My name is Darren. I started sharing devotions in June 2019. As one of the ministry leaders at my church. One reason why I started devotions is because of the lack of inspiration and motivation in our lives. It is hard to be encouraged with a lot of negativity going around. I invite you to be encouraged by the word of God. Our struggles can be personal, at the workplace, and the lack of community in our lives. When we go through hard times, we need the word of God. Please read them and be encouraged.
I also started a podcast talking about racism and discrimination. Please take a moment to check that out as well. Afternoon Coffee Break with Darren Watts.
23-25 From there, he went all over Galilee. He used synagogues for meeting places and taught people the truth of God. God’s kingdom was his theme—that beginning right now, they were under God’s government, a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and of the bad effects of their bad lives. Word got around the entire Roman province of Syria. People brought anybody with sickness, whether mental, emotional, or physical. Jesus healed them, one and all. More and more people came, the momentum gathering. Besides those from Galilee, crowds came from the “Ten Towns” across the lake, others up from Jerusalem and Judea, still others across the Jordan.
-Matthew 4:23-25 The Message
Ministry in Galilee
Verse 23: Jesus was going about in all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
Verse 23 study: Jesus was busy in Galilee. He was teaching, preaching (proclaiming the gospel), and healing. Jesus had three main aspects for his ministry. Teaching showed concern for understanding, preaching showed his commitment, and healing showed wholeness. The miracles Jesus performed of healing others showed his teachings and preaching proved he was indeed from God.
Jesus developed a powerful teaching ministry and often spoke in the synagogues. Most towns had ten or more Jewish families who had a synagogue. It serves as a religious gathering place on the Sabbath and as a school during the week. Either the leader or official of the synagogue was not a preacher as much as an administrator. His job was to find and invite rabbis to teach and preach. It’s a normal thing to invite visiting rabbis like Jesus to speak.
Verse 24: And the news about Him spread throughout Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering from various diseases and severe pain, demon-possessed, people with epilepsy, and people who were paralyzed; and He healed them.
Verses 23-24 studies: Jesus preached the gospel, The Good News, to everyone interested. The gospel is that the kingdom of heaven has come, God is with us, and he cares for us. Christ can heal not just physical sickness but spiritual sickness as well. No sin is too small or heavy for him to handle. Jesus’ words were good news because they offered freedom, hope, peace of heart, and eternal life with God.
Verse 25: Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Verse 25 study: Decapolis was a league of ten Gentiles cities east of the Sea of Galilee, together for defense and trades. The word about Jesus was out; Jews and Gentiles were coming long distances to hear him.
Let us take in the teachings to understand people. Let us use preaching for our commitment, and let us use healing for words. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
18-20 Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake: it was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions but simply dropped their nets and followed.
21-22 A short distance down the beach, they came upon another pair of brothers, James and John, Zebedee’s sons. These two were sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their fishnets. Jesus made the same offer to them, and they were just as quick to follow, abandoning boat and father.
-Matthew 4:18-22 The Message
Verse 18: Now, as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
Verse 18 study: The Sea of Galilee is a large lake. There were about 30 fishing towns that surrounded it during Jesus’ day, and Capernaum was the largest.
Verse 19: And He *said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.”
Verse 20: Immediately, they left their nets and followed Him.
Verses 18-20 studies: Jesus told Peter and Andrew to leave their fishing business and become “fishers of men,” to help others find God. Since we learned that Jesus told them that, do you believe that Jesus allows others to start a group to find God? I’ve seen motorcycle clubs in finding God, strip clubs, groups for Alcohol Anonymous, Pornography, all sorts of groups started not only to combat those addictions but for those who have hobbies to begin their own to strengthen those to find God. Jesus did with Peter and Andrew to call them away from the productive trades to be productive spiritually. We all can fish for souls. Practicing Christ’s teachings and sharing the gospel with others, we can draw those around us to Christ, like fishermen who pull fish into his boat with nets.
Verses 19-20: The men already knew Jesus. Back in John 1:35-42, Jesus talked to Peter and Andrew and preached in the area. So when Jesus called them, they knew what kind of man he was and were willing to follow him. They weren’t in a trance when they decided to follow him, but they were convinced that following Jesus would change their lives forever.
Verse 21: Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets; and He called them.
Verse 22: Immediately, they left the boat and their father and followed Him.
Verses 21-22 studies: Peter, Andrew, John, and his brother James were the first disciples Jesus called to work with. Jesus motivated these men to get up and leave their jobs immediately. They did not make any excuses about why it was not a good time. They left and followed. Jesus called us to follow him, and when he does, he asks us to serve him; we must be like the disciples and do it at once.
As we continue to learn to be faithful to you, Father, let us be open-minded to doing whatever you call us to do. Yes, it is scary, but the risk is worth it when we listen. The disciples didn’t hesitate; we see the result. We should be ready when you call us. Let be ready when you call us. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
12-17 When Jesus got word that John had been arrested, he returned to Galilee. He moved from his hometown, Nazareth, to the lakeside village Capernaum, nestled at the base of the Zebulun and Naphtali hills. This move completed Isaiah’s revelation:
Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
road to the sea, over Jordan,
Galilee, crossroads for the nations.
People sitting out their lives in the dark
saw a huge light;
Sitting in that dark, dark country of death,
they watched the sun come up.
This Isaiah-prophesied revelation came to life in Galilee the moment Jesus started preaching. He picked up where John left off: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
-Matthew 4:12-17 The Message
Jesus Begins His Ministry
Verse 12: Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee;
Verse 13: and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.
Verses 12-13 studies: Jesus moved to Capernaum, which is about 20 miles north. Capernaum became Jesus’ home base during his ministry in Galilee. There could be some reasons why Jesus moved:
To get away from intense opposition in Nazareth.
To have the greatest impact on the most significant number of people.
To utilize extra resources and support for his ministry.
Jesus’ movement fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2, which says that the Messiah will be a light to the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, the region of Galilee where Capernaum was located. Zebulun and Naphtali were the two original 12 tribes of Israel.
Verse 14:This happened so that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled:
Verse 15: “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
Verse 16: The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them, a Light dawned.”
Verses 14-16 studies: Quoting the book of Isaiah, Matthew continues to tie Jesus’ ministry to the Old Testament. It’s helpful to the Jewish readers, who were familiar with these Scriptures. It also shows the unity of God’s purpose as he works with his people throughout all ages.
Verse 17: From that time, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Verse 17 study: Kingdom of heaven is the same as the kingdom of God in Mark and Luke. Matthew uses the phrase because of the Jews, for their respect to not pronounce God’s name. The kingdom of heaven is still near because it has arrived in our hearts.
Jesus started his ministry with the word people consistently heard John the Baptist say, “Repent.” It is the same message today as Jesus and John gave it. Being a follower of Christ means turning away from our self-centeredness and “self” control and turning those control and start in the direction Christ directs our lives to.
Father, I pray today for the ministries you start everyone on. I pray blessings on it. So many people may not realize that they have been called to start a ministry but don’t recognize it yet. I pray that we will see your signals for when it is time. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
7 Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”
8-9 For the third test, the Devil took him to the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth’s kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, “They’re yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they’re yours.”
10 Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!” He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
11 The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.
-Matthew 4:7-11 The Message
Verse 7: Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'”
Verse 8: Again, the devil *took Him along to a very high mountain and *showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;
Verse 9: and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
Verses 8-9 studies: Think about this for a minute. Satan told Jesus that I will give You all these things if you fall down and worship me. Did the Devil really have the power to give Jesus the kingdoms of the world? Remember, as a former angel, he can’t do anything. As expected, Satan lied about giving Jesus the kingdom, or he could have based his offer on temporary control and free rein over the earth because of humanity’s sinfulness. Jesus’ temptation was to take the world as a political ruler right then, without carrying out his plan to save the world from sin. Satan tried to twist Jesus’ point of view by getting him to focus on worldly power and not God’s plans.
Verse 10: Then Jesus *said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'”
Verses 8-10 studies: The Devil offered the whole world to Jesus if Jesus worshipped Satan. In today’s world, Satan is trying to provide us with the world with materialistic things and power. I believe with the help of Jesus, we can resist those temptations. However, if you find yourself craving it, quote Jesus the words he said to Satan, “Worship the Lord you God, and serve Him only.”
Verse 11: Then the devil *left Him; behold, angels came and began to serve Him.
Verse 11 study: Angels that waited on Jesus played an important role as God’s messengers. They were involved in Jesus’ life on earth by:
Announcing Jesus’ birth to Mary
Announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds
Protecting Jesus by sending the family to Egypt
Ministering to Jesus in Gethsemane.
Thank you for another day with you. There is nothing like waking up, starting the day with you, or ending the day with you. I pray that we have continued knowledge of temptation to help others and recognize false teachers. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
4 1-3 Next, Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: “Since you are God’s Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread.”
4 Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.”
5-6 For the second test, the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, “Since you are God’s Son, jump.” The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone.”
-Matthew 4:1-6 The Message
The Temptation of Jesus
4 Verse 1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
Verse 1 study: The devil is doing what he can to show that he can outdo Jesus, outpower him. But what Satan tries to do shows that Jesus is the Son of God since he can overcome Satan’s way of tempting him. You will learn that a person hasn’t demonstrated true obedience if you never had the opportunity to disobey. Deuteronomy 8:2 talks about God leading Israel into the wilderness and testing them. God tests people to see if they will obey or not. But you won’t know when which is why it is crucial to be alert and prepared. Your convictions are strong only if they hold up under pressure.
Satan was successful in tempting Eve in the Garden of Eden. Out in the wilderness, Jesus is being tempted. Satan is the fallen angel. Be reminded that he is not real, not symbolic, and always fighting against those who follow God and obey him. But what is real is Satan’s way of tempting you, and he is always trying to find a way to get us to live his way or our way and not God’s way. Jesus will reign over all creations, but Satan keeps butting in and tries to force his hand and get him to declare kingship prematurely. If Jesus had given in, his mission on earth, to die for our sins and allow us to have eternal life, would have been lost. When sin comes and is strong, think about why it is happening. It can be Satan blocking you from God’s purposes in your life or for someone else’s life.
The temptation by the devil shows that Jesus is human. It also showed that Jesus had the opportunity to reaffirm God’s plan for his ministry. This is a true example of how to answer when we are tempted. This is the sinlessness of Jesus; he faced temptation but would not give in. Above all else, he didn’t sin! You may feel dirty after being tempted, but it is not a sin to be tempted. It’s only a sin when acting on it. Read Jesus’ temptation as a reminder of how to respond if we find it hard.
Jesus was tempted in one of the most vulnerable spots of all. He wasn’t tempted at the temple or baptism. He was tempted in the wilderness, alone, tired, hungry, and again, vulnerable. Does this show that Satan knew what he was doing? Taking advantage of Jesus, or trying to because he was alone and tired. Vulnerability can be physical or emotional such as lonely, tired, making big decisions, faced with uncertainty. Satan also likes to get us through our strengths because of our pride. The goal is to guard against those attacks at all times.
Verses 1-10 studies: There are three areas Satan’s temptations focus on:
Physical needs and desires.
Possessions and power.
Pride (1 John 2:15-16).
Jesus didn’t give in. Hebrews 4:15; “Jesus has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” He knows what we go through, our experiences, and he wants to help in our battles. So when you are tempted, turn to Jesus for strength.
Verse 2: And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
Verse 3: And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Verse 4: But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.'”
Verses 3-4 studies: Jesus went forty days of being weak and hungry. He divided his divine power to satisfy his natural desire for food. It is okay to be hungry; it was just the wrong timing since he was fasting in the wilderness. His purpose was not to eat, only fast. Jesus gave up his unlimited, independent use of his power to experience humanity fully; he did not change stone to bread using his power. We may have times to satisfy a normal desire in the wrong way and wrong time. Like sex before marriage or stealing food, we do these things in the wrong way. God wants you to do it right and at the right time.
Jesus resisted the temptation because he knew scripture, and he obeyed it. Ephesians 6:17 say that God’s Word is a sword to use in spiritual combat. Learning Bible verses help us resist Satan’s attacks, but we should obey the Bible. Satan memorized scriptures but didn’t obey them. Knowing and obeying the Bible helps us resist and follow God’s desires rather than the devil’s.
Verse 5: Then the devil *took Him along into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple,
Verse 6: and he *said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written:
‘He will give His angels orders concerning You’;
‘On their hands, they will lift You up,
So that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.'”
Verse 5 study: The temple was the religious center of the Jewish nation and where the people expected the Messiah to arrive (Malichi 3:1). Herod renovated the temple in hopes of gaining the Jews’ confidence. The temple was the tallest building in the area, and the pinnacle was probably the corner wall that jutted out of the hillside, overlooking the valley below. At this spot, Jesus saw all of Jerusalem behind him and the country for miles in front of him.
Verses 5-7 studies: God is not our magician in the sky ready to perform our requests. Jesus told Satan not to put God to the test (Deuteronomy 6:16). Instead, ask God to do something to prove his existence or his love for you. Jesus taught the parable that people who don’t believe what is written in the Bible wouldn’t believe even if someone were to come back from the dead to warn them (Luke 16:31). God tells us to live by faith, not by magic. Don’t try to manipulate God by asking for signs.
Verse 6 study: The Devil used scripture to convince Jesus to sin. Friends and associates will present attractive, convincing reasons to do something you know isn’t right. They will find Bible verses to support those reasons or viewpoints. Make sure to continue to study the Bible, especially in a broader context of specific verses, to understand God’s principles for living and what he wants for your life. If you understood the whole Bible, you could see the interpretation errors when people take verses out of context and twist them to say what they want.
Father, there is a lot on the teaching of temptation. Thank you for giving us the lesson of temptation through Jesus. If there is anybody we should learn from, it is from Jesus. Let us use the lessons and apply them to our lives today. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
13-14 Jesus then appeared, arriving at the Jordan River from Galilee. He wanted John to baptize him. John objected, “I’m the one who needs to be baptized, not you!”
15 But Jesus insisted. “Do it. God’s work, putting things right all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.” So John did it.
16-17 The moment Jesus came up out of the baptismal waters, the skies opened up, and he saw God’s Spirit—it looked like a dove—descending and landing on him. And along with the Spirit, a voice: “This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life.”
-Matthew 3:13-18 The Message
The Baptism of Jesus
Verse 13: Then Jesus *arrived from Galilee at the Jordan, coming to John to be baptized by him.
Verse 14: But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?”
Verse 15: But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” So then he *allowed Him.
Verses 13-15 studies: John explained that Jesus’ baptism would be greater than his, but the unexpected happened. Jesus asked John to baptize Jesus himself. John felt unqualified to baptize Jesus. To be honest, I would have felt unqualified as well. But why did Jesus ask John to baptize him? It is not for repentance for sin because Jesus never sinned. Righteousness means to accomplish God’s mission. Jesus saw this as advancing God’s work. Jesus was baptized because:
He is confessing sin on behalf of the nation, just like how Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses, and Daniel had done.
He is showing support for John
He was inaugurating his public ministry
He was identifying with penitent people of God, not with critical Pharisees who were only watching.
Jesus didn’t need baptism; he is perfect. But to accept baptism in obedience serves to the Father, and God showed his approval.
Verse 15 study: Think about John’s situation. You doing well, your work is excellent. People begin to take notice; everything is growing. You know the purpose of your work; it’s to prepare people for Jesus (John 1:35-37). Jesus arrives, and test your integrity. Will you be able to turn your followers over to him? John passed the test by publicly baptizing Jesus. He would say, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Can we put our egos and professional work to the side like John did to point others to Jesus? You willing to lose status so that everyone can benefit?
Verse 16: After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on Him,
Verse 17: and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Verses 16-17 studies: The doctrine of the Trinity means that God is three people and one in essence. The passage shows all three persons of the Trinity are present and active. God the Father speaks; God, the son, is baptized; God, the Holy Spirit, descends on Jesus. God is one, yet in three persons at the same time. It’s God’s incomprehensible mystery. References that speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is Matthew 28:19; John 15:26; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-5; and 1 Peter 1:2.
We all have doubts about not being able to do your work or being inexperienced. Let us be reminded that you guide our way to do your jobs successfully. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
7-10 When John realized that a lot of Pharisees and Sadducees were showing up for a baptismal experience because it was becoming the popular thing to do, he exploded: “Brood of snakes! What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river? Do you think a little water on your snakeskins is going to make any difference? It’s your life that must change, not your skin! And don’t think you can pull rank by claiming Abraham as the father. Being a descendant of Abraham is neither here nor there. Descendants of Abraham are a dime a dozen. What counts is your life. Is it green and flourishing? Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.
11-12 “I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.”
-Matthew 3:7-12 The Message
Verse 7: But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Verse 7 study: The Jewish religious leaders were divided into several groups. Two of the most prominent groups were the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees separated themselves from any non-Jewish stuff and followed the Old Testament laws and oral traditions for centuries as it was handed down. The Sadducees believed the Pentateuch (Genesis – Deuteronomy) to be God’s word. Mainly they were descended from priestly nobility, while the Pharisees came from all classes of people. Both groups disliked each other, and both groups opposed Jesus. John the Baptist did criticize the Pharisees for being legalistic and hypocritical when they were following the letter of the law and ignoring its true intent. He denounced the Sadducees for using religion to advance their political position.
Verse 8: Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance;
Verse 9: and do not assume that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children for Abraham.
Verse 8 study: John the Baptist used more than words and rituals’ he told people to change their behavior. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance meant that God looks beyond our words and religious activities to see if our conduct backs us up in what we say. Also, it judges our words by the actions that accompany them. Think about your words. Do it match your actions?
Verse 10: And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire.
Verses 9-10 studies: You expect it to grow, especially fruit trees, when you think of trees. You expect the fruit to grow when you nourish the tree. So it goes for us as well. We nourish ourselves with the word; we are expected to grow. God can’t use you if you say you are of Christ, but don’t show it. Many people in John’s day were God’s people in name only; they were of no value if we are Christians in name only. If others can’t see your faith in how you treat them, we may not be God’s people at all.
Verse 10 study: God’s message has not changed since the Old Testament. People will be judged for their unproductive lives. God calls us to be active in our obedience. John draws a comparison between those who claim they believe in God and those who don’t live for God as the unproductive trees that will be cut down. To be productive for God, we must obey his teachings, resist temptation, actively serve and help others, and share our faith. Examine how you are active. Do you see yourself as productive for God?
Verse 11: “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Verse 11 study: John baptized people as a sign that they had asked God to forgive their sins and decided to live as he wanted them to live. Baptism is an outward sign of commitment. To be effective, it had to come with an inward change of attitude to lead a changed life, which is the Holy Spirit. John said that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. This look ahead to the Pentecost (Acts 2), when the Holy Spirit would be sent by Jesus in the form of tongues of fire, empowering his followers to preach the gospel. John’s statement symbolized the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing God’s judgment to those who refuse to repent. Everyone will one day be baptized, either now by God’s Holy Spirit or later by the fire of his judgment.
Verse 12: His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Verse 12 study: A winnowing fork is a pitchfork used to toss wheat in the air to separate the wheat from the chaff. The grain is part of the plant that is useful, and chaff is the worthless outer shell. It’s useless, so it’s burned, but it is still gathered. Winnowing is used as a picture of God’s judgment. Unrepentant people will be judged and discarded because they are useless in doing God’s work; those who repent and believe will be saved and used by God.
Father, we go into repentance more with John the Baptist. I don’t know who needs to hear this today other than me, but I pray that this will deepen into our minds as we progress through the day. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
3 1-2 While Jesus was living in the Galilean hills, John, called “the Baptizer,” was preaching in the desert country of Judea. His message was simple and austere, like his desert surroundings: “Change your life. God’s kingdom is here.”
3 John and his message were authorized by Isaiah’s prophecy:
Thunder in the desert!
Prepare for God’s arrival!
Make the road smooth and straight!
4-6 John dressed in a camel-hair habit tied at the waist by a leather strap. He lived on a diet of locusts and wild field honey. People poured out of Jerusalem, Judea, and the Jordanian countryside to hear and see him in action. At the Jordan River, those who came to confess their sins were baptized into a changed life.
-Matthew 3:1-6 The Message
The Preaching of John the Baptist
3 Verse 1 Now in those days, John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying,
Verse 2: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Verses 1-2 studies: When the scripture was written, it was 30 years later since the events we learned about in chapter 2. Then, John the Baptist came to the scene and made his theme as “repent.” Repentance is doing a complete 180, making a change from your self-centered attitude that once upon a time led you to wrong actions such as lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, taking revenge, abusing, and indulging in sexual immorality. When a person repents, you will stop rebelling and start to follow God’s way of living in his word. The first step is admitting your sins. Then, God will receive you and help you live the way you should live. God is the only one that can get rid of sin; remember this! He doesn’t expect us to clean up our lives before coming to him. You come as you are.
Verse 2 study: When God entered human history as a man, that’s when the kingdom of heaven began. Today, Jesus Christ reigns in the hearts of believers. But, the kingdom of heaven can’t be known or recognized until all evil in the world is judged and removed. Christ came as a suffering servant; he will come again as King and Judge to rule victoriously over the earth.
Verse 3: For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
“The voice of one calling out in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
Make His paths straight!'”
Verse 3 study: Isaiah 40:3 is what is quoted by one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and one of the most quoted in the New Testament. John and Isaiah were both prophets who urged people to confess to their sins and live for God. Both the prophets taught that the message of repentance is good news to those who will listen and seek healing and forgiveness of God’s love. Those who refuse to listen will not only cut their hopes off, but they will also see it as terrible news.
John made ready the way for Jesus. People who don’t know Jesus have to be prepared to meet him. We can prepare by explaining the need for forgiveness, demonstrating Christ’s teaching by our conduct, and telling them how Christ can give meaning to life. One way to make His path straight is by correcting misconceptions that hindered people from approaching Christ. You may know someone that has an open mind to a relationship with Christ. What can you do to prepare the way for this person?
Verse 4: Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; his food was locusts and wild honey.
Verse 4 study: John was different from other religious leaders from his day. Many were greedy, selfish, and preoccupied with winning the praise of people. John was concerned about the glory of God. John lived differently because he separated himself from evil and hypocrisy. John also wanted to show that his message was new. So John preached and lived it. How about you. Do you practice what you preach? Do people believe that you live by the word by observing you?
Verse 5: At that time, Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the region around the Jordan;
Verse 6: They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.
Verse 5 study: John attracted a lot of people. That’s because he was the first true prophet in 400 years. He blasted Herod and religious leaders and daring acts that fascinated the ordinary people. The one thing John had was solid words for his audience. They are sinners and need to repeat. Like always, his message was powerful and authentic. The people expected a prophet like Elijah (Malachi 4:5; Luke 1:17), and John seemed to be it.
Verses 4-6 studies: People came to hear a preacher who wore clothing that turned people’s heads and ate unusual food. That is some image John has. But some people did come out of curiosity and ended up repenting of their sins as they got to listen to the message as well. People are curious about your Christian lifestyle and values. Use that to your advantage to share eye-opening views of how Christ makes a difference in you.
Verse 6 study: You can see the dirt coming off your hands when washing your hands with soap and water. With repentance, it is a different internal cleansing, and it doesn’t happen right away. John used a symbolic action that people can see: baptism! The Jews used baptism to initiate converts, so John’s audience was familiar with the rite. Baptism is used as a sign of repentance and forgiveness. Repent means “turn,” meaning a behavior change; it’s turning from sin towards God. Have you repented? Can others see the difference it makes in you? Changing life with a new and different behavior makes your repentance tangible and visible.
The Jordan River is about 70 miles long. The main section stretching between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Jerusalem is about 20 miles west of Jordan. It is the river of Israel’s eastern border. Many events took place in the nation’s history. The Israelites renewed their covenant with God by the Jordan River before entering the promised land (Joshua 1:2). Again, John the Baptist calls them to continue their covenant with God, this time, through baptism.
Repentance is the beginning of John’s many teachings in this chapter. As we continue to learn about repentance, let us practice it. One day, we may have to advise others on repentance. It can be an essential step towards their faith in Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
19-20 Later, when Herod died, God’s angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt: “Up, take the child and his mother and return to Israel. All those out to murder the child are dead.”
21-23 Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother, and reentered Israel. However, when he heard that Archelaus had succeeded his father, Herod, as king in Judea, he was afraid to go there. But then Joseph was directed in a dream to go to the hills of Galilee. On arrival, he settled in the village of Nazareth. This move was a fulfillment of the prophetic words, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
-Matthew 2:19-23 The Message
Verse 19: But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said,
Verse 20: “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.”
Verse 21: So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
Verse 22: But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee,
Verse 23: and came and settled in Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Verses 19-22 studies: Herod died in 4 B.C. of an incurable disease. Rome did not trust Herod’s sons but trusted Herod. Because he knew that, he also knew that Rome would not give his successor as much power, ho Herod decided his kingdom should be split into three parts, one for each son.
Archelaus got Judea, Samaria, and Idumea.
Herod Antipus got Galilee and Perea.
Herod Phillip II got Trachonitis and Ituruea.
Archelaus continued in his father’s footsteps as a violet man by slaughtering 3,000 influential people. Then, nine years later, be banished. God did not want Joseph’s family to go into the region of this evil ruler.
Verse 23 study: Nazareth sat on a hill are in southern Galilee near the crossroads of the great caravan trade routes. The town was small. The Roman garrison in charge of Galilee was housed there. The town of Nazareth had constant communication with people from all over the world. The world news reached them quickly. The people of Nazareth had an attitude of independence that many Jews despised. John 1:46 could explain why Nathanael commented, “can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
Meanwhile, “He shall be called Nazarene,” does not have any records in the Old Testament of this statement. Scholars believe that Matthew refers to Isaiah 1:11, where the Hebrew word for “branch” is similar to Nazarene’s, or he could mean that a prophecy was not recorded in the Bible. Matthew paints the picture of Jesus as a true Messiah, announced by God through prophets. He points out that Jesus, the Messiah, had unexpected humble beginnings, just as the Old Testament had predicted in Micah 5:2.
Father, we know the true Messiah. But, unfortunately, not a lot of people do. Not in those days, and not today either. I pray we, as followers, can do good by your work to get the word out. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
13 After the scholars were gone, God’s angel showed up again in Joseph’s dream and commanded, “Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him.”
14-15 Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod’s death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: “I called my son out of Egypt.”
16-18 Herod flew into a rage when he realized that the scholars had tricked him. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he’d gotten from the scholars.) That’s when Jeremiah’s revelation was fulfilled:
A sound was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
dead and buried.
-Matthew 2:13-18 The Message
The Escape to Egypt
13 Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord *appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”
Verse 13 study: This is the second dream or vision that God sent to Joseph. The first was a dream that revealed Mary’s child would be the Messiah (1:20-21). The second was a dream that God told him to protect the child’s life. The reality is that Joseph is not the natural father of Jesus, but he is the legal father of Jesus and was responsible for his safety and well-being. Divine guidance comes only to prepared hearts. Nevertheless, Joseph remained receptive to God’s guidance.
Verse 14: Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night and left for Egypt.
Verse 15: He stayed there until the death of Herod; this happened so that what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Verses 14-15 studies: There were colonies of Jews in several major Egyptian cities, so it was not unusual to go to Egypt. In Jeremiah 43:44, the colonies developed during the time of the great captivity. The parallel between this flight to Egypt and Israel’s history is that Israel went to Egypt as Jesus did as a child. First, God led them out of Israel (Hosea 11:1). Then, God brought Jesus back. Both events show God working to save his people.
Herod Slaughters Babies
Verse 16: Then, when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent men and killed all the boys who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.
Verse 16 study: Herod killed all the boys under two years of age in an obsessive way to attempt to kill Jesus, the newborn king. He stained his hands with blood, but he did not harm Jesus. Herod was king by human vote, while Jesus was king by divine appointment. It is hard to run God’s plans. The problem with Herod is that he is afraid that the newborn king will take his throne. Jesus didn’t want the throne; he wanted to be the king of Herod’s life. Jesus wanted to give Herod eternal life, not take away his present life. People think Christ wants to take your life when all he wants is to be your king. Give you absolute freedom, peace, and joy. You don’t need to fear Christ. Let him have the throne in your life.
Verse 17: Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:
Verse 18: “A voice was heard in Ramah,
Weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children;
And she refused to be comforted,
Because they were no more.”
Verses 17-18 studies: Rachael was the wife of Jacob, one of the great men of God in the Old Testament. From Jacob’s 12 sons had come the 12 tribes of Israel. Rachael was buried near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). See Jeremiah 31:15 for the quote on this verse.
Father, thank you for today’s lesson. It is good to be reminded to listen to dreams because you may appear to share a message. Thank you for allowing us to read the story of Herod to understand how important it is to listen. In Jesus’ name. Amen!