Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Jesus' Baptism: Matthew
Matthew 3:1-17 Commentary
by Shelly Matthews
After weeks devoted to those most familiar lections pertaining to the birth and infancy of Jesus, the lection concerning John the Baptist, whom all the gospels credit as the herald of the adult ministry of Jesus, can come as something of a jolt.
Unlike the shepherds and the magi, John does not have a place in the Christmas crèche or pageant. The cousin of the Lord cuts a rough figure, depicted here as an ascetic and a scold, offering a bitter pill for his audience to swallow. We are to imagine that the coat of camel skin would have been worn with the hairy side brushing against the skin, so as to provoke discomfort. We are to imagine him lean, possibly even emaciated, owing to his diet of nothing but bugs sweetened by honey. His angry cries are disrespectful of the religious authorities of his day. His message to the crowds is ominous, portending apocalyptic judgment, complete with imagery of the winnowing fork and the burning of the chaff.
Though the gospel here depicts him as frightening, if not crazed, there is more to the story of John than this. Matthew suggests here that his message had a wide appeal and that people came from Jerusalem, all Judea, and regions beyond to confess their sin and be baptized in the Jordan. ...
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2019-20 Worship resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
NL159: Jesus' Baptism
January 11, 2015
Narrative Lectionary podcast on readings for Jan. 11, 2015: Matthew 3:1-17 (Accompanying text: Psalm 2:7-8).