I. Establish the text
A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 3:13-17
B. Other texts for Year A for Epiphany
This passage will precede the Lesson for Young Disciples
Parts of this psalm will be used for the call to worship.
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
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.