As I have been diving back into the book of Matthew in the New Testament this week, I am doing three things I always do when I am reading straight through books of the bible with the purpose of study:
- Take the time to familiarize myself with the one known or believed to have recorded the book
- Take the time to familiarize myself with the main people involved in that day’s reading according to the chapter’s heading in my study bible
- Then read out loud the entire passage, as if I am reading a great novel. I also do this because there is something so very powerful in reading the Scriptures out loud, by myself, in an otherwise quiet space.
Then I am ready to dig deeper.
I began doing this a while back because I realized I would read the bible as a manual of sorts, instead of embracing it as the Living Word of a Holy God ~ a love letter from the Lord, a gentle means of correction like that coming from a patient parent, or a powerful proclamation coming from the King himself!
I was also forgetting that the people mentioned in the scriptures were REAL. They weren’t just fictional characters made up in a novel to be used as examples. No, they lived and breathed and cried and ate and laughed and…maybe weren’t really that different from me.
So, now as I read the scriptures, I want to know a little bit more about who it is that the Lord’s word was written about. I want to slow down and put myself in their shoes, so to speak.
Today, I did that with John the Baptist in Matthew, chapter 3. I have always been so intrigued with John the Baptist. He seems to me as what would have been considered to be very odd. From what the scriptures tell us, he didn’t appear to worry about the latest trends in clothing while he ran around preaching the good news of a saving message, all the while living on locusts and honey.
But, to me, the most remarkable thing I have to remember about John the Baptist is he didn’t know the rest of the story! He was uncompromisingly obedient to what he DID know.
He had what was available of the Old Testament and what I believe to be guidance from the Holy Spirit. Then, he just went. He obeyed. And as a result, he was the instrument used to help lead hundreds to saving repentance and baptism.
He just went.
No matter what people said. No matter what he knew people must have thought. No matter the cost. In moments of weariness, or fear, or frustration he still made a choice…
He still went.
And he spoke unwavering Truth into the lives of anyone that was close enough to hear him. And the Truth was, and still is, irresistible. THE most perfect love letter! John the Baptist is a perfect reminder that it is not my job to “convince” people of the Truth, it is just my privilege to Go and be the instrument to share it.
Chapter 3 ends with one of my very most favorite images in all of scripture in verses 16-17 ~ Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and Father God all in one place!
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
And who baptized Jesus? John did, after having to be convinced to do so by Jesus himself because John knew he was not fit to even carry Jesus’ sandals (v.11). Yet, once more, he was obedient.
He trusted Jesus when he said, “Let it be so now, it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (v.15)
Oh, to be one of the people gathered around watching this moment unfold. Even though, think about it, not one of them probably completely understood the magnitude of what they had been given a glimpse of.
And yet, as I sit here and long to see those same miraculous glimpses, I overlook the fact that I have been given a gift as great as this! To live in a time where I KNOW the rest of the story. I KNOW the ending!
I just need to live like it…