9 January 2011

Matthew 3:13-17

"This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." (v. 17)


We are hardly recovered from Christmas and suddenly the lectionary launches us into Jesus' adult ministry. It's a good thing to do. Too often we leave the baby in the manger for too long. Here we find Jesus getting involved in a renewal meeting down by the river Jordan.

John is an old-fashioned preacher - eccentric and prophetic; calling the people to repentance for their sins as a preparation for God's arrival. It has echoes of all that God has done for God's people in the past and being at the side of the Jordan, reminds Israel of both their crossing into the Promised Land and their exile from it.

John is a signpost to Jesus. As such, when Jesus comes to be baptized by him, John is at first reticent, acknowledging his own need for Baptism. Jesus insists that it needs to be done. Like the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus puts himself in a position of need - he needs something this other person can give him. Christian service is often from a place of need rather than a place of plenty.

As Jesus rises from the water of Baptism, the real point of the story begins - heaven opens, a dove descends, and a voice declares the true identity of Jesus. There is a real sense of the Trinity here - but also of both creation (the Spirit brooding over the waters) and the second coming (the heavens open). The voice affirms Jesus at the very start of his ministry and before he travels into the wilderness. This is indeed the son of God. This affirmation paves the way for the Gospel story which follows and provides the reader with a key to understand who this enigmatic figure really is.

To Ponder

Consider what happened in between Christmas and this reading - what might has Jesus have gone through in the intervening years?

In your own engagement with other people as you share the gospel (good news) with them, what opportunities do you give people to share with you?

"You are my beloved Son" - God's affirmation is not just for Jesus. Through Jesus and in many times through the Bible, God shows his love for all humanity. Wesley asserted we too could know that affirmation. To what extent have you allowed God's love to encircle you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Pete Phillips

Pete Phillips is secretary to the Faith and Order Committee and research director for CODEC at St John's College, Durham. CODEC is exploring Christian communication in the digital age.