Ep. 40: Why Can’t I find a Kingdom like that? or Advent 2A


For Sunday December 8, Advent 2A

Click read more for show notes!
SHOW NOTES -  12/8/2013

Why Can’t I find a Kingdom like that?

Opening Music: Jesse’s Girl by Rick Springfield

For Sunday, December 8

Episode 40
Matthew 3:1-12 - John the Baptizer
Isaiah 11:1-10 - Root of Jesse


Primary Scripture - Matthew 3:1-12 - John the Baptizer=

  • Not all Gospels have Jesus being born.  All four have John the Baptist.  All four
    • John the Baptist presents two problems:
      • 1. Why was Jesus baptized if he was sinless?
      • 2. Since John baptized Jesus, does that mean John is the leader?
    • Differences in gospel accounts point to passage of time and emphasis of the writer.
    • Mark’s version is very clear. John baptized Jesus.
      • John says “One stronger than I am is coming after me.  I’m not even worthy to bend over and loosen the strap of his sandals…” (Mark 1:7, CEB)
    • In Luke, the words of John are nearly identical “One stronger than me is coming…”  
      • It is never said clearly that John baptizes Jesus.  It just says, “When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized” (Luke 3:21, CEB)
      • Other parts are nearly identical to that in Matthew, but he says them to “the crowds.”  The people ask, “What shall we do?” and he replies with similar lesson from Sermon on the Mount “whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”
      • Among the crowd are tax collectors and soldiers, both are given special instructions about not cheating anyone.
    • In Matthew, John protests directly to Jesus. “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”
      • Jesus’ response is “This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”  
        • This answers the first question which the other gospels ignore.  Why was Jesus baptized?
        • Sort of mysterious statement, but it is consistent with the rest of Matthew that is interested in “fulfilling the Law and the Prophets.”
        • John does not mention sin directly in regards to baptism.  He is baptizing “Those who have changed your hearts and lives.”  More interested in true repentance, or aligning oneself and one’s actions to God’s will.
        • Christian baptism is not only about washing sin.  It is about submitting to death, and rising again.  Jesus aligns himself with sinners, so that they too may experience death and resurrection.
        • Argument for infant baptism - it is not about sin.  It is about aligning yourself to God for all eternity.  Why not do this as an infant?
      • John is preaching to the Sadducees and Pharisees.  This sets up ongoing struggle - not between Jesus and the people, but between Jesus and religious hierarchy.
    • In the fourth gospel, John points at two different times to Jesus as “The Lamb of God,” but is never said that John baptized Jesus.
    • The differences may reveal the way the early church struggled with these issues.  In era before mass communication, it is easy to imagine how Jesus and John could have been confused.  The Gospel writers wanted to make sure the distinctions were made.  As time went on, the distinctions became sharper, as reflected in the four Gospel accounts.
  • The Person of John
    • Not much known from the Gospel of Matthew.  Nothing about familial relationship between Jesus and John.
    • Parallels to Elijah are intentional.
    • Wilderness = Preparation, reflection, and an element of danger.  Separated from society
  • Classical Art of John the Baptist
  • Would Jesus Shop on Black Friday? by David Lose
  • The Message of John
    • Repentance and Judgment
      • This strange man in the wilderness puts an end to our romanticized, emotional look to the coming of an infant.
      • “We must not speak of God’s love coming down at Christmas without remembering that the divine love is fierce in its judgment upon those who resist love’s demand” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew).
      • John warns against “resting on your laurels.”  It is not enough to just claim Abraham as your Father.  A changed heart has to follow.
      • “The Christian equivalent of ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ Is ‘We have Christ as our savior.’  While trust in Christ’s salvation is a first requirement, it is not the last” (Douglas Hare, Interpretation: Matthew).
      • Radical message that being a descendant of Abraham was not enough.  One had to have faith and action like Abraham as well.
      • “Bearing fruit” is the key to John’s message.  The only way to know if there has been repentance, is with fruit.
    • The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand
      • “Heaven” used instead of “God,” probably because of Jewish reluctance to use the word “God.”
      • While there are elements of Matthew that tend to “spiritualize” the good news, this is more about respect to culture than a shift in premise.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not about where you go after death.  It reflects the power and ‘Kingship’ of God in the here and now.
      • Eschatological message of John is unavoidable.  Symbolism of wilderness, clothes, diet, and chopping the tree, all signify that John is operating outside of the current era.  He is speaking to an end, and a new beginning.
      • “John sees the judgment as already on the horizon and the basis for his urgent call for repentance.  An appeal to belong to the elect group… will not save one in the fiery judgment” (Eugene Boring, New Interpreter's Bible: Matthew).

Secondary scripture - Isaiah 11:1-10 - Root of Jesse

  • Lion and Lamb- misquoted, actually is wolf and lamb
  • A word on interpreting OT prophecy as predicting Jesus
    • Upon encountering Jesus, Christians were reminded of the prophets words
    • this does NOT mean that the prophets were “predicting” Jesus
    • The Prophets were predicting the Kingdom of God - Isaiah is talking about Hezekiah, not Jesus - this message can remind us of Jesus, but doesn’t change that it was about Hezekiah
    • Christian interpret Jesus to be the catalyst for the in-breaking of God’s Kingdom
    • Does not supersede the prophets or the Old Testament
  • Begins with a stump
    • The useless remainder of something good
    • The Giving Tree
    • “This is how hope gets its start—it emerges as a tiny tendril in an unexpected place. Listeners might be asked to examine where the stumps are in their own lives;
  • Message of hope
    • Hezekiah will take something crappy and make something great
      • Obama and the Peace Prize
  • Holistic view of K of G
    • Includes all of creation: animals, the seas, the mountains
    • Creation will not be destroyed but transformed
    • What are the scary predators of today?
      • Human and institutional predators
    • Not about the Oppressed being vanquished but is an image of reconciliation
    • Paul Simpson Duke, notes the transformation of

Closing -
TY: listeners
Opening Music: Jesse’s Girl by Rick Springfield
Transition Music: “Purple Rain”  covered by Martin Sexton
Theme Music: Dick Dale and the Deltones “Misirlou”
TY: Closing music,Paul and Storm, “Oh No”

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