The Right Focus
Text: Matthew 3:1-17
The Jews had an extraordinary spiritual heritage indeed! Few would dispute the faith and spirituality of Abraham. However, the right focus should not be Abraham himself, but God who had blessed him. John the Forerunner tried hard to help his listeners to focus on God instead of Abraham or even their deep spiritual legacy.
“For I say to you that God is able to raise up
children to Abraham from these stones.”
How easy it is to lose the correct focus. How easy it is be sidetracked and be distracted with the passing of the years!
GRAVE DANGER AFOOT
Few know how to sense spiritual danger till it is almost too late to do anything about it. More often than not, most are oblivious to the fact that there is such a thing as “spiritual danger”. There are some who even dismiss the idea of God’s judgment. Nevertheless, John had to warn his listeners that there was grave danger afoot.
“And even now the axe is laid to the trees.
Therefore every tree which does not bear good
fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
This message either hit very hard or it was dismissed outright. Let us ponder over this text carefully.
1. Those who would take heed to God’s Word
a) Their sins would convict their hearts.
b) Their fear of the Lord would cause them to repent.
c) Their desire to live righteously would cause them to make right with God.
2. Those who would dismiss this word
a) They cannot believe that God would ever judge the descendants of Abraham.
b) They are deadened by their sins and cannot respond.
c) They do not believe in the judgment of God at all.
John would have liked to see people respond to his urgent message. However, even if people did not respond to his word, he still was under obligation to preach this special message as from the Lord. This was his work as the forerunner of the Messiah. His task was to turn the hearts of people back to God. His was an unenviable task indeed. To succeed, he would have to be steadfast in his courage, proclaiming messages that may sound very hard to the ears.
THE BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE
Were the people really repentant of their sins? Then they must also take the next step – Baptism!
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance…”
John deemed it necessary to offer the Baptism of Repentance. Let us ponder over why he did this.
1. A Public Act of Identification
If a person was truly repentant, then he must boldly identify himself as one who has been convicted by the power of God concerning his sins. He can no longer live as he used to. He must identify himself as one who has repented and has sought forgiveness. More than that, he is saying to all publicly, that he would henceforth attempt to live a new life for the glory of God!
2. A Personal Act to make a permanent break from the power of sin
Ultimately, repentance is an intensely personal matter. The person who seeks public baptism must have the personal and moral strength to make a clean break from sin. A few of those who were baptized turned out to be significant disciples of Jesus.
3. A Preparatory Baptism
John placed the most emphasis here. He saw the baptism he promoted as something not unimportant, but still at best, only preparatory for the baptism that the Messiah would give to all who would believe in Him.
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance,
But He who is coming after me is mightier than I,
whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will
baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
THE BAPTISM ASSOCIATED WITH THE MESSIAH
John was most consistent in the work assigned to him. He did his work well. He preached. He taught. He counseled. He did so well that thousands flocked to hear him.
Nevertheless, John never lost focus on the heart of his ministry. He was the forerunner, and his main task was to proclaim the Coming of the Messiah!
THE PORTRAIT PAINTED OF THE MESSIAH
John drew a quick sketch of the Messiah. His words made have been few but they were well chosen indeed. The forerunner knew that many had come to hear him preach because they had a healthy respect for his ministry.
But what was his ministry compared to the Messiah’s work? Who was he, compared to the Messiah Himself ? John wisely and humbly pointed people to Him who was coming after him! He will baptize with the Holy Spirit!