By Toni Ford
Next year during the month of March, I will be traveling to Israel and can hardly wait. I’ve been blessed to have had the opportunity to travel there several times, and with each trip, my love for the land and the people only deepens. One of the things I do as preparation for my trip is to read through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The four Gospels are all about Jesus’ ministry while here on earth. When reading the Gospels, one learns not only what Jesus taught but also the places where He walked.
Matthew, the first of the four Gospels, is a great place to start especially since he begins with the genealogy of Jesus and moves into the birth of Jesus our Messiah. One fun fact to know is that Matthew and Luke are the only two Gospels that trace the genealogy of Jesus and things surrounding His birth. We are told that some 30 years pass between chapters 2 and 3 in the Book of Matthew, during which Jesus grew up in Nazareth working as a carpenter. But the time had come for Jesus to begin His public ministry, which would culminate at the cross. How would the people know that He would qualify to be King, the Me-ssiah, the One they had all been looking and waiting for when they read the books from the Old Testament prophets? Jesus had to prove to the people that He did have the credentials to be a King, the King, the Messiah. He could not just jump to being King, or the people would have never believed Him. Chapters 3 and 4 of Matthew describe for us the foundation of Jesus’ ministry, His true nature and character and the credentials that began to set Him apart as the Messiah.
The Baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist began his ministry before Jesus. The prophet Isaiah was speaking about John in Isaiah 40:3 when he said, “He is a voice shouting in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming! Clear the road for him!” The Israelites had not heard the voice of a prophet for over 400 years. When John appeared, a great revival was taking place. John’s message was centered on repentance and the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 3:13-17 gives us the account of Jesus coming to John to be baptized. Jesus was not coming to be baptized because He had sinned and needed repentance. Even John knew this truth and tried to stop Jesus, but the Lord knew it was His Father’s will. So why was Jesus baptized and why was this the first public step in beginning His ministry? First, Jesus’ baptism gave approval to John’s ministry.
Second, Jesus identified Himself with publicans and sinners, the very people He came to save.
Third, Jesus demonstrated obedience to His Father from the very beginning. When Jesus came up out of the water, two things took place – the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove and His Father spoke from heaven: “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” Jesus began His ministry in obedience and humility, which ushered in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and the favor and blessing of His Father!
The Temptation of Jesus. One would think that Jesus could then begin to go among the people and begin His ministry of healing the sick and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, but instead we are told in Matthew 4:1-2 that, “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights He fasted and became very hungry.” So why was this the next step into Jesus’ ministry and why was this event so important, or even needed? The Father had already given Jesus His divine approval. Jesus was tempted so that every creature in heaven, on earth and under earth might know Jesus Christ is the Conqueror. Jesus exposed Satan and his tactics and defeated Satan with the Word of God. As a result, we too can have victory over Satan. Our Lord’s experience of temptation prepared Him to be our sympathetic High Priest (Hebrews 2: 16-18). As a result of Jesus facing the enemy as man and not as the Son of God, we are able to see how the same spiritual resources Jesus used when facing the enemy are available for us today when we face the enemy and temptations. Those two resources are the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Matthew 4:11 tells us, “Then the devil went away, and the angels came and took care of Jesus.” Jesus was now ready to begin His ministry among the people, preaching, healing the sick, and demonstrating the love of His Father to all people.
As I continue to meditate on these two chapters in the Book of Matthew, it is my prayer that I would follow our Messiah by being obedient and humble, daily strengthening myself in His Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit. I am forever thankful that the Lord I serve, has all the credentials needed to be THE one and only King!
If you would like continued prayer, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to pray for you!