Monday, November 28, 2016

Matthew 3:1-17, Jesus Baptism, (and Mark 1:4-11)

I have done a number of blog posts in the past on the Baptism of Jesus:

A further comment for this year, especially for those preaching on the Gospel of Matthew.

A key word in Matthew's portrayal of the Baptism is:

μετανοια (metanoia, meaning "repentance", 3:8)  It might be tempting to dismiss these harsh words: "bear fruit worthy of repentance" or "the axe is ready..." We might want to view them simply as words of John the Baptist.  This would neglect the subsequent call of Jesus to repentance (Matthew 4:17) or his praise of repentance (Matthew 11:21).  Furthermore, it would dismiss the repeated passages where Jesus promises to burn away that which does not yield fruit (καρπος): 

Matthew 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Matthew 13:5-6  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.  

Matthew 13:30 Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.' (In Greek the wheat "grain" is actually the word for fruit).

One could argue that in Matthew's Gospel, the Gospel in a nutshell is, "For God so loved the world, that he sent his son burn all that was not good."  In short, Matthew's Gospel and the words of John the Baptist provide the antidote to Baptismal theology robbed of its roots in repentance and destruction of the old Adam.  For Lutherans we have the language of this in our catechisms - what does Baptism mean for daily living?  "It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever."

How do we preach this?  One could finesse; one could beat people down.  It is okay to start a fire this Sunday.  Just make sure you use the waters of Baptism to put out the fire and bring forth the new life.


Teitman said...

Rob, so glad to see yet another wrestles with the Koine. In response to your question as to homiletical directions- why not let a dying and rising be the theme. Consider the parallel voices for the ebaptisthe and the crcuifixion (both passive and aorist) and the use of the present participle for avabaino. You know that avabaino carries with it the connotation of ascending or rising. Hmmm...
Dying / rising / ascending and the ministry of the "Marcan" Jesus. Christ raised up and sent out. Further there is no end to the Marcan temptation narrative 2 verses and an imperfect verb...!!!) We are raised up (but after we have died in Holy Baptism) to serve God in the here and now. Could there be room for folks to explore what their baptismal callings look like both in a broad sense and even in a Lebanon County localized sense?

Just a thought or two from a curmudgeon. Greet Rev Dr. Merkel for me when you see him. Tell him for me that there is a 3rd use of the Law!

RJM said...

Great point about dying and rising. Isn't this the theme of every Lutheran sermon?