Monthly Archives: January 2011

February 6th: “Salt and Light”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 5:13-20

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday within January 28th and Feb 3rd

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

13 What did “salt of the earth” mean?

14 Allusion to Jerusalem, a city atop a hill, destined to be a focal point for the world.

15 Difference between holding one’s Christmas Eve candle high or close to one’s music. When everyone lifts their candle high, there is more than enough light to see one’s own music as well.

16 What do with do with the light entrusted to us each week?

17 Law and prophets required frequent sacrifices. Jesus became the perfect and final sacrifice.

18 None-the-less still guided by the law.

20 Ergo, in and of ourselves we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded by the Beatitudes; Blessings that comfort those who strive and are persecuted. This section makes these lofty phrases difficult.
  • Verses 21-30 amplify Jesus’ exhortation to live righteously.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • Some manuscripts amend verse 22 to read: “… if you are angry with a brother or sister without cause, …” The addition is easy to justify as other Scripture allows for righteousness anger. The omission, although only one word in Greek, matches the flavor the adjacent passages.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • What did “salt of the earth” mean?

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Exhortation! The word “you” beginning of each saying is redundant in Greek, thus separating the faithful from everyone else who might hear this message.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Encouragement to be salt and light, with sharpened commandments to illustrate that doing the law is not enough.
  • Emotional Center: Who and what we are shines before everyone! Thus we must strive to reflect the light of God.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Jesus warns against relaxing commandments, and tightens them to impossibility.Doing one’s best is not enough!

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Story of church built without lights. Each family given a lamp to bring home after worship and back to church the following Sunday. What did you do with your light this week?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995) notes the multiple layers of meaning in the word “salt”: sacrifice, loyalty (Sharing salt was synonymous with eating together) purification, seasoning, and preservation. He suggests that Matthew uses earth to connote God’s creation, although losing one’s saltiness comes from adulteration. Light he notes has the purpose of letting other things be seen [as salt preserves, seasons, and purifies other things]. He opines that by verses 13-16 “Jesus strikes the death blow to all religion that is purely personal and private.” The disciples “do not generate the light any more than salt generates its own saltiness. … They have been lit not for their own sakes, but for the sake of the world.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

— Get out into the world and be the light of Christ, seasoning and purifying the earth.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

— Private, personal faith is an illusion. True faith challenges the world.

A Lesson for January 26th

Galatians 2:18 But if I build up again the very things that I once tore down, then I demonstrate that I am a transgressor. … 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Chip
The new morality chip? (Image via Wikipedia)

This week a notable Christian will demonstrate his or her inability to act morally, by his or her failure to live as God wishes us to live, and by their public transgression bring derision on the church. I do not have special powers of prediction, instead I see Christians as normal people. Try as we might to live as God wishes us to live, we make mistakes.

Oh how I wish the church could implant a chip or install an app that would transform believers into shining examples for the world. Instead God sends us out into the world like a quirky Beta software release, promising other worldly features, yet subject to unpredictable corruption and failure, destined to contact the Master Designer with each reboot. And that might be the key our design; not individually perfect, but continually corrected and updated by God through those around us who put up with our occasional lapses so they might glimpse divine grace through us.

January 30th: “Illogical”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday in January

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

18 God who created the heavens and the earth, God who brought Enoch, and Elijah directly to heaven, chose to let his own Son die a humiliating death on the cross. Do those perishing lament: “No wonder we suffer. God let his own son suffer!” But to us who are saved, we see that we are not alone, God suffers alongside each of us!

18 Bejeweled crosses obliterate the scandal of the cross. Cf cross made of nails.

19 So why then do Presbyterians and other mainline denominations insist on an educated clergy?

20 Are not these questions as valid today as they may have been in the first century? Where is the wise person TODAY? Has the legal profession [modern day scribes] lost much of its authority? Where is the philosopher of THIS AGE? Does not 20th century culture tear down its leaders finding fault in them?

20 And does not the “wisdom of this age” seek to make God seem foolish?

21b A WORD OF GRACE FOR US PREACHERS!!!

22 And what do those of this age demand? Is it instant rewards? Is it entertainment?

23 I recall a crossword puzzle clue for the third Sunday in January: “King preached this”. The word that fit was “nonviolence”, but MLKjr only advocated nonviolence, he preached Christ crucified.

24 Presbyterians Today had an article on Predestination. Whom has God called?

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • Written by Paul to the church at Corinth, which was facing much division on several theological fronts. The letter is at least the second such letter (5:9) and in response to one received from Corinth (7:1). The letter is assumed to have been written AD 55, making it latter than Galatians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Isa 29:14 Points these words at those who worship with words only. But Paul seems to be focusing them at the wisdom of the secular world.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • /sofia/ Wisdom. See Proverbs. 1:7 — The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. 1:20-22 — Wisdom calls out: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?”

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

CoG: Dialectic of the foolishness of the Almighty suffering and the wisdom of Christ dieing for us.

Aim: Acknowledge the misunderstanding of the purpose of the cross among non-believers.

Music: HB #404 “Jesus, Thy Boundless Love to Me”

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Roy Harrisville, Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: 1 Corinthians, notes that this is not written to non-Christians, but to Christians at Corinth. He also notes the “love affair” the Corinthians had with wisdom.

William Baird, Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians/2 Corinthians, reminds preachers “that what God accomplishes through preaching is not intellectual enlightenment, but human salvation.” He suggests that “Paul may be speaking autobiographically. The message to early Christians — that a man executed by the Romans was the messiah — appeared to be blasphemy to Paul. For him to accept the crucified one as messiah demanded a radical reinterpretation of God’s way of working — that God achieved his purposes not through might, but through weakness, that the messiah was not powerful king, but suffering servant.” He offers that a sermon could be developed on the “Scandal of Grace.”

Craig Blomberg, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, cites Jerome Murphy-O’Conner: “any attempt to make the gospel palatable by bringing it into line with the tastes of to whom it is preached distorts it, because in this case the criterion is made the expectation of fallen humanity.” Blomberg notes that the truth of the gospel “cannot be achieved through the best of human intellect and strength, but must be received as a gift in the humble submission of faith and trust.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

A Lesson for January 19th

Sunflower seedlings, just three days after ger...
Seeds sprout in good soil (Image via Wikipedia)

Mark 4:3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

God is a very extravagant farmer, throwing seed without thinking about where it might land: on pathways were birds can snatch it up, on rocky ground where it cannot take root, among brambles where it gets choked, as well as on the good soil where it will produce far more seed than was lost by throwing it everywhere.

The thrust of the parable is to encourage disciples to spread the good news of Christ everywhere, without worrying if it might do any good, for every seed that finds good soil bears more than enough seed to compensate for seed that is lost. This blog is my contribution to throwing seed.

Still I want to do more. I want to pull weeds, move rocks, and loosen packed soil so that more seed can find good soil to put down roots. I want to remove every obstacle to people who might find our church: Is our website attractive and easily found? Does snow need shoveling so people can get inside? Are our signs inside clear? Are members and visitors welcomed and encouraged to serve and to deepen their faith?

What have you done help grow God’s church?

January 23rd: “Gone Fishing”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 4:12-25

B. Establish translation: Review NIV, NRSV, TEV, BHS/NA26, …

C. Other texts for Year A between January

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

12 After John had baptized Jesus in the Jordan near Jerusalem, Jesus had wandered in the desert for 40 days. Returning to Galilee would bring Jesus closer to Herod, who had imprisoned John.

13 Nazareth, is in southern Galilee and Capernaum in northern Galilee.

14-16 How else was light used as a metaphor for God in the first century?
Matthew cites Isaiah to demonstrate fulfillment of previous prophecies. Hence since the fishermen were Jewish, they would recognize God’s Messiah and instantly leave their occupation to follow Jesus.

17 This is word-for-word identical to what John preached.

18-20 If a call involves both a push to leave and a pull to join something new, what might have pushed Peter and Andrew to consider leaving the trade they knew? If they knew what they were getting into, would they have gone?

21-22 Matthew hints at neither the push nor the pull that drew James and John to follow him. How might preparing their nets be symbolic of preparing to become fishers of men?

23 This section could have been swapped with 18-22, without loss of flow. Does this interlude relate to Jesus preparing his new disciples for becoming fishers of men?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Verse 12 is an abrupt change from the passage describing Jesus’ temptation in the desert.
  • Should consider extending this to the end of the chapter. (v, 25).

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Mark 1:14-15 expands Jesus’ preaching to: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the good news.”
  • Luke 4:14-15 is followed by examples of Jesus preaching in Nazareth and Galilee prior to calling the disciples.
  • Isaiah 9:1-2 – Matthew uses a more poetic version of Isaiah 9:1. Isaiah describes the people as “walking” in darkness and says nothing of a “shadow of death”.
  • Mark 1:16-20 adds that James and John “left their father in the boat with the hired men“.
  • Luke 5:1-11 expands the call of Peter, explaining that Jesus had preached to a crowd from Peter’s boat and that Jesus had told Peter where to cast his net to catch a net bursting/boat sinking load of fish. Peter had protested about his sinful condition making him in eligible, but he followed Jesus. James and John are listed as Peter’s partners, presumably involved with the amazing catch of fish. Andrew is not mentioned.
  • John 1:35-42 describes Andrew as a disciple of John, present at Jesus’ baptism. Andrew brings Peter to Jesus on the day after Jesus is baptized by John, before Jesus travels to Galilee. No mention of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. No mention of Andrew and Peter’s occupation. No mention of the call of James and John.
  • Matthew’s lack of details infers a recognition of Jesus as the Messiah based on a spiritual connection, deeper than words.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Peter and Andrew were casting a net, but James and John were preparing their net.
  • Jesus’ fame calls these four before his fame spreads throughout the region.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

  • Why would Peter, Andrew, James and John leave what they knew to follow Jesus? Their personal pull and push are hidden.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

  • Hearing Jesus finding his disciples doing their work beside the sea, tells us they were not scholars or religious leaders, but common folk.
  • The quoted passage from Isaiah’s prophecy says these people sat in darkness, in the shadow of death. What was dark and deadly in Galilee?

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Growth of Jesus’ following from a solitary figure tempted in the desert.
  • Music: “The Summons”

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • We are not allowed time to be stunned with the speed of their decision to leave their nets and follow Jesus.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • What dark and deadly circumstance pushed them from their nets?
  • Can we be called to follow Jesus without being pushed from a comfortable existence?

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • We know who Jesus is and what he accomplished during his ministry, hence we would readily follow him had we been sitting on the shores of Galilee when he walked past, eliminating the shock of the immediacy of the response of these four fishermen.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Robert Gundry (Matthew, Eerdmans, 1982, p. 59-65) contrasts Matthews word choice for Jesus traveling to Galilee as connoting “avoidance of persecution by withdrawal from the area where John had suffered arrest.” Gundry cites several links between Matthew’s citation from Isaiah and the setting for Jesus ministry in Capernaum to demonstrate fulfillment of prophecy.

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995, p. 166 – 171) ends the pericope with verse 22, placing verses 23 – 25 as an introduction to the Sermon on the Mount. He notes that Matthew used the same word to describe John’s arrest as Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. “The word [repent] does not picture sorrow or remorse, but a change in direction of one’s life. ‘Get yourself a new orientation for the way you live, then act on it.’ catches both the Greek and Hebrew connotations.” Boring contrasts applicants seeking a Rabbi to study under with Jesus seeking disciples to follow him. Boring notes Jesus’ use of a fishing metaphor is not related to the location and the disciples occupation, but to pagan and Jewish usage to call people to a new life and participate in a diety’s saving work. Boring notes that people who owned or leased boats and employed laborers, like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, would have been middle class and moderately well educated, including literacy in Greek.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), what does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus’ call to these four fishermen is open ended, they must live into the answer of where and how to follow Jesus. Similarly the call to repentance is also open ended, turning to God must be faithfully lived into, trusting God to lead us the right way.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Follow me! Jesus began his ministry preaching repentance (i.e. follow God). Jesus called disciples to follow him. The crowds responded to being healed by following him.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Turning towards God requires our trusting God to lead us.

A Lesson for January 12th

anonymous illustration of Jesus healing Simon's mother-in-law
Jesus heals Simon's mother-in-law (Image via Wikipedia)

Mark 1:30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told [Jesus] about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Do you remember the last time you were ill? So sick that someone had to bring meals to you? When I have been that sick, a day in bed reading, sleeping, and watching TV, did not feel like much-needed rest, but instead felt like a chore, to able to get up and putter around the house, would have been preferable.

This is what Jesus does for Simon’s mother-in-law. He restores her to her rightful place in the home. Gives back her ability to contribute to her household and to community.

This is what the church does at its best. We give people opportunities to serve. One little inner-city church I served held an annual Christmas shop. People selected by a community ministry could buy gifts for their children at much less than retail, pennies on a dollar. The ministry gave each person a number depending on their needs and the church provided the toys. I remember two things about this event: first, people were pleased to buy gifts for their children and not merely pass gifts strangers donated; and second, the people waiting for their turn to enter the shop would urge people with greater needs forward in the line and while they shopped, they considered those waiting outside. This one-day Christmas shop gave the neediest members of this community opportunities to care for their family and to care for their neighbors.

How can we give you an opportunity to serve? How can you help someone else arise from whatever holds him or her down and serve with you?

January 16: “Called to Be Saints”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday within January

1. Psalm 40:1-11
2. Isaiah 49:1-7
3. John 1:29-42

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is the opening salutation and thanksgiving.
  • May be worth considering the cost of writing a letter in the first century, including composition process and delivery.
  • Verse 10 launches into the purpose of this letter.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

In verse 4, some manuscripts read “I give thanks to [the] God always for your …” rather than “to my God”. It is more likely that an editor/copyist changed the “my God,” to “the God”, as the latter is theologically consistent. Thus this is likely Paul’s short hand for saying something like: “It give thanks to the God whom I validate” recognizing that other gods were worshiped.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?
Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • Apostle – That which is officially sent forth, with emphasis on the authority of the sender. The message and the one sent are of interest only as they embody the sender. Used over 700 times in the LXX to emphasize the authoritative element behind the message. For Paul being an apostle meant being “set apart for the gospel” (Rom 1:1). “before he was born” (Gal 1:15). The apostolate is a sign of God’s grace leading to obedient subjection (1 Cor 15:10), thus linking Paul to the OT prophets, especially Jeremiah.
  • Sanctified – That which is made suitable for ritual purposes. Rare in Greek other that the Bible.
  • Grace – a free gift, goodwill, unmerited gift, divine favor, blessing, thanks, gratitude.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

This is the flowery opening statement of a letter.

III. Question the text

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

The testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you – This phrase seems to imply that the actions and ministry of the Corinthians reflects the testimony of Christ, rather than their testimony about how Christ has changed their lives.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

Conflict comes next in this letter. Paul praises them before chastising them.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

An example of how “the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among” the Corinthians. On the other hand, if Paul had mentioned one example, this fractious group might have objected to examples he did not list or focused on that item to the exclusion of their other gifts.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

This prelude is often skipped in a letter. In modern letters the salutation has been condensed to “Dear Sirs:”

IV. What do the Commentaries have to say?

Roy Harrisville (Lutheran) (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament: I Corinthians, 1987) notes that Paul “strained” the usual form of a letter by adding modifiers to the superscription, address, and salutation. “He was called to be an apostle, and his readers were called be saints –and let none ignore the difference! But what they were depended on what he was.” Harrisville opines that by claiming to be an apostle of Christ by the will of God makes Paul both possessed by God and free. Paul has packed a “welter of prepositions” into the thanksgiving most of the topics of the letter, especially those topic which the Corinthians would challenge. Harrisville notes that in Greek the phrase “the day of the Lord” can also mean a court, a usage he finds in Latin and Middle High German.

J. Paul Sampley (United Methodist) (“First Letter to the Corinthians”, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Abingdon, 2002) notes that Paul used similar opening structure in all of his letters, expanding on the usual Greek custom. In this letter Paul has claimed the title of apostle to reaffirm is authority as leverage of what he is about to write. Paul has also reshaped the greeting into a blessing, a foundational statement of Christian life. He reflects that Paul uses saints to designate those seat apart for God, and thus modern readers are also saints, who “should live a life appropriate to our God who has called us.” Looking into the body of this letter Sampley contrasts Paul’s thanksgiving for the spiritual gifts given to the Corinthians with their misuse of these gifts to form cliques. “Our lives in Christ are never just our own but always also involve how we are relating to those around us.”

Craig Blomberg (Southern Baptist) (The NIV Application Commentary: 1 Corinthians, Zondervan, 1995) cautions against milking “relatively peripheral parts for more than they are worth.” He is struck “by how positive Paul can be about a church torn with strive and abuses of the very gifts he thanks God for having given its members.” He encourages praising both privately and publicly to build up the body of Christ without abdicating responsibility to gently correct one another.

William Baird (Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians | 2 Corinthians, JKP, 1980) writes: “In view of what he has learned from Chloe’s people (1:11), it appears to us preposterous that Paul could call the Corinthians saints; their halos were tarnished at best. Yet this reminds us of an important truth and useful homiletical theme: holiness is not a human achievement, but a response to God’s call (see Rom. 8:30).”

A Lesson for January 5th

Jordan River
Crossing the Jordan River (Image via Wikipedia)

Joshua 1:2 “… Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites.

The new year lies before us like an unexplored territory. As the old year came to a close perhaps you recalled events that happened that you would not have suspected twelve months ago: deaths of friends, new relationships, a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, eleven (perhaps twelve by the time you read this) consecutive months of private sector job growth, … The year ahead is likely to prove equally surprising.

Consider the Israelites, standing on the shores of the Jordan river. 40 years of wandering in the desert lay behind them. Before them stood a land of “milk and honey”, but populated with gigantic people in fortified cities. The Israelites had a choice, they could stay on the eastern shore of the Jordan, but time propels us into the future towards unknown events and unexpected challenges. Yet we, like the ancient Israelites, should know that God goes with us. God tells Joshua: “9I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

I pray that as you and I enter this new year we will find God ahead of us urging us towards challenges we can conquer and away from needless peril. I pray that we will experience God alongside us when the going becomes arduous, a friend plodding through mud with us. I pray that we will appreciate God beneath us, buoying us up went circumstances of life surround and attempt to drown us.

January 9: “Walking Wet”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 3:13-17

B. Other texts for Year A for Epiphany

1. Isaiah 42:1-7

This passage will precede the Lesson for Young Disciples

2. Psalm 29:1-11

Parts of this psalm will be used for the call to worship.

3. Acts 10:34-43

C. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

Matthew omits John’s relationship to Jesus.

13 Matthew omits Jesus’ youth and early adulthood.

14 Matthew omits how John recognized Jesus. Matthew’s version of Mark 1:7 or Luke 3:16 [John] proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.

15 Baptism is necessary for righteousness.

16 Matthew omits who heard this voice or saw the descending Spirit of God.

17 Why is God pleased? What does “fulfill all righteousness” mean? Obedience?

Why do I care that Jesus was baptized? If being claimed by the Spirit/Jesus matters more than the application of water, what does it matter if any believer is baptized?

D. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Preceded by background on John.
  • Followed by an abrupt change of scenery to Jesus’ temptation in the desert.

E. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • John 1:29 – 34 – John proclaimed Jesus as coming to take away the sins of the world rather than to winnow with fire (c.f. Luke). Jesus is the whole reason John came baptizing. The purpose of Jesus baptism is to reveal the Son of God to John and to the world. Announced that Jesus baptism will be with the Holy Spirit.
  • Mark 1:9 – Specifies Nazareth as Jesus’ origin. Omits John’s protestations. Mark 1:10 & 11 differ only in grammar from Matthew 3:16&17.
  • Luke 3:21 & 22 – includes Jesus’ circumcision, the purification of Mary, and Jesus studying in the Temple in Jerusalem. Gives the year of John’s baptismal ministry. Luke adds fire to John’s proclamations about Jesus. Luke makes Mark’s account of the Baptism even more terse.

II. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

John is changed from a preparer of the way for the Saviour to the preparer of the Saviour.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

After omitting various details of where Jesus had come from, how John had recognized him, we hear in detail about baptism by the Spirit.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: The benediction from God
  • Emotional Center: Opening of Heaven
  • Music:

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

John is conflicted as to whom should baptize whom.

III. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Eugene Boring, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Matthew,” recognizes the baptism of Jesus as confirming his two roles: Son of God and Suffering Servant. The voice from heaven affirms the divinity of Jesus and recognizes his subservient submission.