Sunday

9 January 2022

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.' (v.22)

Psalm 29

Background

A popular idea about the ‘Messiah’ (or ‘Christ’) among the Jews in John the Baptist’s time was that he would be an all-powerful king, like David of old, who would expel the Roman occupying army and exalt Jerusalem and the chosen people to rule the world in God’s name. John, however, would have none of it – for himself or for what was to come for Israel.

John’s focus was God’s coming final judgment (the Day of Wrath), primarily on Israel itself and it was a far cry from any assured triumph. But there was hope for those who accepted baptism in the River Jordan as a token of repentance, followed by a serious reform of their lifestyle in line with John’s teaching. That, however, was but the first step: it was preparation for the arrival of someone of far greater significance than John himself. Indeed, John would be unworthy to do the most menial of tasks for the Coming One – to kneel in the dust and untie his dirty sandals.

The Coming One (who is not called ‘Christ’) would offer a different baptism to sort out definitively who could enter a new society blessed by God. For those who had accepted John’s water baptism and then lived righteously, a baptism ‘in holy spirit’ was promised. (God’s own energy would enable joyous participation in God’s ways of justice, truth and love.) For everyone else, there would be expulsion and destruction, a baptism in a fire that can never be put out. The Coming One (Jesus) is to be the agent of God’s judgment.

In  verse 17 in a change of image, John compares the Coming One to a farmer who has just harvested a crop. He must toss the corn up into a steady breeze time and again, until the chaff is blown away (and will later be swept into a pile for fuel). The ears of wheat fall to the ground, to be stored in the granary as an assured supply of food for the winter.

Jesus, it is noted somewhat awkwardly in verses 21-22, accepted water baptism. Much more importantly,  a gift and a revelation from God was bestowed on him when he was praying, setting him on a radically different path from that of John. The promised Holy Spirit now descended on Jesus (confirmed by a dove that was clearly visible [‘in bodily form’] hovering above him); and God declared him to be God’s beloved son, the joy of God’s heart. Jesus was empowered faithfully and fully to reveal what God is like and what God truly intends for human beings.

 

To Ponder:

  • A common theme in Luke’s Gospel is that revelation comes to Jesus during a time of prayer. This was reflected in the Spirit-filled life of the earliest Christian congregations. In the context of joyful worship they unselfconsciously opened their hearts to God with their requests (as in 1 Corinthians 14 and Philippians 4.6). How does that tradition relate to your experience of worship? Is there more to explore in the life of prayer?
  • To whom do you turn for help with prayer? And how can you help others?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.

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