Baptism of the Lord (January 7, 2018)
Isa 42:1-4, 6-7,; Ps 29:1-4, 9b-10; Acts 10:34-38; Matt 3:13-17
Theme: Baptismal gift and responsibility
In today’s Gospel story on the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan River we are told the identity of Jesus by a voice of heaven with these words: This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
The phrase “a voice from heaven” may reflect or be connected with the rabbinic bat kol (literally “daughter of a voice”), that is, an echo of a word uttered in heaven. The rabbis speak of bat kol as a voice delivering a divine message proclaiming God’s will or judgment.
The manifestation of Jesus’ identity before his public ministry can also be found in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. But in Matthew, this is made in the third person (“This is . . .”) as opposed to the second person in Mark 1:11 and Luke 3:22 (“You are . . .”). Does this make Matthew’s version a more definitive manifestation? All three versions, however, as formulated have references and allusions from Hebrew Scriptures specifically from the books of Psalms, Genesis and Isaiah.
“This is my son” echoes Psalm 2:7, a psalm used for the coronation of the king of the House of David that gives definite royal connotations and divine aspect as well since kings were believed to be related to the deity.
This also points to Jesus as the Messiah according to Raymond Brown. In Talmudic literature the title Moshiach, or Melech HaMoshiach (the King Messiah), is reserved for the Jewish leader who will redeem Israel in the End of Days and who is a direct descendant of the Davidic dynasty.
The designation “my beloved son” recalls another beloved son, Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah and father of Jacob, who was to be sacrificed as a burnt offering on one of the mountains. (Gen 22:2).
The additional “with whom I am well pleased” echoes Isaiah 42:1 which describes the Servant of the Lord as “my chosen one with whom I am well pleased.” This is said to point to Jesus as the Isaian Servant who is to bear the infirmities of many and be led to slaughter for the guilt of all (Isaiah 53:4-10).
In summary, Jesus is identified in terms of characters in the Hebrew Scriptures – that of a Davidic king who is an adopted son of God, the longed-for messiah, Isaac and God’s servant – indicating seemingly contradicting royalty, divinity and servanthood attributes.
Thus, according to a biblical scholar, the text manifesting Jesus’ identity contains “a surplus of meaning,” combining royal and servant motifs along with the language from the tradition of the suffering just person (Wis 2:12-20). It foretells a far from easy ministry for Jesus, with the spectre of sacrifice, suffering and even death.
Today, as we read about the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, let us ponder upon our own baptism. The sacrament of baptism is called the sacrament of initiation (to belong to the Church and to mission). When we are baptized, God declares publicly that we are his children. (And I would like to believe also as beloved children with whom God is well pleased.) We belong to God’s family and we are called to spread God’s love.
But like the life of Jesus, our lives as Christians may be far from simple. I don’t think it is going to be a walk in the park all the time. Just as we are given a great gift, we also gave a great responsibility. Like Jesus and Isaiah’s suffering servant we also may be asked to make sacrifices and to suffer for our faith.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1) what do you believe to be your greatest gift as a member of the Church? 2) We renew our baptismal promises during Easter usually at the Easter Vigil or the Easter Sunday Mass. What has been the baptismal vow that you have found hard to keep? Why? How can you help others keep their baptismal promises?
Bibliography: Bergant, Dianne. Preaching the New Lectionary, Year B. (Manila, 2008), Brown, Raymond. Christ in the Gospels of the Ordinary Sundays. (Bangalore, 1999), Harrington, Daniel ed. Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew (Minnesota, 2009).
This week’s teaching commentary was prepared by
Minerva Generalao, Philippines, Bat Kol Alumna July 2014
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly Gospel commentaries represent the research and creative thought of their authors, and are meant to stimulate deeper thinking about the meaning of the Sunday Scriptures. While they draw upon the study methods and sources employed by the Bat Kol Institute, the views and conclusions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of their authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Bat Kol. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome.
Bat Kol Institute for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
“Christians Studying the Bible within its Jewish milieu, using Jewish Sources.”