Bridgeway Bible Commentary
15. Preaching of John the Baptist ( Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-17; John 1:19-28)
The preaching of John soon attracted opposition from the Jewish religious leaders. They sent representatives to question him and then report back on what he taught and who he claimed to be. John denied that he was promoting himself as some new leader in Israel. He did not consider himself to be either the prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15; Deuteronomy 18:18 or the ‘Elijah' promised in Malachi 4:5. He was only a voice calling people to turn from their sin and be baptized, and so prepare themselves to receive the Messiah. He was like a messenger sent ahead of the king to tell people to clear the way for the royal arrival ( Matthew 3:1-6; Luke 3:1-6; John 1:19-23).
John commanded all people to repent, no matter who they were. Those who were descendants of Abraham were no more privileged in the eyes of God than the stones on the ground. All people, regardless of nationality, religion or social status, were to leave their selfish and sinful ways, and produce results in their daily lives that would prove their repentance to be genuine ( Matthew 3:7-10; Luke 3:7-14).
Although John baptized people to show they had repented and been forgiven their past sins, his baptism gave them no power to live a pure life. It was merely a preparation for one who was far greater than John. Jesus Christ would give the Holy Spirit, which, like fire, would burn up the useless chaff of the heart, leaving the pure wheat to feed and strengthen the life ( Matthew 3:11-12; Luke 3:15-17; John 1:24-28).
16. Baptism of Jesus ( Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34)
In due course John publicly introduced Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, for whom he had prepared the way. John's introduction contained none of the popular Jewish ideas of a political or military leader who would bring in a golden age for Israel. Instead it suggested that the Messiah would die, like a lamb offered in sacrifice for the cleansing of sin ( John 1:29-30). John then pointed out that he himself was not at first certain that Jesus was the Messiah, but when he saw the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus at his baptism, he was left in no doubt. John's explanation indicates that Jesus' baptism took place before his public introduction ( John 1:31-34).
When Jesus approached John to be baptized, John hesitated, because he knew Jesus was superior to him in character, status and authority. But Jesus insisted. He wanted to begin his ministry with a public declaration of his devotion to God. Baptism was an act of obedience carried out by those who declared themselves on the side of God and his righteousness. Jesus was baptized to show that, like all the faithful, he was obedient to God and he intended to carry out all God's purposes. His baptism displayed his identification, or solidarity, not only with the faithful minority of Israel but also with the human race in general. It was an identification that would lead to a far greater baptism at Golgotha, when as the representative of his fellow human beings he would bear the full penalty of sin ( Matthew 3:13-15).
Having shown his intentions openly, Jesus received openly the assurance that his Father was pleased with him. The Father's announcement, by combining a quote concerning the Davidic Messiah with one concerning the Servant of the Lord (see Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1), gave an indication that Jesus' way to kingly glory was to be that of the suffering servant. In appointing Jesus to his public ministry, the Father poured out upon him the Holy Spirit, through whose power he would carry out his messianic work ( Matthew 3:16-17; cf. Isaiah 11:1-2; Isaiah 61:1; Acts 10:37-38).
17. Temptation of Jesus ( Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
Immediately after being appointed to his messianic ministry, Jesus was tempted by Satan to use his messianic powers in the wrong way. (For the identification of the devil with Satan see Revelation 20:2.) Satan's aim was to make Jesus act according to his own will instead of in obedience to his Father.
Jesus had gone many weeks without eating and was obviously very hungry. Satan therefore used Jesus' natural desire for food to suggest that he should use his supernatural powers to create food and eat it. Jesus knew that food was necessary for a person's physical needs, but he also knew that obedience to God was more important. God alone would decide when and how his fast would end ( Matthew 4:1-4).
Living in a world of unbelievers, Jesus could be very frustrated at their refusal to accept him. He was therefore tempted to perform some spectacular feat that would prove once and for all that he was the Son of God. For instance, he could jump from the top of the temple in front of the people, asking God to keep him from being hurt. But to call upon God to save him from an act of suicide would be sin. It would be putting God to the test by demanding that he act in a certain way merely to satisfy an individual's selfish desire ( Matthew 4:5-7).
Then came the temptation to gain worldwide rule through compromising with Satan and using his methods to gain power. As the Messiah, Jesus had been promised a worldwide kingdom, but the way to that kingdom was through laying down his life in sacrifice. God wants people to enter his kingdom because they have a willing desire to serve him, not because they are the helpless subjects of force or cunning ( Matthew 4:8-10).
In each case Jesus answered the temptations by quoting principles taken directly from the Scriptures. All the references were to the experiences of Israel in the wilderness ( Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 6:16; Deuteronomy 8:3), suggesting again the identification that the Messiah felt with his people in their varied experiences.
These were not Satan's only temptations ( Luke 4:13). Jesus continued to be tempted with suggestions to put his physical needs before his Father's will (see John 4:31-34), to prove his messiahship to unbelievers by performing miracles (see Matthew 16:1-4) and to gain a kingdom through any way but the cross (see Matthew 16:21-23; John 6:15).
EARLY WORK IN GALILEE
24. Changing situations ( Matthew 4:12-17; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 3:18-20; Luke 4:14-15; John 4:43-45)
Somewhere about this time John the Baptist was imprisoned. (Concerning his imprisonment see notes on Matthew 14:1-12; Mark 6:14-29; Luke 9:7-9.) Jesus meanwhile continued north into Galilee, where the people's enthusiastic welcome was in sharp contrast to the suspicion of the people in Judea ( Matthew 4:12-16; John 4:43-45). He pointed out, however, that the kingdom he announced was not for those seeking political or material benefits. It was only for those who humbly and wholeheartedly turned from their sins ( Matthew 4:17).
27. Call of Peter, Andrew, James and John ( Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11)
From the hills of Nazareth the story moves to the fishing villages of Capernaum and Bethsaida on the northern shore of Lake Galilee. The fishermen brothers Peter and Andrew had already met Jesus and accepted him as the Messiah. So too, it seems, had another pair of fishermen brothers, James and John (see notes on John 1:35-42). Jesus now asked the four men to take the further step of leaving their occupations so that they could become his followers in the task of bringing people into the kingdom God ( Mark 1:16-20).
Peter learnt more of what lay ahead when, after a day on which they had caught no fish, Jesus told him to let down the nets again. Peter obeyed, with the result that he caught so many fish the nets almost broke ( Luke 5:1-7). The incident impressed upon Peter that Jesus was indeed Lord, and in humble submission he fell at the feet of Jesus and confessed his sinfulness ( Luke 5:8-11).
Note: The Sea (or Lake) of Galilee, the Sea (or Lake) of Gennesaret, and the Sea (or Lake) of Tiberias were three names for the same place.
; Luke 4:31-37
28. Man with an evil spirit healed ( Mark 1:21-28; Luke 4:31-37)
While in Capernaum Jesus preached in the local synagogue. People noticed that his teaching was very much different from that of the Jewish religious teachers. Instead of arguing about small points of the law he taught the truth of God plainly. All who heard had no doubt that this was God's message taught with his authority ( Mark 1:21-22).
On this occasion, however, Jesus' teaching was violently opposed by evil satanic powers that had taken control of a man in the audience. Such demons opposed Jesus throughout his ministry, but they were never victorious over him. News of Jesus' authority over evil spirits spread quickly throughout northern Palestine ( Mark 1:23-28).
29. Many sick people healed ( Matthew 4:23-25; Matthew 8:14-17; Mark 1:29-39; Luke 4:38-44)
Further examples of the ministry of Jesus show the presence and power of the kingdom of God in healing those afflicted by Satan ( Matthew 4:23-25; Mark 1:29-34). (For the significance of the kingdom of God see earlier section, ‘Jesus and the Kingdom'.) On one occasion when Jesus was staying in Capernaum, he went outside the town to find a quiet place to pray to his Father. Peter thought he was losing valuable opportunities, as the town was full of people looking for him. Jesus replied that no matter how many needy people were in Capernaum, he could not stay there all the time. He had to work and preach in other towns as well ( Mark 1:35-39).
30. Jesus cleanses a leper ( Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16)
People with leprosy and other skin diseases were considered unclean and a danger to public health. They were outcasts from society ( Leviticus 13:45-46). If they were healed they had to offer sacrifices to symbolize their cleansing and express their thanks ( Leviticus 14:1-20).
On the first recorded occasion when Jesus healed a leper, he did what anyone else would normally avoid doing; he touched the man. He then told the man to present himself to the priest (whose duty was to examine him and confirm that he had been healed; Leviticus 14:3) and to offer the sacrifices required by the law. He also told the Prayer of Manasseh , clearly and firmly, not to broadcast what had happened, as he did not want to attract people who were curious to see a miracle-worker but had no sense of spiritual need (, Mark 1:40-44).
The man disobeyed and as a result Jesus' work was hindered. So many people came to see him that he was unable to teach in the towns as he wished. He continued to help the needy, but the pressures upon him caused him all the more to seek his Father's will through prayer ( Mark 1:45; Luke 5:16).
Sunday, March 26th, 2017
the Fourth Sunday of Lent
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