This coming Sunday, January 8, is the "Baptism of our Lord" Sunday. My question, "Why be baptized?" certainly is a personal, contemporary question. People - like you and me - get baptized for many different reasons. For some it is a family, cultural thing. For others is a "rite of joining" a church thing. In theory it's suppose to be a commitment thing, a life direction choice, and frankly not a whimpy one. This, however, is not my question for Sunday or what the sermon will be about.
The question for Sunday is why did Jesus get baptized - and do we care? By "Do we care?" I mean is this an issue that affects my life? What difference does it make? What does the Baptism of Jesus teach/suggest/ask/demand or critique for me? That's what I as a preacher ask myself each week as I'm writing my sermon. "Why should anybody care?"
So, I'm totally not there yet. However, I'll give you a hint about what I'm wresting with.
The Baptism of Jesus is one of the few Jesus stories that actually appears in each of the four Gospels. That means it had to mean something to somebody back then! The first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are often called the "synoptic" Gosples - synoptic meaning "summary." It is very clear that the writers of these three Gospel were working from the same source. Generally it is assumed that Matthew and Luke had Mark's Gospel in front of them and borrowed heavily from it! So, the story they tell - their "summary" of Jesus's life - is pretty similar between the three of them. (Often word for word similar!!) Every once and awhie though either Mathew or Luke leaves the script. That's fun because then you get to ask "Why?" Why did Matthe or Luke change their telling of the story? This Lesson is such a time. Matthew goes off script. "Why?"
You see, if you read about the Baptism of Jesus in each of the first three Gospels the stories will sound very similar. In each John is out baptizing, in each there is a voice from heaven as Jesus comes up out of the water, etc. But in Mark and Luke the voice from heaven says "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." It is a personal word of acceptance and assurance for Jesus. It is Jesus who sees a dove descending. Jesus who hears the voice. Other people may have, too, but that's not the point. This is a Jesus-God thing.
In Matthew two things are different. First of all, there is a big discussion between John and Jesus about whether or not it is appropraite for John to baptize Jesus. (As if he needs it!) That is not in either Mark or Luke's version of the story. And then the voice from heaven says "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." That's way different. This is not a Jesus-God thing. It is a proclamation! "This is ..." not "You are ..."
I'll get it figured out, but help me here. What is Matthew's concern that leads him to change script? Because change it he does! What's the question here? (And do we care? <g>)
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