Lexegete ™ | Year C | Luke
Baptism of Our Lord
January 10, 2010 (Lectionary 1)
Psalm 29 (3)
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at his baptism with the Holy Spirit and revealed him as your beloved Son. Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful in your service, that we may rejoice to be called children of God, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Alleluia. A voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, | the Beloved,
with whom I | am well pleased." Alleluia. (Matt. 3:17)
1a. CONTEXT: Luke 3:15-17,21-22
The Gospel text appointed to be read on the First Sunday after the Epiphany confronts the preacher with a significant piece of New Testament material which is critical to a full understanding of the Gospel message. The Sunday is set aside to commemorate the Baptism of Our Lord. [like cycle B] challenges the preacher by combining the account of Jesus receiving baptism at the hand of the Baptist, with verses describing the ministry and message of . It is difficult to see how a single sermon of reasonable length can do justice to both pieces. In truth, most of the sermons developed from B and texts which this commentator has examined have not focussed on the Baptist at all, but have concentrated the entire homiletical responsibility on the meaning of the Baptism. This may be a safe way to go, but a deepened understanding of the material centering on can only strengthen a message which directs attention to the significance of the Baptism.
should never be ignored. His role is essential to the Gospel writer's desire to develop the story of Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. was indeed a great human being, and Jesus sought to designate him as such. Life to him was much more than an unthinking acceptance of what the days may bring; life was God-given for a God-ordained task. committed and disciplined his short life to this holy end.
The baptism of Jesus provides the actual introductory piece to the synoptic version of the mission and ministry of Jesus. The baptism is in its own way Jesus' own ordination. However, the question is unavoidable: Why did Jesus submit to John's baptism? The question becomes even more pointed when we ponder the fact that John's baptism was clearly a baptism of and Jesus is seen as sinless. Many students of the New Testament, and Martin Luther is quite prominent among them, see the baptism as an evidence of the intention of Jesus to take upon himself the sin which he had not committed, and thus to be effectively the sacrifice for the sins of humankind. Sinlessness is empty and static if it is simply a blemish-free record; it must work its way out in a holy and outgoing love. Matthew's account of the baptism, Matt. 3:13-17, intensifies the question of why submit to the baptism when it reports than protested that the roles should be reversed. Nevertheless Jesus insisted and submitted to the baptism.
The baptism must be viewed as a necessary stage in the development of Jesus' own self-understanding. Jesus knew that he was leaving behind the comparative security of his home. Jesus accepted baptism because he believed God had a great commission to bestow. He also anticipated that the voice of God might come with the divine endorsement through the ministry of his courageous cousin.
1b. TEXT: Luke 3:15-17,21-22
15Προσδοκῶντος δὲ τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ διαλογιζομένων πάντων ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις αὐτῶν περὶ τοῦ Ἰωάννου, μήποτε αὐτὸς εἴη ὁ Χριστός,
16ἀπεκρίνατο λέγων πᾶσιν ὁ Ἰωάννης, Ἐγὼ μὲν ὕδατι βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς: ἔρχεται δὲ ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑποδημάτων αὐτοῦ: αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί:
17οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ διακαθᾶραι τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συναγαγεῖν τὸν σῖτον εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην αὐτοῦ, τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ.
21Ἐγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ βαπτισθῆναι ἅπαντα τὸν λαὸν καὶ Ἰησοῦ βαπτισθέντος καὶ προσευχομένου ἀνεῳχθῆναι τὸν οὐρανὸν
22καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ' αὐτόν, καὶ φωνὴν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ γενέσθαι, Σὺ εἶ ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοὶ εὐδόκησα.
Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition © 1979,
Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;
The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition © 1975,
United Bible Societies, London
15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ,
16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;  with you I am well pleased.” 
 3:22 Or my Son, my (or the) Beloved
 3:22 Some manuscripts beloved Son; today I have begotten you
* ESV Bible © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, Good News Publishers.
2. ANALYSIS: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
. 3:15 - meipote autos eiei ho christos - Verse 15 constitutes an editorial introduction to the question which allows to disclaim the role of the Messiah. was obviously aware of his own limitations. His assignment was to create an atmosphere of messianic expectation, and then to recede. It requires a particular kind of greatness, one scarcely understood by the self-proclaimed great ones of our time, to be content with being less than number one.
. 3:16 - autos humas baptisei en pneumati agio kai pyri - The coming baptism is with the Holy Spirit and fire. This is a difficult passage
to interpret and there is no complete agreement as to what is meant. The most probable explanation is that persisted in predicting a baptism of fire (i.e., judgment) and that the version we have in the synoptics constitutes a reinterpretation of that prediction in light of the experience of the apostles at Pentecost. Recall that the spirit was seen to descend in tongues of flame.
His winnowing fork is in his hand... is not a prophet of doom. The principal reason for the winnower is to separate the chaff from the grain so the wheat may be saved. In similar fashion, the primary purpose of the messiah was to gather to himself the new over which he was to reign.
. 3:22 - Su ei ho uios mou ho agapeitos, en soi eudokeisa - The voice from heaven addressed to Jesus is a composite of two Old Testament quotations. Psalm 2:7 proclaims the occasion of the anointed king. 42:1 is the first in a sequence of prophecies about the servant of the Lord who has been chosen to carry the true faith to all, but who achieve this through suffering, rejection and death. To have heard these words must have meant to Jesus that he was appointed to be both King and Suffering Servant, i.e. Messiah.
3. STRATEGY: LUKE 3:15-17, 21-22
One cannot begin to know what to do with this text until one allows the drama of the occasion to have its way. There is first the stark contrast in the message preached by the two men. John's message is not a gospel. If anything, fascinates because his proclamation is dreadful. It is a forecast of a harsh and unrelenting judgment. There is a difference in style. is severe. It is difficult to imagine little children wanting to approach the Baptist. He appears to lack compassion, yet it would be hard to believe that would do what he did without compassion. He did care about his kinspeople. There is no hint that would rejoice in the punishment of even the wicked.
What and Jesus clearly share is the overwhelming recognition that effectiveness and strength come from the will to serve the purposes of God. Dr. Horace Bushnell, who had such profound impact upon 19th century American Protestantism from his Hartford, Connecticut, pulpit, once preached a sermon with the title, "Every Man's Life a Plan of God." In it he declared, "God has a definite plan for every human person, a goal toward which he is guiding him, visibly or invisibly, a direct action, a specific exact thing which it will be the glory and significance of his life to accomplish." Imagine what might begin to happen if we would not only believe that with our mind, but feel it with all our being!
For Jesus, a total and true alignment with the purposes of God was essential. Apart from that harmony there would have been no ultimate meaning even in his life and ministry.
The baptism was one of those pivotal moments when that alignment was to be checked. Jesus reveals God's love by showing us what it means to fully trust that love. Similarly Jesus demonstrates the strength of God by permitting the plan of God to express itself in his person.
There is a restlessness among contemporary Christians because like our secular brothers and sisters, we have become unclear as to what the purpose of our living might be. We do not take sufficient time to discover what God has in the way of a precise plan for our days. Writing once of Bunyan's VALIANT FOR TRUTH, George Bernard Shaw said: "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a weighty one...the being a force of nature in stead of a fevered little clod of instincts and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to make you happy."
In this matter of finding real meaning and power in aligning one's self with the plan of God, particular attention should be given the Baptist. Here was an individual who must be judged an astonishing success. He had forfeited much to make his point. But his message was being heard and talked about. The crowds came to hear him preach. He name was on many lips. Then appeared on the scene the carpenter of , and almost immediately the crowd was gone. agreed to it. The words from the fourth Gospel are blunt: "He must increase and I must decrease." Real success in living is never in being number one. It is always in seeking God's plan and carrying it through. God has a special love for second-place finishers. That is why he made so many of them.
James Steward speaks of a little church in the Highlands of Scotland where, as you enter the vestry you see framed upon the wall words written by the much beloved preacher James Denney: "No man can give at once the impression that he himself is clever or that Christ is mighty to save.
If you are a friend to help a friend you will remember that the greatest help is Jesus and you will step back and say 'Don't look at me! Look at him!'" did just that. People seeking so desperately for meaning in a world of impersonal bigness and material prosperity must be encouraged to see to know what it might mean to find God's plan for their living.
4. REFERENCES: Luke 3:13-17, 21-22
For an interesting discussion of the place of the Baptist in the Gospel of Luke, see Carroll Stuhlmueller's commentary, chapter 44 in the
JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1968; sec. 44:45-48.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS: Luke 3:13-17, 21-22
One excellent hymn that develops the theme described by Dr. Stadtlander in the foregoing STRATEGY section would be O MASTER, LET ME WALK WITH THEE (HB 659/660, LBW 492). If the intention is to develop a homily very specifically on the subject of the Baptist, there is no dearth of good hymns pertaining to this subject:
On Jordan's banks the Baptist's cry (ELW 249, HB 76,LBW 36)
To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord (LBW 79)
I Come,the Great Redeemer Cries (HB 116)
When Jesus went to Jordan's stream (HB 139, ELW 305)
If the intention is to speak more generally to the theme of Baptism in the context of the Epiphany, there are numerous suitable hymns to choose:
When Christ's appearing was made known (ELW 249, HB 131/2, LBW 85)
From God the Father, virgin-born (LBW 83)
The sinless one to Jordan came (HB 120)
Christ, when for us You were Baptized (ELW 304, HB 121)
Spirit of God, unleashed on earth (HB 299, LBW 387)
I Bind Unto Myself Today (ELW 450, HB 370, LBW 188)
We Know that Christ is Raised (ELW 449, HB 296, LBW 189)
We are baptized in Christ Jesus (ELW 451)
All Who Believe and Are Baptized (ELW 442, HB 298,LBW 194)
Baptized and Set Free (ELW 453)
Baptized into your Name Most Holy (LBW 192)
Baptized in Water (HB 294)
This is the Spirit's Entry Now (ELW 448, LBW 195)
Like the murmur of the dove's song (ELW 403, HB 513)
Lexegete: John Stadtlander, PhD † was a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor, the Lutheran Church in America. He was Pastor of First English, Syracuse NY, and Emanuel, Hartford CT, for many years during a pastoral ministry in which he wrote several significant works on theology.
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