Posts Tagged With: Matthew 3:13-17

The Word Became Flesh. I: An Introduction

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version (1995) unless otherwise indicated].

Stained glass depiction of Jesus and John the Baptist. Photo from PxHere under a Creative Commons CC0 license.

Over the past few days, much of the Christian Church world has celebrated the Feasts of the Epiphany (January 6) and the Baptism of Jesus (first Sunday after Epiphany, usually the third Sunday after Christmas). Epiphany celebrates the revelation of Jesus to the nations of the world. Its primary focus is on the coming of the wise men (Matthew 2:1-12); other recommended Scripture readings for the day speak of His ministry to the Gentiles (e.g., Matthew 12:14-21).

The baptism of Jesus, however, brings us back to the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, as He was revealed by God to the Jewish nation while being baptized by John the Baptist:

“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answering said to him, ‘Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he permitted Him. After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased’” (Matthew 3:13-17).

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke begin by reporting Jesus’ miraculous birth; Luke includes the birth of John the Baptist. On the other hand, John’s Gospel begins before the dawn of time. The Word of God existed with the Father and was God. After that, John bounces his focus between two persons: the eternal Word of God, who became a man, Jesus Christ; and John the Baptist, who bore witness to the coming of the Word, Lord, and Messiah.

Many ministries urge new followers of Jesus to read the Gospel of John before any other book of the Bible. Those who read it for the first time would be wise to keep a few things in mind. First, John wrote with a different emphasis than the other Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, and Luke read more like a historical account of His life. They record what He did, said, and how He died and rose. They present “just the facts” (as TV detective Joe Friday would say). Luke summarized his intentions:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4).

In contrast, John has a much more stylized, subjective, and analytical approach. Whereas Matthew, Mark, and Luke try to be informative, John is admittedly trying to make a persuasive argument:

“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

This different purpose explains the substantial differences between John and the other three Gospels.

In this context, John began his Gospel by introducing Jesus as the Word of God, who existed before the world was created and through whom all things were created (John 1:3). Then, he skipped over the birth and childhood of Jesus (which Matthew and Luke thoroughly describe) and introduced the ministry of John the Baptist. Instead of focusing on his message of repentance, John summarized how his message bore witness to the coming of the Messiah.

Many of the key themes of John’s Gospel are introduced in John 1:1-18. These verses mention such concepts as light, life, grace, truth, belief, glory, and testimony or witness, and they frequently recur in later chapters. John 1:18 speaks of Jesus as “the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father.” John 13:23 speaks of a beloved disciple—most likely John himself—reclining near the bosom of Jesus at the Last Supper. The similar choice of wording is striking; perhaps John, thinking of his close friendship with Jesus, was attempting to compare it to Jesus’ intimacy with the Father. Maybe he wanted us to think that Jesus had intimately bound Himself with humanity just as He was already bound to the Father.

If you plan to read John’s Gospel all the way through for the first time, read the first chapter, especially the first 18 verses, slowly and carefully. They set the stage for the rest of the book.

In the coming weeks, I will share a few more meditations on John 1:1-18. The passage offers a lot of insight on the subject of Jesus’ deity. This post provides an introduction to this series of articles.

Do you have any thoughts about this passage that you would like to share? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2022 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Baptism: Deeper than the Water

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, 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 thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:13-17, ESV).

Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, by David Zelenka via Wikimedia Commons, posted under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.

The first Sunday after the Epiphany (usually the third Sunday after Christmas) commemorates the baptism of our Lord by John the Baptist.

Jesus’ baptism often brings up questions. A big one is, “Why was He baptized?” After all, John preached a baptism of repentance (Matthew 3:11). If Jesus had no sin (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21), He did not need to repent. Why would He participate in a baptism of repentance? Some say that He was simply making a public statement, identifying Himself with us. As a result, they say, when we are baptized we are simply making a public profession of faith.

I believe there is something more spiritual—I would call it a mystery, a spiritual truth beyond human understanding—in Jesus’ baptism and ours. After all, if we want to make a public profession of faith, we can always buy a t-shirt with a picture of Jesus, a clever saying, and Bible passage on Amazon and keep our hair dry. However, the Bible seems to say quite a few things about baptism; it says nothing about t-shirts. Baptism is important to God.

Throughout His earthly life, even though He was God, Jesus identified Himself with mankind. The Creator of the universe spent the first nine months of His earthly existence in a uterus. Then, He endured childbirth, which was a dangerous process for mother and baby in those days. Next, He lived through the challenges of childhood before spending almost 20 years as a carpenter. In many ways, He chose an ordinary life with all its difficulties. What better way to transition from the ordinary life of a small-town craftsman to the extraordinary ministry of taking our sins upon us, than by joining sinful humanity in the river of repentance?

Romans 6 sheds some more light on this subject.

“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

Jesus’ baptism was not just a little ceremony. It was a prelude to His death and resurrection. He went under the water, and then He rose up from the water. It was not just a little show to prepare for His work of redemption; it was actually a preliminary part of the redemption process.

Likewise, we identify with Him in His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus died for our sins. He died in our place. In the eyes of the Father, we were with Him on that cross. He was buried and descended into hell. He rose again. He is the resurrection and the life: Our resurrection and eternal life are in Him.

Thus, baptism is not just a matter of how much water we use. It is a rite of identification. “Baptize” is derived from a Greek word, “baptizo,” which is derived from another Greek word, “bapto,” which means “to immerse.” Yet, it’s not a matter simply of dunking something under water. Some ancient examples of the word “baptizo” from outside the Bible might help us understand it better.

One way the word “baptizo” was used was in the context of dyeing cloth. If you take a white cotton shirt and “baptize” it in red dye, you get a red shirt. It is no longer considered white, but red. Its identity has changed.

Another context was an ancient pickle recipe. It instructed the person to “bapto” a cucumber in boiling water. Then, the cucumber would be “baptized” in vinegar. It was the baptism in vinegar that turned the cucumber into a pickle.

When we accept baptism or reaffirm our baptismal creed, we are making a radical statement of identification with Christ:

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

It is more than a bath. It is deeper than the water. Baptism makes visible our union with Christ. He takes our sin upon Himself. He pours His resurrection power, Spirit, and life upon us. We are united with Him. Scripture speaks frequently of the believer being “in Christ” and of Christ being in the believer.

Lord Jesus, immerse my life in Yours. I drown to my past, submerged in the cleansing power of your blood. Immerse me in You and immerse me in Your Holy Spirit. Amen!

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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