2021_01_11 Insight Post- Kim Feld
This week's reading- Matthew 3 & 4
The pace really accelerates in Matthew chapters 3 and 4. At the end of chapter 2, Jesus and His family are settled in Nazareth and then years pass before we enter chapter 3 with John the Baptist arriving on the scene. It’s important to keep in mind that Matthew did not write his biography chronologically, so there will be gaps of time and skipped events. Remember that his goal is to show that Jesus is the long-awaited Jewish Messiah and to focus on the kingdom of heaven coming to earth in Jesus.
Chapter 3 opens with John the Baptist (we will learn more about him from other biographies) and then we have Jesus’ baptism by John. God’s voice is heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, ESV).
Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit leads Him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, after fasting for 40 days and nights (side note, I have trouble fasting 40 hours…40 DAYS and NIGHTS, wow). Matthew positions this series of events as the inauguration of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus learns that John the Baptist has been arrested (we will get more details about that too later) and He begins to preach. He calls His first disciples and begins to minister to the people in miraculous ways. There’s a lot ground covered in two chapters but that’s the gist of what’s happening.
There are so many things that stand out to me and so many that I would like to write about but let me start with this piece that just jumped off the pages to me. If you go back to Matthew 3:2, we have the words that John the Baptist was preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (ESV). The prophet Isaiah spoke of John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight’” (Matthew 3:3b, ESV). Fast forward to chapter 4, verse 17: “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Another way to say that is the kingdom of heaven has come near. I love the way Eugene Peterson writes it in The Message: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.” So, what is the kingdom of heaven?
In the biographies the phrase “kingdom of heaven” and “kingdom of God” are used interchangeably. This is not just a faraway place where God lives and where we go when we die, the kingdom of heaven is here with us in the advent of Jesus. It is about bringing the rule of heaven here to earth, “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). It is also about experiencing the blessings that living under the leadership of Christ brings. The kingdom of heaven is meant to change our lives, giving us an eternal perspective and purpose. Our thinking is often so limited to what we see and experience here on earth but living as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven means that we live present in this moment with the assurance that so much beauty and joy is to come. That enables us to grieve with hope and to allow that hope to anchor us and keep us steady in the storms of life.
Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.
Executive Director of Education and Outreach