Jesus' Baptism

[John the Baptist said] ‘I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 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 3.11-17)
 ἐγὼ μὲν βαπτίζω ὑμᾶς ἐν ὕδατι εἰς μετάνοιαν ὁ δὲ ὀπίσω μου ἐρχόμενος ἰσχυρότερός μου ἐστίν, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς τὰ ὑποδήματα βαστάσαι· αὐτὸς ὑμᾶς βαπτίσει ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ καὶ πυρί·
οὗ τὸ πτύον ἐν τῇ χειρὶ αὐτοῦ καὶ διακαθαριεῖ τὴν ἅλωνα αὐτοῦ καὶ συνάξει τὸν σῖτον αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν ἀποθήκην τὸ δὲ ἄχυρον κατακαύσει πυρὶ ἀσβέστῳ
Τότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ᾽ αὐτοῦ
ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων, Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με
 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἄφες ἄρτι οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν
καὶ βαπτισθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀνέβη εὐθὺς ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος· καὶ ἰδού, ἀνεῴχθησαν αὐτῷ οἱ οὐρανοί καὶ εἶδεν τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν καὶ ἐρχόμενον ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν·
καὶ ἰδού, φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα

As this year the Sunday Gospel readings’ focus is on St Matthew’s Gospel, I thought I’d continue some of my personal study and Lectio Divina with that Gospel. [NB. I am using ‘Matthew’ as a convenient term for the author of the first Gospel in the order of the Christian canon].

This story is embarrassing for Christians; it gives the appearance of John being superior to Jesus. It is doubly problematic in Matthew’s Gospel, where this baptism is “for repentance”. The problematic nature of the story – maintained and passed on by Christians in spite of its embarrassing nature – underscores its historical character. In his narrative, Luke has John the Baptist imprisoned (Luke 3:20) prior to Jesus being baptised (Luke 3:21 – in the passive).

Jesus has some sort of life event that means he leaves Galilee in the North and comes to join John the Baptist’s movement. The text acknowledges the problematic nature of this: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?…” There is attempt in the gospels to overcome the embarrassment – here John stresses Jesus is “one who is more powerful”. John is “not worthy to carry his sandals” – this differs in Mark and Luke; John isn’t even worthy to function as Jesus’ slave.

John is on the East bank of the Jordan. Jesus, whose name is the same as “Joshua”, now crosses the Jordan in this baptismal moment. The connection, including politically, is clear.

There are a number of washing traditions: in the Temple, at Qumran, Gentiles converting to Judaism. I think that, although many are lax about this, we need to distinguish between John’s baptism and Christian baptism. Jesus was not baptised in the sense that Christians are.

The winnowing-fork is used to toss the harvest into the air after beating it. On tossing this into the air, the wind blows away the chaff, leaving the grain.

“the Spirit of God descending like a dove” – dove-like.

This is the twenty-sixth post in a series – you can begin here:
Matthew in Slow Motion 1
Matthew in Slow Motion 2
Matthew in Slow Motion 3
Matthew in Slow Motion 4
Matthew in Slow Motion 5
Matthew in Slow Motion 6
Matthew in Slow Motion 7
Matthew in Slow Motion 8
Matthew in Slow Motion 9
Matthew in Slow Motion 10
Matthew in Slow Motion 11
Matthew in Slow Motion 12
Matthew in Slow Motion 13
Matthew in Slow Motion 14
Matthew in Slow Motion 15
Matthew in Slow Motion 16
Matthew in Slow Motion 17
Matthew in Slow Motion 18
Matthew in Slow Motion 19
Matthew in Slow Motion 20
Matthew in Slow Motion 21
Matthew in Slow Motion 22
Matthew in Slow Motion 23
Matthew in Slow Motion 24
Matthew in Slow Motion 25

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