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MATTHEW 3: 13-17
(Baptism of Our Lord / First Sunday after the Epiphany)

MT tells us Jesus comes out to John deliberately seeking baptism. It's not a matter of Jesus going out, liking what he hears, & responding by asking to be baptized. The Divine Initiative is foremost. Who takes the initiative in today's Baptisms?

Jesus' demand that John baptise him, & it is a demand, is bad theology, as both know. John is right to refuse Jesus, theologically speaking, & Jesus knows it. By insisting he demonstrates that there's more going on here than meets the eye. Faith isn't captive to anyone's rules, even theological ones. Dogmatics need to be understood in the light of intuition as well as inspiration, imagination, & intelligence. Not just back then, but now, too.

In the end, John defers to Jesus. One would suspect John normally defers to no-one. But, true to his prophetic calling he knows, or at least he's pretty sure Who This Is. The Gospel of the Ebionites 4:7 [Complete Gospels, Polebridge '94] has JB actually kneeling before Jesus, a bit like an extra Magus late on the scene, offering recognition & credibility. Did anyone else know what was going on out there? Do we know what's really going on in & around us today?

MT deserves credit for highlighting the dilemma baptising Jesus raises for John. The issue bothered the early church a bit, too. The incident does raise a pastoral issue for today: when to dig in about something (theo)logical, & when to let go & let be for the sake of God's longer term plan.

Right at the outset of Jesus' ministry MT foreshadows what an enigma he is & will remain for JB. (And, maybe, vice-versa?) Is Jesus as Messiah still an enigma to some of us? Are there some of our hearers, tentative, or maybe would-be followers,  who still haven't managed to 'get their head round' Jesus any more than JB?

The theophany that follows is right up there with the theophanies of the Hebrew Bible. A kind of first instalment of what will happen on the Mount of Transfiguration & then on the cross. Might the 'virtual' world with its graphic dimensions & effects be more helpful than flat-earth type language in imagining what happened, at least in Jordan & on the Holy Mount?

Like MK, MT tells us Jesus sees the Spirit coming upon himself. But it's not spectator sport. But then, is Christian Faith as a whole? What is our point of entry to participate?  In GEN, the Divine Wind hovers over the waters as the Word calls Creation into being. Now, the same Word, in flesh  this time, has the Dove 'land' on him calling into being a new chapter in God's ongoing creativity. Dusting off the old story & telling it on a crucial stage further. In Scripture, story just keeps building on story. We daren't stop, or the story stops with us.

The voice of God acknowledges Jesus as Beloved Son of PS 2:7 & Servant of IS 42:1. A vital connection: for Jesus as he accepts the role of Messiah; for the early church; & for us. It's not an either or, but a both and. As sons & daughters of God we, too, are to be servants. The Father's approval is very positive: "I'm delighted!" kind of thing. Think of parents you know who're asked to give 'approval' for a marriage. Are they delighted at the prospect, or simply acquiescing? Are we delighted at our 'marriage' to God, or just going along with it? Are we showing an adequate response to God's loving enthusiasm, delight, in us? Not simply giving some kind of approval to Jesus but delighted in / by /at him? Even proud of him? 'Approval' of Jesus that lacks enthusiasm & conviction is to damn him with faint praise - or to praise him with faint damns? Maybe theres a hymn in there somewhere!