Thursday, January 10, 2008

Matthew 3:13-17 - Different

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward

January 13, 2008

Matthew 3:13-17

Today, I want to tell you four stories of surprise.

Our first story is from the movie, Guess Who. A young woman is bringing her new boyfriend home to meet the family. Everyone is excited because he is a stock broker. There’s just one problem…. He’s white.

[You can view this clip at YouTube: Start with the time 3:40.]

I love that: “But he’s white!”

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

Eventually, Bernie Mac gets over the shock of Ashton being white. Near the end of the movie, he learns to look past Ashton’s white-ness to see a young man who will make a great husband for his daughter.

That happens again in this story from one of the best chick-flicks ever: Anne of Green Gables. Matthew and Merilla Cuthbert are getting older, and they decide to get an orphan boy to help them do chores on their farm. There’s just one problem. He’s a she.

[You can view this clip at YouTube: Start at the beginning, and watch until 6:30 (or 7:30 if you have time).]

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

Matthew Cuthbert quickly overcomes the fact that their “boy” was a girl. It takes Merilla a little more time, but eventually Anne (with an “E”) wins her heart, too. Near the end of the movie, Matthew and Merilla are overjoyed that someone sent them Anne.

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected. That happened long ago in the story of John the Baptist. John was a fiery preacher, as I tried to show last week. (I’ve always wanted to yell like that!) John was preparing the way for God’s new King to come and redeem Israel.

Like most Israelites, John probably thought of the Messiah in terms of Psalm 2.

1-6 Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples?
Earth-leaders push for position,
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,
The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers:
"Let's get free of God!
Cast loose from Messiah!"
Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing.
At first he's amused at their presumption;
Then he gets good and angry.
Furiously, he shuts them up:
"Don't you know there's a King in
Zion? A coronation banquet
Is spread for him on the holy summit."

7-9 Let me tell you what God said next.
He said, "You're my son,
And today is your birthday.
What do you want? Name it:
Nations as a present? Continents as a prize?
You can command them all to dance for you,
Or throw them out with tomorrow's trash."

10-12 So, rebel-kings, use your heads;
Upstart-judges, learn your lesson:
Worship God in adoring embrace,
Celebrate in trembling awe. Kiss Messiah!
Your very lives are in danger, you know;
His anger is about to explode,
But if you make a run for God—you won't regret it!
(The Message)

Most Jews expected the Messiah to come like this: exploding with anger and crushing the rebel nations. From all we can tell, John was part of this tradition. He was calling everyone to repent to get ready for this kind of Messiah. John the Baptist didn’t care if you were a priest or a king. If you were wrong and needed to change, he’d tell you.

When the religious leaders came out to the Jordan River to see what all of this baptizing was about, John called them a bunch of snakes and fakes.

When Herod Antipas, the king of Galilee, married his brother’s ex-wife, John shouted in the streets: “The King is a sinner! God’s law says you can’t wife swap like that!”

John was trying to get the people ready for the Messiah, and no one was going to stand in his way.

Listen to the story in Matthew 3:13-17.

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."

Did you catch that? John even argued with the Messiah. John had spent years living in the wilderness, eating bugs and honey, wearing itchy clothes, acting like a crazy man. For what? To prepare people for the Messiah.

And when John met the Messiah, what was the first thing he said, “You’re wrong!” Well, that sounds a lot like John. Remember, he’d stand up to anyone. John wasn’t going to let anyone get in the way of the Messiah coming, not even the Messiah.

Maybe we can just imagine what was going through John’s mind:

Baptizing Jesus is pointless. It’s worse than pointless. It’s wrong. It would give people the wrong idea of who Jesus is. People would think he is a sinner! People would think he is less than me. People would think he is just another guy coming to me to get ready for the Messiah, not the Messiah himself. If I’m not good enough to wash the dirt off Jesus’ shoes, I’m certainly not good enough to baptize him! It’s just plain wrong, and I won’t do it!

So John told the Messiah, “Um, sorry Mr. Messiah, but you’re wrong. You’ve got this backwards, you need to baptize me. Then everyone will understand who you are. Then, everyone will see you’re not like all of us other losers. Come on over here, and dunk me in the water and prove that you are someone special.”

But Jesus said, “Well, John, I hate to break this to you, but for once, you’re the one who’s wrong. We need to do this because this act of humility will fulfill a major part of God’s work of making everything right again.”

John may not have understood, but he obeyed. John tipped Jesus back and dunked him under the water just like he would a sinner.

And then all heaven broke loose! The sky opened up!

The Holy Spirit came down and landed on Jesus. The Spirit didn’t come with lightening or fire or an earthquake or a blinding light – you know lightning connecting to Jesus’ fingertips or something, like on Bruce Almighty: “I’ve got the power!” No, it was nothing as powerful and dramatic as John would have liked. The Spirit came down in the form of a simple, gentle bird: a dove.

Then God spoke from heaven! For 400 years, heaven was silent. Now the skies ripped open and God spoke. I get the feeling that maybe John was disappointed in what God said. I think John would have expected God to say something like this: “Hey, you idiots! Get your act together! This guy is the Messiah King! He’ll burn you up with fire from his mouth if you don’t step in line and kiss his feet!”

But God just said two little lines that were basically quotes from the Old Testament. “This is my Son.” That’s from Psalm 2, remember with the picture of the angry, crushing Messiah King (Psalm 2:7). Good so far. John must have been happy to get that reference in.

Then God went on to quote Isaiah 42, “He is my chosen one, who pleases me.” That’s OK, but listen the rest of Isaiah 42:

1 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
3 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
4 He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.”

He won’t shout? He won’t raise his voice? He won’t crush the weakest reed? Who is this guy? Is he strong or not? Is he King or not? How can someone like that help anyone? How can someone like that come after John?

This all gets even harder to understand when we remember Isaiah’s other descriptions of God’s “servant,” the “chosen one”.

The servant says: “I offered my back to those who beat me and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mockery and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). What kind of Messiah is that?

The servant “was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). What kind of King is that?

So Jesus climbed out of the river and followed the Spirit out to begin his mission of being God’s Messiah.

But John was still standing there in the river wondering what just happened. One minute John was looking into the face of the King of the Universe. The next minute the King had submitted himself to John’s puny little baptism for sinners, and God said the Roaring Messiah King would also be the beaten down, suffering servant Messiah. Huh? Who is this guy? Who is Jesus? What kind of Messiah is he?

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

The last story I want to tell you is our story. In a way, we are all standing there in the water with John. We have our own set of expectations about Jesus. We want a Messiah who will help us feel better, someone who will help us make it through another day, another week. We want someone who will teach us how to be successful in our jobs, how to have a good family, how to fulfill our dreams. We want someone who will make our churches grow so that everyone will look at us and respect us for being part of such a wonderful church.

We want that kind of Messiah. But instead, we get someone who sometimes makes us feel worse, not better. We get someone who says that maybe we’re dreaming about the wrong things or working for the wrong things. We get someone who says it’s better to be friends with sinners than to look good. We get someone who says it’s better to help the poor than to build a church building.

Who is this Jesus? Who is this Messiah? What does he want from us? What does it mean to follow him?

Sometimes the person we get is different from the person we expected.

What will you do with this Messiah?

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