There’s a New Preacher in Town

There’s been a shift. And Jesus knows that it’s time for Him to take over where John left off. That was the plan all along. John’s role was always temporary. He was never to be the main attraction.


None of us are the main attraction. As bad as we want to be some days. At our very best, we’re an entertaining warm-up act that gets people’s attention and whets their appetite for the real STAR.


That’s what John did. And now his job is quickly winding down.


How well are you doing your job? Are you getting people’s attention? Or are you shrinking back because you’re fearful or you doubt you’ll know what to say?


When Jesus first learned John was in prison, He went back home to Nazareth. We’re not told why He went there or why He was just there temporarily.


I wonder if He went there to silently say good-bye to the quiet life He had led. To his workshop and the tools He had learned to use instead of just speaking things into existence. To His humble earthly home that had housed the humans He loved so much, filled with memories of family triumphs and tragedies, of laughter and tears.

To his childhood neighborhood. The local temple. The trees He used to climb. The homes of His friends.

To His Mother. Knowing the agony she must eventually endure as His earthly mission comes to an end in a few years. To just enjoy a few more days as mother and son . . . before He is catapulted into the life of a celebrity. A status not much unlike that enjoyed by those in the spotlight today: loved and adored one moment; hated and reviled the next. A life that can so easily derail the best of men. But not Him. Jesus’s perspective is too eternal to allow a few moments–or years–of fame to distract Him.


I love the understatement of all understatements in verse 16. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”


The Light of the World has left His cocoon and moved into the neighborhood, uncovering His true identity for those who recognize and admit their desperate need of Him.


Today’s world isn’t much different, is it. People are walking around, living their lives, being “successful” . . . not having a clue they’re living totally in darkness.


You and I are not The Light of the World. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But we “house” Him. And when we’re connected to Him properly, and living out that connection, people in the dark can’t help but notice His Light in us. I mean it would be kind of impossible NOT to notice a flashlight walking around in a pitch-black cave a mile below ground.


One of our main jobs is to carry His light into dark places. And in today’s world, we don’t have to look very far to find some very dark darkness. Instead of being afraid we’re not a good enough light, remember that the darker it is, the brighter the light in you is going to shine. And if you’re connected to Jesus, you won’t be able to stop yourself from shining.


When has your light attracted attention lately? Where was the darkness? How did you feel about shining there? What was the outcome?


As soon as Jesus moved into His new neighborhood, He hung out His new shingle. He was no longer Jesus, Carpenter of Nazareth. He is now Jesus, Itinerate Preacher.  And He carries the same message John did: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”


The message of the gospel has always been simple. Not easy. But simple. Not cheap. But simple.


By the time Jesus was on earth, the Jewish religious leaders had added hundreds of laws and rules to the original ones God gave the Israelites. Jesus came and basically reduced all of them down to two: Love God; love people (my very simplistic paraphrase).


The “Christian” religion hasn’t done much better. It’s amazing the number of rules different denominations have . . . a lot of them not even written down — but expected to be observed nonetheless. For some reason, humans aren’t satisfied with simple. But God is. In fact, I think that’s something He really loves: a person living a life simply focused on knowing God and pleasing Him.


How many rules do you follow to try to please God? Do they help you know Him better? What exactly do you need to do to please God? What does He want you to do now that you’ve surrendered your life to Him? Do you think the answer is the same for everyone? For everyone in your denomination? For everyone in your family? For you in every season of life?


Jesus Begins to Preach / Matthew 4:12-17 (NIV)

12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:

15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
    the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
    Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people living in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
    a light has dawned.”[f]

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

Temptation in the Wilderness

The fourth chapter of Matthew starts out with Jesus’s temptation. I’m sure it’s familiar to you, so I won’t recap it. Here are the main points I see in this passage.

– Sometimes the wilderness is God’s idea. This time it definitely was. It clearly says the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. But just like in this situation, there is always a good reason for the trip. This particular time it was necessary to secure our salvation. Other times (like with the Israelites), it’s to ‘break off’ things we don’t need or can’t have if we’re going to enter our Promised Land. It can be to change our mindset before we face something we’re not prepared for yet. Whatever the reason, if God takes you there, it’s for your good and His glory. You can always trust Him.

– Jesus fasted. So it’s probably a good idea. Fasting is a great way to hear God more clearly. Choosing to do without food or possibly something else you’re used to consuming regularly, creates a ‘hunger’ that grabs your attention throughout each day. And every time it does, you have to choose whether or not you’re going to surrender that appetite to God and whether you want to know God and His will for you MORE than you want to satisfy your appetite.

– Satan tempts us by getting us to doubt God’s love for us.

—- 1) One of the main ways is by trying to get us to meet our unmet needs in ways that are outside God’s will. I can just hear him now: “But, Jesus! You must be starving! You haven’t eaten in 40 days! You don’t really think God wants you to suffer like this, do you? Just do what you do and fix your problem.”

—- 2) Another way is by getting us to doubt and/or misuse our position in God. “If you ARE God’s daughter/God’s son, just go ahead and do this crazy thing you know you want to do. He’s not going to let anything bad happen to you! He’s your all-powerful Heavenly Daddy. He can clean up any mess you make.”

—- 3) And Satan’s ultimate goal is to capture our praise. He wants us to worship him. His goal hasn’t changed since he was kicked out of Heaven. And he’ll promise you the world . . . or whatever little piece of it he knows you want really bad. And if you’re really following after God, he’ll promise you the piece of the world that God has set as your purpose here on earth–your destiny. But Satan’s way is a shortcut. Or so he says. It’s really a trap that’s extremely costly. The cost is your heart.

– Satan uses God’s word (which he knows very well) — with just a little twist — to try and trap you. Remember in the Garden of Eden when he asked Eve, “Did God really say . . . .” He knew exactly what God said, but he wants us to doubt what we heard. If he can just plant a little seed of doubt, he knows it will grow.

– Speaking God’s word aloud is one of the best ways to escape Satan’s traps and to fight temptation. This means we have to spend time in the word so we know what it says and can recognize Satan’s distortion of it. And we have to know what it says so we can use appropriate verses that speak to our most common temptations.

– If you put up a good WORD fight, Satan will eventually leave you alone — at least for a while. Satan came back and tempted Jesus again. And he’ll come back for you, too. But you can be prepared and you can successfully fight him again.

– One of the jobs of angels is to minister to people on earth. Angels are God’s messengers and He’s still using them today.


Application Questions:

– When did you last spend time in the wilderness? Did God lead you there or were you there because of your own choices? What purpose did your time there fulfill? What did you learn? About God? About you?

– When did you last fast for spiritual purposes? What did you hear from God?

– How does Satan tempt you to get your needs met outside God’s will? How often is he successful?

– When has Satan tempted you to do something crazy and expect God to rescue you? What was the outcome?

– What shortcut has Satan offered you? What has he promised you?

– When has Satan tried to get you to doubt what God has said to you?

– When have you spoken God’s word aloud to fight temptation? What verses did you use?

– What do you need to do to be prepared for your next battle with Satan?

– When do you think you may have “entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:2)?


Matthew 4:1-11 / NIV

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”

10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.

Jesus’s Baptism

In this section of Matthew 3, Jesus comes to be baptized by his cousin John in the Jordan River. John “protests strenuously” according to the Amplified Bible, stressing that he (John) needs to be baptized by You (Jesus).


But Jesus asks John to do it so that He (Jesus) can “perform completely whatever is right.”


When Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened and John (according to the Amplified Bible) saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him (Jesus).


And then God HIMSELF spoke from Heaven and identified Jesus — “This is My Son, My Beloved, in Whom I delight!” (Amplified Bible). Wow!


Here’s what caught my attention:

– Jesus is all about doing what’s right, doing the Father’s will. He talks about this a lot during his ministry.

– Arguing with Jesus is futile. It’s not that He always wins (because He NEVER forces His will on any of us), but He’s always right. Obey Him and you’ll have peace and contentment. Disobey Him and you’ll lose your peace and end up discontented. Maybe not immediately, but eventually.

– Making the decision to obey God, especially when it’s not an easy choice, comes from having a different perspective, a perspective of trust–believing that God loves you and wants what’s best for you–and KNOWS what’s best for you.

– Sometimes obeying God brings revelation that allows you to see things others can’t and helps you hear and recognize God’s voice more clearly.

– Your obedience brings God joy.


Questions to think about:

– Where does God’s will for you fall on your list of priorities when making decisions?

– When was the last time you argued with God? What did you decide to do? How did it affect your life?

– What do you believe about God’s love for you when choosing to obey Him is not an easy decision?

– When has an act of obedience resulted in a new revelation or perspective? What did you start to ‘see’ differently? When has it brought a clearer recognition of God’s voice?

– How does it make you feel to know that your decision to obey God in a particular instance brought Him joy?


Matthew 3:13-17 / Living Bible (TLB)

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized there by John. 14 John didn’t want to do it.

“This isn’t proper,” he said. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you.”

15 But Jesus said, “Please do it, for I must do all that is right.” So then John baptized him.

16 After his baptism, as soon as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God coming down in the form of a dove. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, and I am wonderfully pleased with him.”