace in the presence of God? Repent of that.
         And what is the purpose of all this repentance talk anyway? Is it to make you feel bad? To inflame your guilt and shame? Well, maybe for a moment, if you are guilty and ashamed of your behavior. But only for a moment. The purpose is not to fill your bag of sins with more weight. Like Christian of Pilgrim’s Progress who stood staring at the cross, the purpose is to cut loose that burden of sin and have it fall from your slouching shoulders. But if you insist on retaining your sins or paying your own price for them, the weight will remain.
         Repent and be forgiven. Forgiveness is the goal. Peace is the outcome. Joy is the result. This is the gospel. Here it.

In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,  2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. 
This was an odd place to start a ministry. It is not clear how the word spread but John Baptist developed a large gathering in short order. Perhaps his rebuke to the Sadducees and Pharisees brought large crowds?
John preached repentance and Jesus preached the same thing. Matthew 4:17 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  4 And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.  5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,  6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
This passage from Isaiah is very telling. It is not clear if John was quoting the passage but it is clear that Matthew wants us to understand what he is saying about Jesus.
Is. 40 begins with the forerunner of the Christ preaching but it quickly turns to extol the excellencies of the most high. Matthew wants us to see that Jesus is the Christ, that the Christ is God in the flesh and that all the honor and glory are due to Him. Is 40 ends with the much quoted passage,Is. 40:27   Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?  28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.  29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.  30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall:  31 But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
He wants us to see that God is among us and that He knows all. For those who call upon Him, there is abundant forgiveness, renewal, strength, life, health, like the mighty eagle soring in the skies. But to those who stubbornly refuse Him, a certain expectation of judgment. Thus, the Kingdom of God is both a comfort to God’s people and a threat to those who make God their enemy. The difference is those who will repent of their sins and those who will not.
John Baptist was Jesus’s cousin, the son of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. We never quite know if that is cousin once removed or second cousin but you get my understanding. He was somewhat of a wild man. He lived in the dessert. His clothes were made of camel’s hair and he wore a leather girdle.
It had been a while since a prophet had arisen among the people. The last time a prophet had spoken was in the days of Malachi, some four hundred years before John Baptist.
God’s anointing was clearly upon John. The people heard him and responded to his call to repentance, many from Judea, Jerusalem and all the area around the Jordan.
Isaiah tells us that John Baptist prepared the way for the Lord. How so? Through repentance. Turn from sinful ways and turn to the living God. This is ever the message of the gospel. Let him hear who has ears to hear.

7   But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: 
We are introduced to Jesus’s enemies early in the narrative, the Pharisees and Sadducees. We now know them as bad examples of religion. Even in their day, there was no doubt some controversy over their leadership.
The Pharisees were the strict adherents of the law. They were legalists. However, they did not simply stick to the law as revealed by God. They made up many rules that God did not give them. Jesus upbraids them for this.
The Sadducees denied the existence of angels or the afterlife. They were liberals. They only used the first five books of Moses and denied the authority of the rest of the Old Testament canon.
At this point in history, the Sadducees had control of the Temple. So, while, many would disagree with them on their interpretation of the law and the prophets, they also had to deal with Sadducees if they wanted access to practice their religion in the Temple.
Basically, the Sadducees and Pharisees are at odds with one another. We could almost imagine them as conservatives and liberals, or even Republican and Democrats. Or philosophical elitists verses so-called fundamental originalists. However, the one thing they both had in common was a hatred of God’s law implemented by anyone but themselves. They opposed John. They opposed Jesus. Why? Because they did not want to repent.
So, right here at the beginning John sets the stage for what will be the true ministry of both John and Jesus. They will embrace the common people for God’s favor through the forgiveness of sins and they will oppose those who oppose themselves through a vain refusal to repent.

9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 
John delivers a crushing blow. The Jews claimed an ancient heritage. Were they not descendants of Abraham, the patriarch? Yes, but what does John say about? So what! I don’t care about your ancient claims. What does that have to do with your faithfulness now? Repent. And if you don’t, the Lord is going to take you out! That’s what I think of you being children of Abraham!
When John does this does he harm Abraham? No, not at all. What he does is undermine the claim that these men are children of Abraham. In the Bible, adoption is more important than blood birth. Those who become the children of God through faith like Abraham, these are the children of God.

11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:  12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
John baptizes with water for the washing of sins. Jesus himself institutes baptism for the same reason, the washing of sins to signify forgiveness for the repentant. But John cannot judge the way Jesus can judge. John warns because He is a prophet. Prophets always warn of the judgment to come. But John cannot judge. Jesus can judge. He can bring the fire.
When Jesus judges, the chaff will be burnt. The worthless olive branches will be burned. The tree will be cut down and cast into the fire. We often think of Jesus as that kind and gentle Savior, and indeed He is, to those who call upon Him. But there is a fearsome expectation of the judgment of fire for those who refuse Him.
The Bible teaches that rejecting Jesus is worse than the Old Testament rejection of God. And as such, the judgments are worse. If they refused to hear the prophets of old, that is bad. But if they refuse to hear the Son of God, that is ever so much worse.

13   Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.  14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?  15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
Why was Jesus baptized? He said, “To fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was willing to be baptized like a sinner because He was washed for sinners.
Think about this for a moment. Jesus is the one who never sinned. His wild cousin John is baptizing in the Jordan. John just rebuked the Sadducees and Pharisees for their willingness to be baptized but their unwillingness to be godly. That was bold.
But now Jesus arrives and John knows that Jesus does not need to wash His sins away and yet Jesus gladly identifies with sinners. He gets in the water just as if He needed to repent and be saved from the wrath to come.
I hope you feel the weight of the contrast. Jesus had no problem being reckoned with sinners and even being thought to be a sinner. He was not a sinner but He didn’t flee from the accusation.
And many of us flee from the very accusation. Me repent? What for? But we really don’t have to look very far.
The real danger in the Christian life is a failure to repent. Fail to repent and miss the Kingdom of God.
Save often or lose what you’ve written. The same is true of repentance. Repent often or lose what you have gained.

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:  17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The Father is pleased with repentance. The Father is pleased with His Son who does not shrink from His calling of identifying with sinners. God is pleased when His people repent. Repentance keeps you from getting stuck in sinful actions and sinful thinking.
Remember that a fail to repent is always a turning away from Jesus and that repentance is always turning from your way to Jesus. Why would you hold on to your sins and keep your back to Jesus?

Repent, all of you, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

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