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Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. Matthew 3:13
Before Jesus officially began His public ministry, He had to take a couple of very important steps. The first was to be baptized.
Sometimes that troubles people. Why should Jesus have to be baptized? The idea certainly bothered John the Baptist. Matthew tells us that when Jesus came to be baptized, "John tried to prevent Him, saying,' I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?'" (Matthew 3:14).
In one way, it's really not so hard to understand why some don't understand Jesus' baptism. The Gospel of Luke tells us that John preached "a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins "(Luke 3:3). Since Jesus never committed any sin and therefore never had to repent of anything (see 2 Corinthians 5:21;Hebrews 4:15), what purpose would His baptism serve? Why should someone who never sinned undergo a baptism for the repentance of sins? John knew of Jesus' spotless character (see John 1:29), and so at first he opposed Jesus' request.
So why did Jesus ask John to baptize Him?
Before suggesting an answer, perhaps it would help if we recall something of John's background and importance.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus and John were cousins. By his early thirties, John had emerged as a major national figure. It's worth noting that Josephus, the renowned Jewish historian, wrote more about John than he did about Jesus. Why? Since the death of the prophet Malachi-a period of some four hundred years-Israel had not heard from a genuine prophet of God.
John shook a nation with his bold words and unusual actions, drawing huge crowds eager to hear him preach. He was a radical, a revolutionary who proclaimed an uncompromising message of repentance and faith in the Messiah. John came at a strategic time in human history when the old covenant was about to roll into a new one and when all the law and sacrifices were to be fulfilled in the life and ministry of one man-a man like no other who had ever walked the earth (or will again). That man was Jesus. Yet at this point, John's notoriety and fame were greater.
But John had no desire to toot his own horn. He clearly knew his role. He was to pave the way and point people to Jesus.
John humbly accepted his role as the forerunner of the Messiah (see John 1:27). His motto in life was, "He must increase, but I must decrease "(John 3:30). He felt content to speak as a herald of the coming King.
When John clearly understood Jesus to be the Messiah, he directed even his own disciples to start following the Lord (see John 1:36-37). Once he did that, he was ready to fade into obscurity. His role was to point people to Jesus and then step aside.
For all these reasons, Jesus proclaimed John to be the greatest prophet who ever lived. "I say to you," Jesus declared, "among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist" (Luke 7:28).
None greater? How can that be? We know of no miracles that John performed. Unlike Moses, he never turned the Nile to blood. Unlike Elijah, he never called fire down from heaven. He never stopped the rain or raised a single person from the dead. He left behind no written record, unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah and even "minor prophets" like Malachi and Micah.
So why would Jesus call him the greatest of prophets?
Only one reason: his nearness and connection to Jesus. As God's appointed herald of he Messiah, John had no peer among the prophets.
How many of us think of greatness in terms like these? Too many of us wonder how God can enrich our lives, make us feel better about ourselves, or help us achieve success in business. We ask what God can do for us to make us greater and better.
John had a very different attitude. He constantly asked himself, "What can I do o prepare people for the coming of the Messiah? How can I direct them to Him? How can I decrease and He increase?"
John's godly character and unique mission help us to understand why Jesus came to His cousin to be baptized. For a longtime, John had been preparing the people to receive the coming Messiah; at the baptism of Jesus, he would publicly identify the Lord as God's Anointed One.
Jesus also was baptized because He had come into the world to identify with the human race. So it was that He who was without sin submitted to a baptism designed for sinners. "Permit it to be so now," He told John, "for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matthew 3:15).
When the day finally came for Jesus to make His very public stand, John welcomed Him into the waters of the Jordan River. As Jesus prayed, "the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, 'You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:21-22).
In this way, John found true greatness with God and with all humanity. His life stands as an example to us of what it takes to shake a nation.
May we adopt John's philosophy of life as well!
May Christ increase, and may we decrease.
If we really lived like that, who knows how it would affect others for their good?
Like John, we must prepare men and women to get ready for the kingdom of God. May the Word of God burn in our hearts as we, too, prepare the way for the Lord.
Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. Luke 4:1-2
Have you ever had one of those times when God blessed you in a wonderful way and then right afterwards you were tempted to do something wrong? I might have been after a wonderful worship service at church or a time of personal enrichment through Bible study, when suddenly an evil thought came knocking on the door of your imagination.
Have you ever wondered why that is?
Know this: you are not the first one this has happened to, nor will you be the last. And do not despair; it doesn't indicate that you are failing spiritually.
The fact is, it indicates that you are on the right track. You might be surprised to learn that it even happened to Jesus.
After the dove came the devil.
After the blessing came the trial.
Immediately following His baptism, Jesus marched into the wilderness to be tempted. Yet Jesus, as our champion and representative, met Satan face-to-face-and won. We can both share in His victory and follow His example.
The way that Jesus dealt with waves of spiritual attack gives us a model to follow, a template to apply, in our own times of testing and temptation.
FIRST TEMPTATION: MEET YOUR PHYSICAL NEEDS
Satan first tempted Jesus by suggesting that He turn a stone into bread (see Luke 4:3). It's as if he said, "Jesus, I just happened to be listening around the corner at your baptism. I heard Your Father say that You are His beloved Son. So, seeing as You are who You are, command these stones to become bread. Don't worry about the long-term repercussions. Just enjoy the moment. Satisfy Yourself. Play now, pay later."
Jesus replied, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God'" (Luke 4:4). In essence He told the devil, "I'm not here to deal with you today as God-that day will come when you are cast into the bottomless pit. I'm dealing with you now as a man, on humanity's behalf."
Jesus stood on ground that we can occupy. Our Lord used the Word of God as His primary weapon against temptation. He did not use "executive privilege," but instead gave us a model for winning our own spiritual battles. We are to follow His example.
SECOND TEMPTATION:TAKE A SHORTCUT
Next, the devil tempted Jesus to take a shortcut to His objective: "Taking Him up on a high mountain, [the devil ]showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours'" (Luke 4:5-7).
Note that Jesus did not refute Satan's claim. The Bible calls Satan "the god of this age "(2 Corinthians 4:4)and "the prince of the power of the air "(Ephesians 2:2). Satan was offering Jesus an opportunity to bypass the cross and rule anyway. How? Just by giving Satan the momentary satisfaction of worshiping him.
That's really all the devil has wanted all along: the top job. He lost his once-exalted place in heaven because he wanted to be God (see Ezekiel 28). Now he was saying to Jesus, "Just bow once; look at all You'll gain!"
But Jesus answered, "Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve'" (Luke 4:8). Notice that Satan had said nothing about serving-he wanted only a moment's worship. But Jesus recognized that a moment of worship can mean a lifetime of service.
It always starts with that first time. Just once. You'll know when to stop. When you get this one thing, this one possession, this one experience, this one win at the gambling table. But "just once "never satisfies. It's never enough. Give Satan an inch and he'll take a mile.
To Jesus, Satan offered "all the kingdoms of the world." Others sell out far cheaper. Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of beans (see Genesis 25). Married men and women sell out their spouses and children for a one-night fling that leads to a lifetime of regret. Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver (see Matthew 26:15). Achan lost his life for a Babylonian garment (see Joshua 7).
The problem with the father of lies is that even when he does deliver on his promises, you still lose out. Just a moment at the altar of greed can lead to a lifetime of regret. That "one time "can lead to a ruined marriage, a destroyed reputation, a devastated family. And too late you discover that all that glitters is the point of a dagger.
THIRD TEMPTATION:MISUSE GOD'S PROMISES
Last, Satan set Jesus on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone'" (Luke 4:9-11).
Satan quoted Scripture-yet note that he left out a crucial part. Psalm 91:11-12 actually says, "He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone " (emphasis added).
That Satan omitted "in all your ways "shows us the importance of those words. In the context of Satan speaking to Jesus, "your ways "refers to God's ways, not to whatever path we might choose. Leave that out and we void the promise. We cannot violate God's Word and yet expect His blessing and protection.
None of us enjoys temptation, yet it is a reality of the Christian life. But temptation can have a positive effect. Martin Luther once quipped, "One Christian who has been tempted is worth a thousand who haven't. "And it has been said, "Christians are a lot like teabags. You don't know what they're made of until you put them in hot water."
Follow Jesus' example the next time you're faced with temptation. Remember what you know of God's Word, then ask God to help you fight the battle. And guess what? You're on the winning side!
Then He arose and rebuked the wind and the raging of the water. And they ceased, and there was a calm. But He said to them, "Where is your faith?" And they were afraid, and marveled, saying to one another, "Who can this be? For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!" Luke 8:24-25
Storms are quite common on the Sea of Galilee. Although the lake stretches only five miles wide and thirteen miles long, its perils are infamous. The reason? Its unique geography.
The lake lies at an incredible distance below sea level and stares up at mountains creased with deep ravines. The ravines serve as gigantic funnels that bring winds whirling down upon the lake without notice. A thermal buildup in the extremely low valley sucks cold air violently downward, often strengthening these gales.
One of those very violent storms engulfed the disciples one day after Jesus told them, "Let us cross over to the other side of the lake "(Luke 8:22). Soon after they launched, Jesus fell asleep. A windstorm quickly swept down on the lake and began to swamp their boat. The panicky disciples shook Jesus awake and shouted, "Master, Master, we are perishing!" (verse 24).
It's interesting to note that although the fury of the storm did not awaken the Lord, the frightened cries of His disciples did. In one sense, Jesus had fallen fast asleep, but in another sense, He had not. For God does not "sleep on the job." He is ever vigilant, watching over His beloved children. "Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep," says the psalmist (Psalm 121:4).
Once awakened, Jesus stood and rebuked the wind and the raging waters. "Peace, be still!" He commanded (Mark 4:39).
That's a pretty unusual way to deal with a storm, don't you think?
But the fact is, Jesus recognized that this particular storm came from the devil himself. So Jesus was rebuking the one behind the storm.
A better translation of Jesus' phrase "Be still!" would be "Be muzzled!"
Like a wild animal, Satan was trying to stop Jesus and the disciples from reaching the other side and continuing His ministry.
So the Lord muzzled him, and he failed.
As the lake's waters grew calm and placid, Jesus turned to His quaking men and said, "Where is your faith? "Immediately their fear of the storm morphed into fear of Him. "Who can this be?" they asked one another, amazed. "For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!" (Luke 8:25).
Can you identify with the disciples' alarm? Are you being pummeled by a storm right now? You thought you were headed in the right direction, when, without warning, a tempest hit. Your boat began filling with water, and you wondered, I Is Jesus sleeping? I'm going to drown!
I have the privilege of serving on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. One year during a team retreat, Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe was the featured speaker.
Excerpted from Breakfast With Jesus by Greg Laurie Copyright © 2003 by Greg Laurie. Excerpted by permission.
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