27 June 2017

“Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized.” (v. 22)

Psalm: Psalm 25


After the very familiar material encountered yesterday, especially in verses 16-17, we now enter territory much less well-trodden. Indeed, these verses do not figure at all in the Revised Common Lectionary of Sunday readings, so we never get this in a Sunday service if the lectionary is followed.

Two things are surprising. First, we are told that Jesus baptized people (although a curious note is added later, at John 4:2, stating that it was his disciples rather than Jesus himself who baptized). And then we have a picture of John the Baptist and Jesus operating simultaneous ministries of Baptism, perhaps even as rivals. There's a sense of Jesus's ministry growing as John's recedes, and a fresh presentation of the picture of John as forerunner which we've already had in John 1:15, 19-23. It has been suggested by some scholars that Jesus may have been a disciple of John the Baptist who then went his own way with his own followers and eclipsed his former mentor. This can only be speculation, but there is clearly an interesting relation between them.

It is John who first introduces the idea that Jesus may be the Messiah, something Jesus himself acknowledges in his extended conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 (see Friday). This Messiah, the great hope of Israel, is the anointed one whom God sends to save his people, the Christ (to use the Greek word Christians have adopted).

Psalm 25 is strikingly individualistic after the broad grandeur of Psalm 24. Only in its last verse do we get any sense of a community. This is a feature of very many psalms, the majority of which are individual laments, crying out to God from situations of trouble and distress. It's been truly said that the Psalms were not written on a pleasant English Sunday afternoon; they are born of real, hard human experience, trying to make sense of it all in the light of faith in God. The human need for assurance, guidance, salvation indeed, is movingly set out in this wonderful poetry.

To Ponder

  • How do you respond to the idea that Jesus may have baptized people with water and been a disciple of John the Baptist?

Bible notes author: The Revd Alan Bolton


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