Baptism of Christ A

200: January 8, 2017

Featured Musician -My Anchor Holds, “Wade in the Water,” from their album Dirty Jesus

Psalm 29 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan 

Tasty Wafer of the Week:

  •, a fascinating look at the site where many claim that Jesus was baptized. Referred to by Christian Piatt in our most recent conversation. Includes footage from the site and a documentary about how the site was found and the history of the archaeology, conflict, and pilgrimages that have centered on the site for centuries.

45: January 12, 2014

Exegetical Notes

Matthew 3:13-17- Baptism of Jesus

Initial Thoughts

  • Love this quote from David Lose: “Apparently, baptism was always a problem.”
  • Focus, rightly, is on Jesus, not John.
  • Post-Epiphany season begins here, has frustrating stop in John 1 next week, then back to Matthew, especially the Sermon on the Mount, leading into Lent.

Bible Study

  • Ancient Church and modern church ask two different questions of the text.
    • Ancient Church - Why did John baptize Jesus? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
      • Evidence of this discomfort is found in the progression that takes place within the Gospels.
        • In Mark, the earliest Gospel, there is no objection from John, though he does proclaim that Jesus is greater. “About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River” (Mark 1:9)
        • In Luke, there is no direct mention of the fact that John baptized Jesus.  It just says “When everyone was being baptized, Jesus also was baptized” (Luke 3:21)
        • In Matthew, there is this direct conversation and objection from John, but Jesus alieves his fears. (Matthew 3:14)
        • In John, the latest Gospel, Jesus is not baptized.  John just sees Jesus coming, and testifies that he, “saw the Spirit coming down like a dove, and it rested on him” (John 1:32)
      • In Matthew, Jesus says the answer to the question is basically, “Because I said so.”
      • Jesus, the Messiah, is beginning his ministry with an act of submission.  This tells us about the type of Messiah Jesus is going to be, i.e. “The first will become last.”
    • Modern Church - Why is Jesus getting baptized at all?
      • If Jesus is clean and sinless, why is there a need for baptism?
        • Was this a grand awakening for Jesus? Coming into a self-awareness of his Messiah-ship?
        • Was it an act of solidarity with his soon-to-be followers?
      • "The primary point of baptism is not so much that it does something to the individual, but that it defines the community."  -N.T. Wright
        • Infant baptism (UMC Tradition)
        • No Re-Baptism
      • “Baptism is not a simply a mechanism for forgiveness but rather announces God’s favor and establishes Jesus’ identity.” David Lose
      • Baptism is dying, and re-emerging into new life
  • reluctance and Jesus’ assurance
    • This awkward exchange is not found elsewhere. All the gospels include John proclaiming that the one coming after him is greater. Mark and Luke do not have this exchange. G of John does not even have John baptizing Jesus, but just “witnessing” to him.
      • “Perhaps Matthew wished to defend Jesus against the supposition that he too was guilty of prebaptismal sin and came to John to have it washed away. Perhaps Matthew was piqued by followers of the Baptist who claimed that Jesus must be inferior to John since he had submitted to to baptism by John.” (Douglas Hare,Interpretation: Matthew, p. 20).
    • “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness” are the first words attributed to Jesus in Matthew, and thus in the NT.
      • “The term ‘righteousness’ (used seven time in Matthew and with differing connotations) seems here to indicate a divine requirement to be accomplished. The adjective ‘all’ mean that it is not simply a special requirement for the Son of God but on that joins him with fellow Christians in carrying out ‘all that God requires.’” (Charles Cousar,Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 97).
      • “Why would Matthew regard it as God’s will that the Messiah be baptized? The most likely answer to this question stressed Jesus’ solidarity with sinners. The one who will save his people from their sins by submitting to a baptism of annihilation must here consecrate himself to his vocation by joining the sinful multitude in the waters of the Jordan. ...In so doing, he takes the first step on the road to Calvary.” (Hare, Interpretation, p. 21)
  • God’s response -
    • Heaven opened to him
    • Spirit of God descended like a dove and resting on him.
      • A commissioning - connected to Great Commission, where Jesus send out disciples to baptize and to obey his commands.
    • Voice: “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I find happiness in him.”
      • Isaiah 42
      • Matthew did not know the Nicene Creed. “Father/Son” relationship was more about identity and vocation that metaphysical relationship. Jesus was also Son of David and Son of Abraham.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • “Our main doctrines, which include all the rest, are three: That of repentance, of faith, and of holiness. The first of these we account, as it were, the porch of religion; the next, the door; the third, religion itself.” John Wesley. At baptism, the heavens were opened. This is the entry. This idea of repentance being the porch of God’s Kingdom could be a helpful one - it is the first step toward a relationship with God. Stepping through that door is the coming of faith and living into holiness. Baptism can be seen as the transition point between repentance and holiness. This metaphor is helpful, but imperfect, because as Wesley knew as well, the process of holiness

  • “I believe we need make teaching the significance of baptism a priority. This shouldn’t occur only in the sermon, of course. Confession of sin is a time to remember baptism. Communion is an extension of the baptismal promise. The dismissal is the time to send us forth to live out our baptism in our various roles and vocations in the world. And during hospital and home visits there are manifold opportunities to remind our people of God’s promises to us in Baptism.”David Lose
    • How do we teach baptism? Is it just something we remember once a year, and whenever a baby is born?
    • What does it mean to “remember your baptism”? Is it just the remembrance of the ritual - which many of us cannot recall; or it something else? To remember your baptism is to remember who you are.
    • Baptism is, above all, about identity.
  • Who sees the Holy Spirit?  Who hears the voice?
  • What happens when someone is baptized?
    • Do we believe that the Holy Spirit rests upon the one baptized.  Do we hear the voice of God claiming “This is my beloved?”
    • What does it mean to be claimed by God?
  • How can we remember our baptism, even if we cannot remember our baptism?
    • Remember the claim that is on us.
    • Remember the power of the Holy Spirit
    • Instead of focusing on our sinfulness and need to be cleansed, can we reclaim our worthy-ness from being claimed by God.
  • In worship, how do you use the water?
    • When baptizing, allow the water to be seen and heard.
    • Ceremonies of Baptism renewal, making the sign of the cross with water on people’s heads.
    • Putting baptismal font in prominent place, or near the doors of sanctuary
  • Last Temptation of Christ Baptism of Jesus

 Acts 10:34-43 - Witnessing to Jesus as Christ

Initial thoughts

  • Traditional reading for Easter and the Baptism of Jesus (in the Roman and Episcopal Lectionaries)
  • Peter’s Elevator Witness

Bible Study

  • Used to describe what Baptism and Christian faith are about
    • Fear of God - i.e. faith
    • Doing right - i.e. works
  • Universal
    • Must be understood within context
      • Peter just had a vision that abolished the food laws of clean and unclean
      • Cornelius has a vision to summon Peter
      • Peter goes and preaches to and among gentiles
      • “What God has made clean, you must not call unclean” - this is basis of God’s impartiality
    • The Good News is for everyone
    • There are no cultural or ethnic requirements
    • God calls all people through Jesus Christ
  • Alan Gregory - Poetic rhythm of the story
    • You must fear God and do right
      • Jesus preaches peace to all people
    • Healing and freedom from oppression - death
    • death is met is resurrection
    • Resurrection by judgement
    • Judgement with forgiveness
    • And we return to the impartiality of God
      • God is not partial to you or to your enemy- God is partial to reconciliation and forgiveness
  • How do we determine what is of Christ and what isn’t?
    • doing good
    • healing the oppressed
    • forgiveness

Sermon Thoughts and Questions

  • This is Peter’s 30 sec elevator witness - what is yours?
  • If God is impartial to Israel or the Jews, then isn’t God also impartial to the church? What does this mean for the church and our mission?
  • If God’s primary focus is forgiveness and reconciliation- How is the church living into this mission? How are each of us?
  • What cultural barriers stand in our way of participating in God’s mission? (just as not associating with Gentiles stood in Peter’s way)

Isaiah 42:1-9 Servant of God

Initial Thoughts

  • The Baptism “Easter Egg” for bible geeks
  • 2nd Isaiah written to those in Exile
    • Some probably wanted violent reprisal (Psalm 137) but God’s servant is non-violent
  • First of the four servant songs (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12)

Bible Study

  • Good connection between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament
    • Marcionism is alive and well!
    • Beware supersessionism
  • Servant of God - person or nation?
    • Could be either or both
    • Not necessarily about a specific individual
    • Israel? Jesus? Cyrus?
  • Dual purpose
    • A way of identifying the servants of God
    • Comfort for the servant
  • Church History Context:
    • the Servant is Jesus who is the divine mediator between humanity and God - therefore no need for a priestly mediator - therefore priesthood of all believers.
  • Characteristics of the Servant
    • Called and Chosen by God
    • Brings for Justice
      • Patience
      • Perseverance
      • No shouting
      • Won’t give up
      • Won’t “break”- but will be bruised
    • The servant of God doesn’t force, coerce or execute justice
    • God is the center of the servant - a powerful message for those in exile
  • God imagines a world full of those who serve God - where the old ways of oppression, shouting, and coercion have given way to non-violence, love, forgiveness and patience.

Sermon Thoughts and Questions:

  • “Shouting” is often justified by the perceived justice the shouter hopes to accomplish. God’s servant works for justice without shouting. Often we shout to drown out the voices of others- perhaps God’s justice is achieved by listening to others.
    • Some may shout to have their voice heard- how does this resonate with God’s justice
  • In Baptism we accept God’s choosing and call to be servants of God. How are we establishing God’s justice?
    • Who need to be supported to they won’t break or grow faint?
  • In Baptism we are called back to recognize God as the center of our lives and that we are the center of God’s life (called, chosen, beloved, covenanted, taken, kept) despite all evidence at times to the contrary.
  • Whether Christ is the only servant Isaiah was predicting or by virtue of his life and death Christ is a servant - there is no doubt that Christ is a Servant of God. Baptism and Epiphany are an opportunity to reengage with Christ as our servant leader and our calling to be servants of God as well.

Thank you listeners and get in touch:

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan ( Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”"Real Ride" and “Summertime”) and The Steel Wheels for our transition music (“Nola’s First Dance” from their album Lay Down, Lay Low) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).