Good morning. It's Monday all over again. I hope you are well and that you had a great weekend. My heart certainly goes out to the victims and families of the victims of the shooting at the church in Texas. I have many words to say about that, but I'll keep them to myself for now. For now, let's return to our work together as we continue to explore the Gospel of Matthew.
"As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" (Matthew 3:16-17)
On Friday we discussed the reason as to why Jesus was baptized. Jesus, as we are told, was without sin. So, if baptism is all about sin, then there would have been no reason for Jesus to enter the river. Jesus' reason for being baptized was "to fulfill all righteousness." (Mat. 3:15b) I also suggested that his baptism was a re-enactment of the Exodus and the crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land. (*every time I write Promised Land I can't help but hear the song by Elvis Presley in my head.) But, today I'm going to look at perhaps two more possibilities as to the reason for Jesus' baptism.
First of all, I hope that when we are done with all the discussions on baptism (throughout the gospels) we understand baptism to be more than "just a testimony to the world that we have accepted Jesus." When I was baptized that was, unfortunately, how it was explained to me. I have also heard people describe baptism as "an outer sign of an inward grace." Unfortunately, that is even how United Methodists define baptism in our Book of Discipline. However, baptism is about far more than that. I am afraid that "an outer sign of an inward grace" had become a generic understanding.
When we examine the above passage we see where the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus after he came up from the water. Is this the first time? Wasn't he the Son of God? If he had been the Son of God the whole time why does the Spirit just now come upon him? Then, a voice from heaven is heard declaring Jesus to be God's son. Now, the wording here is interesting. We will discover in Mark's gospel that only Jesus hears this voice. Here, the voice speaks to everyone. (In other words "This is" [Matthew] verses "You are" ]Mark}) Clearly, God is identifying who Jesus is at the river. It was at the river where Jesus received his new identity; God's son. It is at the river where we receive our identity. It would serve us well if, instead of saying we were baptized or have been baptized, to instead say, "I am baptized." It is at the river where God claims us as his own. But, wait! There's more!
In order to better understand what is taking place here we must turn to the Psalmist for help. "I have installed my King on Zion...I will proclaim the decree of the Lord: He said to me, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father." (Psalm 2:6b-7) Oh my! This Psalm is a decree, a royal protocol legitimating the king at the time of enthronement. But, oh yes! There is more! It is a formula of adoption of the king who is not only viewed as the king, but is also identified as God's son.
Why would this be important for Matthew and not Mark and Luke? Luke also records God as saying "You are my beloved son." Well, I think there is a good reason. Remember who Matthew's audience is. If you recall, the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew connected Jesus to David. King David was one of the greatest figures in Jewish history. I would suggest that Matthew is presenting Jesus as the new David. Hmm...Matthew does not give any indication as to how old Jesus was when he was baptized. Luke, however, does. Luke tells us that Jesus was "about thirty years old when he began his ministry." (Luke 3:23) Guess what? David was thirty years old when he was anointed king of Israel.
Well, that's enough regarding the baptism of Jesus for the time being. Wow! I actually spent two days covering this topic. But, there is so much more to share. I'll wait until we cover Mark's Gospel to say more. Tomorrow, we will begin looking at the Temptation of Jesus. Oh, you will not want to miss this discussion. Yes, Jesus was baptized and Yes, Jesus was tempted. See you tomorrow morning! -Pastor Rick