Tuesday

“At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; and he said to his servants, ‘This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’” (v. 1)

Matthew 14:1-12 Tuesday 29 August 2017

Psalm: Psalm11


Background

There is no Gospel which begins the story ofJesus' public ministry without first telling the reader about thelife and ministry of John the Baptist.

His life and his story are bound up with that ofJesus. Nevertheless, in some ways, this sudden and graphicinterruption in Matthew's Gospel to tell the story of John's deathseems to make little sense as it suddenly appears here, between theseries of parables in Matthew chapter 13 and the feeding of the 5,000(Matthew 14:13-21). What is it doing here? Whydoes the author of the Gospel tell this story now?

The series of parables in the preceding chapterends with Jesus' rejection at Nazareth (Matthew 13:54-58). And perhaps the recountingof John the Baptist's death here points us to another rejection tocome. The description of how John's life ends almost reads like amini Passion narrative: he, too, is arrested because he representsa threat to powerful interests; there is an unwillingness toexecute him; his death is unjust, the result of human sin andfolly; his disciples are permitted to take his body and they lay itin a tomb.

The Gospel centres on a death, and the audiencefor which Matthew's account was written knew this. Many if not allwould have been baptized believers. That Jesus died was not goingto come as a shock to readers of this Gospel. And the language ofbeing "baptized into his death" (Romans6:3) was current in early Christian understanding ofdiscipleship and the life of faith.

The story may also contain another foreshadowing:Herod's assertion about Jesus, "This is John the Baptist; he hasbeen raised from the dead" (v. 2) hints at the inseparable Gospelreality, into which believers are also baptized, which is theresurrection of the rejected and crucified Christ.

The unsettling way that God works in the world isthe way of death and resurrection - seen in the shape of Jesus'life, and the shape of the lives intertwined with his, from Johnthe Baptist to the community for whom Matthew's Gospel wasoriginally written and those by whom it is read through all theages.


To Ponder

  • What does it mean to you to be baptized into Christ's death andinto his resurrection?
  • How would you explain it to someone wanting to know about theChristian life? What things might you express differently?
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