The Man Who Was Not Ashamed to Be Baptized

Daily Devotion | Day 288

“And John tried to prevent Him, saying “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:14-15, NKJV).

John had one mission: to prepare the way for the Messiah and to introduce Him to Israel. He knew who he was and who he wasn’t (John 1:19-26). Many in Israel responded well to his message. They came to John confessing their sins and to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:5).

One day, while John was ministering, Someone came to him to be baptized. It was Jesus. John was stunned. Jesus wasn’t supposed to be there. In fact, Jesus didn’t meet the requirements for baptism. To request baptism, people had to acknowledge their sin, repent (and confess). Therefore, anyone who didn’t know Jesus would assume that He – like everyone else – was a sinner seeking reconciliation with God. John must have felt embarrassed at the sight of Jesus standing in line for baptism. He rightly tried to prevent Jesus, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

Jesus knew John was right to refuse to baptize Him. In the end, however, John was persuaded when Jesus appealed to righteousness. “Permit it to be so now,” Jesus said, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” We can identify two important points in Jesus’ statement. First, He talks about the importance of fulfilling all righteousness. Jesus understood Scripture prophecies about Him. He knew that He had to be like us in all things. About thirty years prior to this encounter with John, the Son of God fulfilled prophecy by becoming flesh (John 1:14).

The time had now come for Jesus to be publicly initiated into his Messianic ministry. As part of this initiation, it was important for Jesus to show that He came to redeem Israel from sin (Matthew 1:21). Additionally, His baptism would underscore the fact that He fully embraced Israel’s burden of sin and their need for decisive victory over it. Entering the waters of baptism was, therefore, symbolically (and spiritually) significant. Doing this, for Jesus, was a fulfilling of God’s righteousness because it agreed with the Father’s will as expressed in multiple Messianic prophecies (notably Isaiah 53).

Second, Jesus spoke in the plural when He said to John, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus recognized that He and John were co-workers. They were a team working together to accomplish one goal. They had different but complementary missions. John’s mission needed Jesus’ mission to be authenticated (John 3:25-30). At the same time, Jesus’ mission relied on John’s successful preparation of Israel via the message of repentance (Luke 3:1-6).

To sum up, Jesus was not ashamed to enter the waters of baptism alongside sinners. We shouldn’t be ashamed either to be crucified and buried with Him in baptism (Romans 6:1-4). Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11). We shouldn’t be ashamed either to confess Him as our Lord and Savior (Luke 9:26; 12:8-9).

BlessingMay your life be a shining testimony to the glory of God. Amen.

For further studyHebrews 2:1-18 

Why It Is Important to Overcome Resentment

Daily Devotional: Day 229

“For John [the Baptist] had been saying to Herod, ‘It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.’ And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not . . . But an opportunity came . . .” (Mark 6:18-19, 21, ESV).

Today’s message is related to yesterday’s, which was about praying for those who don’t deserve it. We briefly touched on hate and grudge. But today, we want to give a little more attention to why it is important to entertain good thoughts and overcome resentment. The story in today’s passage about John the Baptist and Herodias will teach us valuable lessons about this subject.

John the Baptist was known for his fiery preaching. He confronted Herod Antipas over his illicit affair with Herodias, who was the wife of Herod’s half-brother. John most likely based his rebuke on Leviticus 18:16 which prohibited a person from marrying his brother’s wife – whether the brother was alive or not. The only exception was if the brother had died without leaving any children. In that case, the Law required that the brother of the deceased should marry the widow for purposes of providing progeny for the deceased (cf. Deuteronomy 25:5-10; see also Luke 20:27-40). John had just stirred up a hornet’s nest.

Herodias did not take John’s rebuke kindly. According to the Bible, “Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death.” Now Herod had already put John in prison for the latter’s condemnation of Herod’s behavior. John, therefore, posed no further threat to the unholy affair between Herod and his paramour. One would think that at this point Herodias would let it go. Her enemy, after all, was locked up in prison, possibly for life. But she held so much grudge in her heart that she desired to kill John.

She couldn’t, the Bible says. But one day, the opportunity came, and she swiftly unleashed her wrath on John by suggesting to her daughter that she ask for John’s head (cf. Mark 6:21-29). Several lessons can be drawn from this story, but let’s focus on just one: the importance of entertaining good thoughts and avoiding grudge.

Herodias’ problem involved three stages: first, she held a grudge; then she desired to kill; and finally, she killed. We can see this pattern in the events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion by his enemies. A further example is what happened between Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-11), as well as what ensued between Joseph and his brothers (Genesis 37:1-36). 

Your thoughts are like the steering wheel of a vehicle. Where you turn the steering, that is the direction you go. Likewise, your thoughts give direction to your life. Where you turn your thoughts, there your life will go. Bad thoughts will lead you in the wrong direction, but good thoughts will take you in the right direction. This is why it is important to entertain only good and positive thoughts, especially regarding yourself and other people.

No matter what people have done to you – whether they are wrong or right – it is important that you don’t entertain grudge or resentment against them. The reason is, when grudge persists, someone always gets hurt. Resentment is just the first step in the process. Over time, resentment breeds hate. Then, when hate matures, it begins to wish serious harm (even death) on the person (or people) resented. 

There is enough evil in the world. When you get an opportunity, do something to make this world a little more brighter. In Romans 6:12-19, God tells us to yield the members of our body, not as instruments of unrighteousness, but as instruments of righteousness. Satan needs an instrument to propagate evil. Don’t let that instrument be you.

Be an instrument in the hands of JesusLet Him use you to bring peace where there is no peace; to bring purity where there is impurity; to bring healing where there is hurt; to bring salvation where people are lost; to bring truth where people are deceived; and to bring freedom where people are bound.                

May the God of peace let His face shine upon you today, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Genesis 37:1-36

Was Jesus a Friend of Sinners?

DAILY DEVOTIONAL: DAY 204

“The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34, KJV).

Was Jesus a friend of sinners? The answer is, “No.” We shall soon find out why. Let’s start by examining the context of today’s Bible passage. Here, Jesus is expressing His displeasure at the attitude of people toward Him. John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. He led a relatively austere life, neither eating bread nor drinking wine (cf. Luke 1:13-15). His food was locusts and wild honey (cf. Matthew 3:4). Yet, people found fault with him and said he had a devil (cf. Luke 7:33). Jesus, by contrast, ate freely and did not abstain from wine. In general, He was less strict with Himself compared to John the Baptist. Surprisingly, people found fault with Jesus, too. They accused Him of being a glutton, a drunkard and a friend of sinners. Here is where some people get confused and conclude – wrongly – that Jesus was a friend of sinners.

Let’s keep in mind that the tag, “friend of sinners,” was just an accusation. The question we must ask is, “Was the accusation true or was it false?” Was Jesus a “friend of sinners?” To answer this question, let’s look again at today’s opening Scripture. Jesus was accused of being three things: glutton (He overeats), drunkard (he drinks in excess), and a friend of sinners (He hangs out with sinful people).

Let’s start with the first accusation.

Was Jesus a glutton? No, He was not. Gluttony is over-indulging in food, which is a form of greed and lack of self-control. The Bible expressly says Jesus was without sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15). If Jesus was a glutton, then He was a sinner; but the Word of God cannot lie. Second, was Jesus a drunkard? No, He was not – for the same reasons noted above regarding gluttony.

Now, to the third accusation:

Was Jesus a friend of sinners? Again, noHe was not. Here’s why. If you are a friend of sinners, it means you share (directly or indirectly) in their sinful life (which is what the accusation against Jesus implied). We are using the word “friend” in the strict sense (i.e. those you share your life with based on mutual love, respect and common interests), not in the loose sense where you might casually say to someone, “Hey, friend!” or “My friend!” (see, for example, Matthew 22:11-12).

The truth is, Jesus was no friend of sinners. He did, however, welcome all who wanted to hear Him: men and women, young and old, rich and poor, godly and ungodly, Jews and Gentiles. He went to their homes if He was invited; there, He often took the opportunity to proclaim the truth of salvation. Some sinners who listened to Jesus eventually received His message, repented and became His disciples. In short, Jesus was compassionate, loving and merciful toward all people, but He was not a friend of sinners.

The only group of people Jesus called His “friends” were His disciples (cf. John 15:15). In the previous verse (John 15:14), Jesus declared: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” Notice the condition a person must fulfill to become Jesus’ friend: if you do whatsoever Jesus commands you. Do sinners do whatsoever Jesus commands them? No, they don’t. Conclusion: Sinners are not friends of Jesus; and Jesus is not their friend, either. 

Let us, therefore, present Jesus accurately to people, because friendship with Jesus (or lack thereof) is a matter of heaven or hell.

May the Lord bless you, give you understanding and enable you to walk with Him in holiness and righteousness. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Psalm 15:1-5

The Lord Has Not Forgotten You

Daily Devotional: Day 154

“But the angel [Gabriel] said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth” (Luke 1:13-14, NKJV).

Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth had been married for years, but they had no child. The Bible says that Elizabeth was barren, and the couple was well advanced in years, i.e. they were past child-bearing age. This must have been very stressful for the couple, especially given the social and religious expectations of the time.

Based on today’s passage, we know that Zacharias had prayed for a child, but nothing changed. We also know from Luke 1:18 that the couple had, for obvious reasons, stopped entertaining any hope of having a child. The unkind laws of biology had closed the window of hope. What then was the point of praying? Naturally, Zacharias and his wife moved on, having accepted the reality. But had God moved on? Zacharias was about to find out.

One day, while Zacharias was ministering as a priest, angel Gabriel appeared to him and promised that the couple would have a child. Notice how Gabriel put it; he said to Zacharias, “your prayer is heard.” Zacharias’ prayer had been heard long (probably years) before Gabriel brought this news. This tells us that, although Zacharias had moved on, God hadn’t. When you pray today, God hears you and may say ‘Yes’ to your request, but you may not see the result until some time later.

The point is, with God, timing is everythingEvery blessing has its timing. And timing varies from person to person. What is the right time for others may not be the right time for you. You may think you need something now, but now may not be God’s plan for you, no matter how desperate you think your situation is. Do you have the patience to trust and wait? When you pray for something, don’t just focus on what you want, ask God to also give you a sense of timing – so that you can wait in hope if necessary.

There probably were many contemporaries of Zacharias and Elizabeth who had children. But everyone is different, and every marriage is also different. You may or may not have children. You may have just one child or many. Whatever the situation is, it doesn’t prove that God loves you more or less. The fact is, we’re all different and so we will not all have the same things at the same time. Therefore, it is not advisable to compare yourself to others. Let others be others, and you be you. Be happy about your life, knowing that God hasn’t abandoned you. He knows what He is doing with you. Just relax.

Comparing yourself to others only puts unnecessary pressure on you. You’ll will come under even more pressure if you listen to people around you who are constantly reminding you of what you lack. Those are people who impose their own expectations on you. If you’re not secure in your faith, they’ll make you doubt yourself. To put an end to their pressure, you might do things that’ll compromise every virtue you uphold. If you have people like that in your inner circle, you need to be extra careful. If you can keep your distance from them, don’t hesitate to do so. 

Ask God to show you His specific will and timing for you; once you know that, you’ll have peace in all you do. Despite the pain of not having a child, Zacharias and his wife were not mad at God; they weren’t bitter or agitated. In fact, they never stopped being faithful to God (cf. Luke 1:5-6). When the time was right, Gabriel said to Zacharias, “you will have joy and gladness” (emphasis added). This means, it’s never too late for you, too, to have joy and gladness. No blessing from God is too late. God’s timing is always perfect.

Whether you see the result of your prayer today, next year or never, one thing is important: Just remain faithful. God has not forgotten about you. He will surprise you when you least expect.

May the Lord’s favor be upon you today! Amen.

For further study: Psalm 13:1-6

You Can’t Please Everyone

Daily Devotional: Day 70

“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners’” (Luke 7:33-34, NIV).

You can’t please people. Even Jesus couldn’t. Or rather, he didn’t try. Being human, we feel tempted to make everyone happy as much as we can. This is a constant temptation. But the reality is, you can’t please people. A lot of people work hard to please people, but they end up disappointed when they realize that nothing they do is enough. Jesus himself found out the hard way. Look at today’s Bible text. John the Baptist prepared the way for the ministry of Jesus. According to Jesus, John the Baptist didn’t eat bread; neither did he drink wine. Yet, people found fault with him. They said he was a demon. John’s ministry was as impeccable as it could get. But that wasn’t enough for people.

Then, it was Jesus’ turn. Jesus was more “relatable,” more “cool,” if you want. He hung out with people of diverse backgrounds, rich, poor, sinners, Jews and Gentiles. He ate and drunk with them all. Like John the Baptist, Jesus had a “clean” record. He was caring, compassionate, gentle and forgiving. Yet, the people complained. They said Jesus was a glutton and a drunkard who hung out with sinful people. It’s been about 2000 years, and nothing has changed. People are still people. You can’t please them. You can give them the whole world; they’ll still find fault with you. Therefore, don’t waste your time trying to please people; you’ll never do enough. So what do you do? Simple. Focus on pleasing God; do what you know from the Bible to be right. And live a happy, stress-free life.

Prayer:

Father, let me not seek people’s approval. But in all things, let me seek your glory alone. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

For further study: Numbers 14:1-33