Baptism of the Lord
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
All four Gospels record the Baptism of Jesus. The writers in the early Church were unanimous in presenting it as the significant event that heralded the beginning of Jesus’ ministry yet it was also a conundrum for them. Why did the Saviour need to undergo a baptism of repentance by one who, great though his was, wasn’t fit to undo Jesus’ sandal? Matthew puts the objection directly onto John’s lips and Jesus overrides him with an enigmatic response, referring to ‘for now’ and to the ‘demands of righteousness’. The phrase ‘for now’ is obviously difficult to interpret given the diverse translations. ‘Righteousness’ is a significant theme in Matthew’s Gospel. For him, it means the right ordering of relationships, primarily in response to God. Yet how is ‘righteousness’ shown in Jesus’ act of accepting baptism? Given all we have learnt in the Infancy Narrative, we know Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, yet his first public action is to align himself with sinful humanity.
As Jesus emerges from the waters, a theophany takes place. The opening of the heavens signals the new era of salvation, for which Israel had longed and which Isaiah had predicted. The coming of the Spirit as a dove echoes the Spirit hovering over the chaos at the dawn of creation. All through the Infancy Narrative, Matthew has stressed the Jesus as Messiah, Son of God. Now he is publically affirmed as having a unique filial relationship with God: the Beloved, in whom God delights.