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Matthew 3:13-17

Lesson Focus

Jesus proclaims his obedience to the Father through his baptism. The Spirit affirms his decision. We have a chance to do the same thing through our baptism.

Lesson Outcomes

Through this lesson, students should:

  1. Understand that in Jesus’ baptism, Jesus declares his intention to live in full obedience to the Father.

  2. Understand that the Dove descending upon him is a sign that God is with and for Jesus in his intention to be obedient.

  3. Understand that in our baptism, we also declare our intention to be obedient and that we receive the Spirit to help us obey.

Catching up on the Story

Matthew provides us with one of the fuller accounts of Jesus’ birth and childhood. At this point in the narrative, we are ready to meet the adult Jesus for the first time. Of course, we have been introduced to him through a genealogy, his birth story, the visitation of the Wise Men, the attempt by Herod to kill all the baby boys his age, his escape to Egypt, and his subsequent return.

We even begin to hear more about Jesus as John the Baptist arrives on the scene. John is “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord…” (3:3). All of this, even our introductions to Jesus as a baby, stand in the same vein as the Old Testament’s prophetic longing for the Messiah. We know and hope a Messiah is coming, but we do not know exactly what he will be like. That changes with today’s passage.

Today is the First Sunday after Epiphany, which formally began on January 6. We have traveled through Advent, the time of hopefully and expectantly waiting for Jesus’ coming, and Christmas, the two Sundays we celebrate Jesus’ birth. As important as they are, both seasons are just stops along our journey toward really and truly knowing who Jesus is.

Epiphany is when things start to get fun. As the name implies, the Season of Epiphany (from now until Lent begins) is the time of exploration and revelation about the nature and character of this Jesus fellow. Each week we will discover something new about Jesus. So now, we turn our attention toward the first time we meet the adult Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.

The Text

A quick word before we begin to look at the passage in depth. Throughout this study and in the following weeks, I will offer an expanded and sometimes paraphrased translation of the text. The goal is to illuminate the nuances of the original Greek in a way our standard translations do not do. To be sure, those who render our standard translations are experts in their field, but often readability is stressed over a fuller meaning in their translations. I have sought help from lexicons (a fancy word for dictionaries) and commentaries. For this week’s lesson and future lessons from Matthew this Epiphany, I have found Frederick Dale Bruner’s Matthew: A Commentary. Volume 1: The Christbook, Matthew 1-12, particularly helpful. Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations will be my own.

In Matthew’s Gospel, we have already met John the Baptist. If you will remember, he is Jesus’ cousin and the one sent to prepare the way for Jesus’ ministry. He begins his ministry baptizing, dunking folks in the River Jordan as a sign of their repentance. Repentance is their turning from going in a direction away from God to moving toward God.

John is not afraid to call out those who believe they are going in the right direction but are not: namely, the Pharisees. Obedience, the result of which is fruitfulness, is primarily on John’s mind. Those who are baptized and show the true signs of their baptism will bear good fruit.

John knows, however, the baptism he has practiced, the baptism with water, is not the final baptism. One is coming, he declares, who is more powerful, and who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Finally, the day John anticipated arrives. Jesus comes to him while John is at the Jordan River.

Don’t Worry About It – Matthew 3:13-15

John is at his normal place for baptizing at the Jordan River when Jesus arrives from Galilee. We do not have Jesus’ verbal request for baptism at the hands of John, but it is clear what Jesus has come requesting. At first, John puts up a protest. In the previous section, we have just heard John say he considers Jesus way above him in terms of power and importance. He is just the lowly herald of the King’s coming. If anything, John is the one who needs to be baptized by Jesus!