January 14, 2020
Scripture Matthew 3:1–17
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:16-17 NRSV
In Matthew, Jesus steps up suddenly as an adult and encounters John the Baptist, who is already well underway with this ministry. Unlike the Gospel of Luke, the writer of Matthew does not tie the two men together in any way, except in their approach to God’s revelation and promoting fairly radical change in religion and everyday choices in living. As it unfolds, Jesus suddenly is before John at the River Jordan.
John hesitates to baptize Jesus, because he recognizes that this person is without sin and must be the Messiah. John feels inadequate for the task, and tells this to Jesus; and, likely a lot of other people were nearby to witness the event. Despite this initial hesitation, John the Baptist follows God’s will. This is a departure from his ministry: It is not the typical baptism for removal of sin. Instead, it is the recognition of the Son of God. They use the water from the Jordan River, but as they complete the act, a far more significant event takes place: The heavens part and God’s Spirit comes onto the scene, because God is well pleased with his Son, the Messiah.
Now, Jesus begins his ministry in earnest. First, he spends time alone in the wilderness. Then, with his face set toward Jerusalem he begins to preach and heal and teach. And, the followers come to him in a trickle at first, but then in waves. The remainder of the Gospel story will play out over months and years with the story coming to its climax in crucifixion, death, and glorious resurrection.
But, there is a lot of ground to cover and some theological and faith-testing work to do before then. As we move through the remainder of winter, we will come to Lent: another time to prepare ourselves for the fulfillment of the ministry of Jesus Christ.