"The vision of a blessed life is righteousness like a tree fed by a stream: fruitful, fresh & flourishing."
— a happy rightness; a life like a tree, not chaff.
Psalm 1 imagery of a fruitful, fresh and flourishing tree vs. dead and useless chaff is used in Matthew 3. The prophetic proclamation is to reThink what is real and what matters, to reAlign with what is real and what matters, so that we can be reNewed to live a blessed life; like a tree.
— “God is in charge, here and now!”
“Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” is familiar enough that we are at risk of overlooking what it actually means in Matthew's account of John the baptizer and Jesus.
repent = rethink
Kingdom = where a King rules
Kingdom of Heaven = a respectful Jewish way of saying “Kingdom of God”
at hand = here and now.
“ReThink! God is in charge, here and now!” Those who did ReThink, then ReAligned. In baptism they showed their trust in God’s rule, and their desire to follow him.
This idea of the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s rule being present, is preached by John and also by Jesus. Jesus links blessed living to experiencing God’s rule here and now. "Blessed are...for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
We all have physical, relational and spiritual needs. Jesus shows how to trust God with our needs.
When Jesus responded to John's proclamation for people to realize God’s Kingdom is here and now, several things happened.
First, Jesus says he needs to be plunged in the water (baptism) to fulfill all righteousness. This is to show his trust, his allegiance, to the Kingdom of Heaven. The response is that the voice of the Father blesses him and the Spirit descends on him gently.
Second, Jesus is thrown into the battle. The Kingdom of creation in rebellion, led by Satan, tempts Jesus to get his needs met without God. He tempts Jesus physically, relationally and spiritually. Jesus passes all three temptations by staying loyal to God being in charge, here and now. The Kingdom of Heaven is here and now even though creation is in rebellion. We do suffer as we crave physical, relational and spiritual satisfaction, but we can and should suffer well; with loyalty to the King.
Third, Jesus preaches the same message John did: "Change your thinking! God is in charge, here and now". Jesus gathers disciples to learn to live this message.
Fourth, Jesus demonstrates to the crowds what God will ultimately do for all when His Kingdom is complete. Jesus meets the physical needs of the crowds with healing. Jesus meets relational needs by freeing people crazed by demons. Throughout the Bible demonization results in broken relationships and isolation. Freedom from the demonic is followed by restored relationships. Jesus also meets spiritual needs by preaching truth. Jesus endures the temptation of creation in rebellion and shows how the Kingdom of Heaven is our blessed hope.
Then Jesus gathers those who are willing to learn from him and tells them about blessed living and the Kingdom of Heaven.
By sketching what he says in his Sermon on the Mount like a tree, we will focus a cycle of growth that roots us in God.