John the Baptist is a well-known figure in the life of Christ, and Matthew announces him in the beginning of the third chapter. Remaining true to Matthew being well grounded in Jewish thought, the author quotes Isaiah 40:3. Matthew 3:3 reads: “For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ”
John was an interesting fellow, and he was far from politically correct. His manner of dress was different as he wore “a garment of camel hair” and a leather belt around it. He diet was a bit unusual as well as he ate locusts and wild honey, but his words are the most significant note of this study. In Matthew 3:2, the author quotes John’s message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” This is the exact phrase that Matthew uses in 4:17 when Jesus starts His ministry. I think Matthew records this phrase as a summary of their teachings. This practice isn’t out of the ordinary. Mark does this as well when documenting Jesus’ entry into Galilee. He writes in 1:15: “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” We do this today. Let’s say you attend a seminar in which a speaker gives a series of lectures over the course of two days. You are enthralled at the information being presented and are organizing it in your mind. A few days later, in casual conversation, a friend asks you what the speaker talked about. Of course you don’t recite everything to them because you can’t remember it all, but even if you could you wouldn’t. You don’t have two days to do so. So, what do you do? You give the highlights. You think about the most important theme that was represented and speak on that. I’m sure we would all agree here. The focal point of John the Baptist’s life was to tell people of their need to repent and turn back to God. Is our’s any different?
As I think about this, I wonder what statement will encapsulate my ministry. At the end of my life, I wonder what message I will have conveyed to my brothers and sisters. This is a sobering thought for me, and I hope for you as well. We all influence people. All of us, every single day, are observed by the people around us. At our end, will we have lived lives that people will attempt to emulate, or will we make decisions that people will rightfully denounce. John lived his life with his end in mind.
I think John had his priorities straight. He knew what was truly important, and that was his motivator to get the job done. God is not calling us into the woods to live off of honey and bugs, but He has called us all to His service. No matter what our occupation we are to live for Him first in all that we do. John’s task was to set the stage for the coming of Jesus into the world when He came to be crucified and die as a ransom for many. Our job is to prepare people for their meeting with Him. Whether this be at the end of it all, or at the end of their lives.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow, and, as people who work in dangerous occupations, we should always keep the possibility in our minds that we could leave this earth before we want to. How much time do we have to influence people for the greater good? How much time do we have to follow The Lord while we are on this earth?
Let us live all of our lives with our end in mind, and live so people can summarize our lives with the truth of God’s love for mankind. Let us live our lives so God Himself can say that we did well when we meet Him face to face.
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Matthew 3:2 – “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”