bible blog 1145

This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:


polluted mangrove swamp in Bodo, Niger

polluted mangrove swamp in Bodo, Niger

Matthew 3:13-17

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

John baptises Jesus

13-15 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to prevent him. “I need you to baptise me”, he said. “Surely you do not come to me?” But Jesus replied, “It is right for us to meet all the Law’s demands—let it be so now.”

16-17 Then John agreed to his baptism. Jesus came straight out of the water afterwards, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting upon him. And a voice came out of Heaven saying, “This is my dearly loved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The gospel writers all found an embarrassing tradition that John had baptised Jesus, indicating that Jesus had perhaps been a disciple of the Baptist. This would have seemed unacceptable to some Christian believers. Matthew has a profound intuition that it’s not embarrassing but revelatory: Jesus’ comes not to destroy the Jewish Torah, but to fulfil it; not to lord it over humanity as Son of God but rather to share human frailty, precisely because he is God’s son and reveals God’s humility.  His vision of the open heaven confirms that God shares his life (his spirit) with humanity in the human life of his well-loved son.

This is the theology which underpins Matthew’s story of Jesus as the one who teaches the truth of God’s rule, that it comes by persuasion and not force, showing in his own ministry God’s readiness to shoulder the human yoke, and to make it lighter for all. 

At that time Jesus said:

“Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden 

And I will give you rest.

Take my yoke on your shoulders and learn from me

For I am gentle and humble in heart

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy 

and my burden is light” (Matthew 11)yoke of oxen

This characterisation of Jesus puts him at arms’ length from all religious posturing, demagoguery and sales pitches. He prefers to be with people who struggle to survive, offering them God’s companionship and help. That’s the meaning of his baptism. Many people, including some who are not religious, exercise this ministry of care and encouragement from day to day. Nothing is harder than to bind one’s life to the welfare of another, so that one’s own health and happiness is no longer separate from theirs, but it’s only by such harsh discipline that we make the yoke of mortality easy and its burden light.

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