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Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Baptism of Our Lord, 2008

Lexegete™ | Year A | Matthew

January 13, 2008 (Lectionary 1)
Isaiah 42:1-9
Psalm 29 (3)
Acts 10:34-43
Matthew 3:13-17

January 18, 2008
Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins
Acts 4:8-13
Psalm 18:1-6, 16-19 (2)
1 Corinthians 10:1-5
Matthew 16:13-19

1. CONTEXT: Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus' baptism was the original theme of the feast of the
Epiphany, as it still is in the eastern Churches. The account in
Matthew follows the story of the ministry of John the Baptist at the
Jordan, and his announcement of one "stronger" than himself who will
come to bring judgment.
All the gospels agree that Jesus' ministry began after John had
made this testimony, though the Fourth Gospel does not say that Jesus
was baptized. The Synoptics portray baptism in the light of early
Christian theology.
When 3:3-17 is compared with the accounts in Mark and Luke, the
most striking feature is John's reluctance. Matthew does not suggest
that this is because Jesus is sinless, as in the apocryphal gospels,
only that he is greater than John. Since John's disciples continued
for some time as a sect independent of the Christian Church, his
witness to Jesus was an answer to anyone who claimed that John was
the leader and Jesus the follower. Jesus insists on being baptized, for it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness. Righteousness is the theme of the Sermon on the
mount, and Jesus is shown throughout Matthew as the model of perfect
obedience to the Father's will (cf. Kingsbury, Matthew, p. 39).

As in Mark, Jesus sees the Spirit descending like a dove, but
others may have seen the skies open and heard the voice. The rabbis
believed that canonical prophecy had ceased, but they told of a voice
from heaven (bath qol, "daughter of a voice") which often spoke words
of Scripture, as on this occasion. Jesus is now proclaimed as God's
Son (AILL: "Child") , beloved and chosen. Similarly, in 4:3,6, the
tempter calls him Son of God (an infrequent title in Q, which usually
speaks of the Son of Man).

Mark 1:11 could have been understood as suggesting that Jesus
became Son of God at his baptism, but in Matthew he is that at least
from the time of his conception (1:20,23; 2:15). Thus the baptism
is the solemn appointment of the Messiah for his ministry. Acts
10:38, in the second reading for the day, says that Jesus was
"anointed...with the Holy Spirit and with power"(AILL).

1b. TEXT: Matthew 3:13-17

ESV: English Standard Version:
The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, [2] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, [3] with whom I am well pleased.”
Footnotes: [1] 3:3 Or crying: Prepare in the wilderness 
[2] 3:16 Some manuscripts omit to him [3] 3:17 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved

13τοτε παραγινεται ο ιησους απο της γαλιλαιας επι τον ιορδανην προς τον ιωαννην του βαπτισθηναι υπ αυτου.

14ο δε ιωαννης διεκωλυεν αυτον λεγων, εγω χρειαν εχω υπο σου βαπτισθηναι, και συ ερχη προς με;

15αποκριθεις δε ο ιησους ειπεν προς αυτον, αφες αρτι, ουτως γαρ πρεπον εστιν ημιν πληρωσαι πασαν δικαιοσυνην. τοτε αφιησιν αυτον.

16βαπτισθεις δε ο ιησους ευθυς ανεβη απο του υδατος: και ιδου ηνεωχθησαν [αυτω] οι ουρανοι, και ειδεν [το] πνευμα [του] θεου καταβαινον ωσει περιστεραν [και] ερχομενον επ αυτον:

17και ιδου φωνη εκ των ουρανων λεγουσα, ουτος εστιν ο υιος μου ο αγαπητος, εν ω ευδοκησα.

Greek: Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 3:13-17

Mt. 3:14 - diekoluen - "would have prevented" (AILL) - the imperfect
of attempted action

3:15 - prepon - "fitting" (AILL) - suitable, proper, right - It is
Jesus' purpose to fulfil, complete the law (5:17) and the prophets
(22:40). This is the righteousness appropriate for the Kingdom of
the Heavens, which is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees

3:16 - hosei peristeran - not in bodily form, as in Luke 3:22 - There
may be a reminiscence of Genesis 1:2, in which the Spirit hovers over
the waters. In Jewish tradition the dove is usually the symbol of
Israel, only occasionally of the Spirit.

3:17 - ho huios mou - The primary reference must be to Psalm 2:7,
which celebrates the anointing of a Davidic sovereign. A few MSS.
of Luke 3:22 quote the verse in full: "You are my son, today I have
begotten you." - ho agapetos - In Greek literature the word often
suggests "only-beloved;" it is applied to Abraham and Sarah's son
Isaac (Gen. 22:2) and to Ephraim (northern Israel) as God's son (Jer.
38:20 LXX). Eph. 1:6 uses egapemeno as a designation of Christ.

- en ho eudokesa - Literally," I delight in you," but the verb can
refer to a decision made by God, hence the phrase may reflect Is.
42:1 (in the first of today's readings), where God's pais (servant,
child) is Israel ho eklektos mou; cf. Is. 44:2, Jacob/Israel is God's
pais egapemenos. Thus the verse may have a secondary reference to
Jesus as the Servant of 2nd Isaiah (as in Mt. 12:18; cf. Acts 3:13,
26;4:27,30; Didache 9:2f., 10:2f.). Is Jesus then to be identified
as (the true) Israel? This may be going too far, for the NT never
says so explicitly, though theologians sometimes make the inference.

3. STRATEGY: Matthew 3:13-17

The baptism of the Lord ("Sovereign": AILL) is an epiphany, a
revelation of the nature of Christ. One way of approaching the
homily is to think of Jesus as the pattern of Christians, in his
servanthood and obedience to God's righteousness. Although John
recognizes that he is in the presence of a greater one, Jesus accepts
his baptism, not to become John's disciple but to associate himself
with the movement of national renewal; cf. Ezek. 36:25-27. As
Christians we too receive the Holy Spirit in baptism and become God's
children, crying Abba (Rom. 8:15).. As such we are members of the
Israel of God (Gal. 6:16; Rom. 11:13-24).

Acts tells of Christian baptism from Pentecost on, as though it
needs no explanation. The Fourth Gospel once speaks of Jesus
baptizing during his ministry (John 3:26) but later states that only
his disciples baptized (4:2).

In Matt. 28:19 it is the risen Christ who definitely commands
baptism. Is the story of Jesus' baptism a model for the Christian
rite, at least in Mark and Luke? The gospels suggest this only by
the prominent place they give it, yet we might properly use the event
as a prototype. A good disciple must be ready to drink the cup that
Jesus drank and undergo a baptism like his (Mark 10:38, but Mt. 20:22
speaks only of the cup), and Paul says that we were baptized into his
death (Rom 6:4).

Another approach is to concentrate on Acts 10:38. Immediately
after his baptism, Jesus resisted temptation and began his ministry
of healing and liberation.

4. REFERENCES: Matthew 3:13-17

Kingsbury, Jack Dean. Matthew (Proclamation Commentaries, G. Krodel,
editor). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977.

5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Baptism of Our Lord (Epiphany 1)

Two hymns seems especially appropriate to the season and the day:

PRAISE (HB 135, LBW 90). Other suitable hymns include: "I COME," THE
120), CHRIST, WHEN FOR US YOU WERE BAPTIZED (HB 121), WHEN JESUS WENT TO JORDAN'S STREAM (HB 139), and FROM GOD THE FATHER, VIRGIN-BORN (LBW 83).If the Day is the occasion for a wider celebration or
affirmation of Holy Baptism, either BAPTIZED IN WATER (HB 294) or

Exegete: Sherman E. Johnson (†) was the fourth Dean and Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific until his entry into the Church Triuymphant in 1993.

His online obituary by Bob Kraft (one of the two main pioneers in online Bible Study, along with Emanuel Tov of Jerusalewm/Oxford) follows:

Subject: Sherman E. Johnson
From: Robert Kraft Date: Tue, 18 May 1993

It is with great personal sadness that I pass along the following information received from Arthur Van Eck of the National Council of Churches:

On the 20th of April, I received word of the death of Professor Sherman E. Johnson on March 23, 1993.
He was 85 at the time of his death. The cancer had returned and, added to that, was a stroke, earlier in the year.

Sherman was a graduate of Seabury Western and of the University of
Chicago, from which he had his PhD. He taught a Yale Divinity School and
played a major role in the founding of the Graduate Theological Union in
Berkeley, and for 20 years was Dean at the Chruch Divinity School of the

His widow [now deceased] is Mary S. Johnson, 2328 Mono Avenue, El Cerrito CA 94530.

The above information was circulated to the NRSV translation committee,
on which Sherman served for many years. He was a mild mannered person
with good scholarly credentials and instincts, friendly and supportive.
He was president of the SBL in 1957. My recollection of his scholarly
publications is that they were both readable and solid -- I wish there
were time to list some samples on this occasion. If anyone has seen a
more detailed obituary, I would appreciate the reference or a copy.

He will be missed.

Bob Kraft, UPenn

6. FURTHER READING: Year A | Gospel of Matthew

Those who found the Proclamation Commentary, MATTHEW, by Jack
Dean Kingsbury of great help in understanding the First Gospel were
no doubt enjoy even more pleased with his volume, Matthew As Story (Phila.:
Fortress Press, 1986; rev'd ed. 1988). Kingsbury's goal was to trace the plot of the gospel as it unfolds through a literary-critical method in terms of the main and minor characters, the basic conflict which erupts and the ultimate resolution in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Of particular interest is the final chapter on "The Community of Matthew," an examination of the religious and social environment from which this gospel emerged and the evangelist. This is a concise,
readable analysis of Matthew in light of recent scholarship. While Kingsbury is cautious about identifying the author of Matthew's gospel, his book as a whole draws a much clearer picture that makes excellent reading as Year A of the Lectionary gets underway!

Still highly recommended, especially for apprentice preachers, is Reginald H. Fuller's Preaching the Lectionary (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1984, Revised ed.). Fuller provides a brief
comment on virtually every pericope in the 3-year cycle. Originally written for Worship in the 1970's, these articles have been rearranged and revised for easier reference. Written from a Roman
Catholic perspective, Preaching the Lectionary has nevertheless been embraced by a wide ecumenical readership. This is truly a "handbook" which edifies the whole Church's exegesis and preaching!
Fortunately for those of us on the go, or lacking library access, this book has now been added to the free collection at,M1

D. Buehler, PhD | Editor, Lexegete




Dartmouth,MA 02747


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