Epiphany – The Baptism of Jesus – Matt. 3, pt.1

This Tuesday, we are gathering to study the manifestations of Jesus as God continuing with the story of the Baptism of Jesus found in Mark 1:2-11, Matt. 3:1-17, Luke 3:1-22, and John 1:19-34. (We will focus on Matthew’s version on Tuesday.) As we sing in verse 2 of our hymn: “Manifest at Jordan’s stream/Prophet, Priest, and King supreme.”

The Baptism:

The Baptism is one of the few stories that is common to all four Gospels. (The others being the feeding of the multitudes and the Passion/Resurrection.) In all four Gospels, the Baptism represents the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. If you have time, look at where the Baptism occurs in each of the four Gospels. It is here, at the baptism and at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, where the heavenly voice proclaims that Jesus is “my beloved Son” and the fullness of the Trinity is revealed. 

In this disclosure of Jesus’ divinity, the Baptism harkens back to the  Story of Creation in Genesis 1 and the story of Deliverance in Exodus 14. In our service of Holy Baptism, these two events are recalled and connected to the Baptism of Jesus at the Thanksgiving over the Water:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life. 1979 BCP 306.

The Beginning:

Before Tuesday, please re-read Genesis 1, and pay particular attention to the first several verses. One of the great themes of the New Testament is that we are a new creation in Jesus Christ. 2 Cor. 5:17, John 3, Rev. 21-22. The story of the Baptism has the story of Creation in the background with the same characters and the same result.

The Baptism, of course, recalls the water and the spirit from Genesis 1:2b. In Genesis, it is the Ruach Elohim – The (the wind/spirit/breath) of God that moves over the waters. The Gospels use the same terminology by explicitly stating that the Spirit is “of God.”

In both Creation and the Baptism, immediately after the mention of the words “spirit” and “water,” God speaks from heaven. Throughout the Scriptures, God may speak from a burning bush or through angles, but only in Creation and in the Ten Commandments does God speak directly from the heavens. And God says that it is “good” and he is “well-pleased.”

Only John in his Prologue (which immediately precedes the baptism) and Paul in Colossians 1 specifically make the connection between the divinity of Jesus and his being an agent of Creation. However, the Baptism’s structure also lends itself to seeing Jesus as part of the Creation story.

The Exodus:

The other great Old Testament echo that is present in the story of the Baptism is the story of the Exodus. Before Tuesday, please read the story of the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus 14. The Exodus, of course, is the story of the salvation and the deliverance of God’s people from slavery. Again, one of the great themes of the New Testament is Jesus as the agent of deliverance from sin and the powers of this world. Mark 10:45, Rom. 6, Gal. 5:1.

In Exodus 14:21, we see the waters which separate slavery from deliverance. Over these waters,  the ruach (wind/spirit/breath) is moving. In the waters in Exodus or the heavens in the Gospels, this movement of the spirit causes them to split apart opening the way to a new life and a new relationship with God.   

As an aside, the connection between the Exodus and the Baptism is made explicit in Matthew’s organization of his Gospel. In Matthew 2, the baby Jesus goes down into Egypt and then is called out. Matthew 3 is the baptism in the Red Sea/Jordan. Mathew 4 is the temptation in the desert paralleling Israel’s temptations in Exodus 16-17. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount which parallels God’s giving of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai. Exodus 20.

As you read through the baptism story in preparation for Tuesday, think through the deeper theological purpose of the gospel writers in including this story beyond simply a historical event.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is meatloaf.  Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8.  Hope to see you here!

I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.

1 Corinthians 10:1-2

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