Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 12, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 3:13-17

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” 4edce4adf79ebb2be045de459efca974_w600Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate this Sunday the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan. Matthew make clear that John baptizes Jesus, something that Luke leaves ambiguous. There has been some effort by scholars to deduce where John got his idea for baptism. Some have seen in it hints of Jewish purification rituals, but modern scholarship seems to suggest that John probably invented the practice as an original religious rite of his own.

The gospel of Matthew, like the gospels of Mark and Luke, tells us that Jesus received baptism in the Jordan and that Jesus’ baptism commenced his ministry. Scripture scholars generally concur that John indeed did baptize Jesus. Since John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance, and the early church would have proposed Jesus had nothing to repent, it makes no sense that the gospel writers would have made up the event. Making up the event would have required them to have to explain why someone who was sinless underwent a ritual of repentance and why Jesus, who is Lord, would have required something from John, who was his precursor. Even today, theologians struggle to explain the meaning of Jesus’ baptism. The evangelists reported it because it happened. In fact, this embarrassment by the early Church is quite evident in the passage from Matthew that we read today since Matthew says that John was reluctant and Jesus required him to do it.

Each of the synoptic gospels suggests that the baptism represented a signal event in Jesus’ life. First of all, there was some form of recognition. A voice from the heavens says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Either Jesus came to an awareness of who he was and what his relationship was to God, or people around him arrived at this awareness. Perhaps there was some combination of the two alternatives.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that Jesus commenced his ministry, including teaching, healing, loving, prophesying, suffering, dying, and rising, as a result of the experience he had in the Jordan. In other words, it appears that baptism represented a line in Jesus’ life that demarcated the end of one pattern of life from the beginning of a subsequent pattern of life.

Although the pattern of our own baptism is present in the baptism of the Lord, it seems unlikely that our baptism is the same baptism that John preached and Jesus experienced. (In fact, Luke reports in the Acts of the Apostles that John’s disciples required a new baptism to become Christians.) Even so, we can learn the meaning and implications of our baptism by meditating on the Lord’s experience of his baptism. Our baptism is a recognition and a statement of our relationships to God, to the Church, and to every other baptized person: We are consecrated to an end and a purpose with unbreakable bonds. Moreover, we are baptized for a purpose, to teach, heal, love, prophesy, suffer, die, and rise. These ends are the unmistakable implications of what it means to be a baptized person, and they are the implications of our baptism that we learn from an appreciation of what Jesus’ baptism meant to him.

Spiritual reading: The gospel can be summed up by saying that it is the tremendous, tender, compassionate, gentle, extraordinary, explosive, revolutionary law of Christ’s love. (Catherine Doherty)


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