Tim Tallis and Kevin Smith recently began a Small Group that is exploring the Gospel of Matthew chapter-by-chapter. On an evening business flight to Dallas, Tim was preparing for next week’s group when he was struck by connections between John the Baptist and Jesus. He wrote the following late last night about what he was learning:
Matthew 7 is the conclusion to one of Jesus’ most pivotal sermons during his ministry. In Matthew 7, I believe Jesus is preaching through the Holy Spirit the same message that John the Baptist began preaching while paving the way for the Messiah.
Matthew 3:2 focuses on John the Baptist and the crucial message that he delivered to his followers: “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven has come near”. We learn in Luke that John the Baptist is Jesus’ cousin, but it isn’t clear what their specific relationship was prior to their meeting at the Jordan River. Has John the Baptist known that Jesus was the Messiah his whole life and was just now announcing this because he realizes that Jesus ministry is officially beginning? Or was it not until the Holy Spirit spoke to him at the Jordan River? Either way, it is obvious that Jesus felt strongly for John (later in the Matthew 11:11 Jesus says ‘Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist).
An important message that is easy to overlook presents itsself in Matthew 4:12 and 4:17. After Jesus is tempted by the Devil in the wilderness, he learns that John has been imprisoned. 4:12 reads: “When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee”. 4:17 jumps to Jesus preaching the same exact thing that John the Baptist did in 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven has come near.
A similar trend occurs in Matthew 7:16-20 when Jesus discusses true and false prophets.7:16-20 reads: “By their fruit you will recognize them. 17: Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” This is a direct link to what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:10: “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire”.
Finally, I believe Jesus drew upon his temptation by the Devil in the wilderness in 7:9. Jesus says “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” The Devil tempted Jesus by doing the exact opposite in Matthew 4:3. Satan says to Jesus “If you are the son of God, tell these stones to become bread”. To me, this potentially represents how difficult it was to avoid Satan’s temptations in the dessert. Here we see the Son of Man, starving in the dessert and realizing that he truly could change his whole situation through the powers entrusted in him by the Father. To me, this is a really important component to Jesus’ journey- he was human, had the ultimate temptation (his body was probably screaming at him to eat) and he trusted God over his instincts. He draws upon this same strength right up to his crucifixion.
The Sermon on the Mount shows Jesus turning people’s understandings of the Law upside down, proving that the heart is what is most important. He draws upon John the Baptist and Satan to illustrate the importance of having a pure heart. That, my friends, is beautiful.
If you have any faith insights, experiences, or other encouragement to share, feel free to contact Matt through this blog’s homepage.