Bible Study December 31 for Worship January 13

Bible Study December 31 for Worship January 13

Luke 315 As the people were in expectation, and all men questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he were the Christ,
16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So, with many other exhortations, he preached good news to the people.
19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,
20 added this to them all, that he shut up John in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,
22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

COMMENTARY

Epiphany means to be revealed, and during Epiphany season our scriptures focus upon stories of the revealing of Jesus to the world. Last week we had the Christ Child revealed to the Wise men, this week Jesus is revealed in his baptism.

The three Synoptic Gospels were clear that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The Gospel of John tries to finesse that issue by never actually presenting the baptism of Jesus. Probably by the end of the First Century, when the Gospel of John was being written, the early church was embarrassed to admit that Jesus had been a follower of John.

John was preaching a gospel of angry judgment to come. He was pointing to a time of reckoning, when an other worldly messianic figure would come to execute justice and judgment. John principally got into trouble with Herod Antipas by preaching against his marriage to Herodias, who had been married to his brother Phillip. Apparently Phillip divorced Herodias and Antipas then married her, and there was certainly some suspicion of illicit relationships leading up to the divorce and remarriage. But even if there had been no adultery according to Mosaic Law Herod could have only married Herodias, if Phillip had died, and then only if Phillip had left no children. Also both Phillip and Antipas would have been half uncles of Herodias. This close kinship may have been enough to have been prescribed by the incest regulations of the law.

What happened, when Jesus came up out of the water after his baptism? Were the dove and the voice seen and heard by anyone else? Hollywood usually presents the dove and the voice as if everyone present could see and hear them. The voice and the dove may have been subjective experiences of Jesus alone. We don’t know, but we can speculate. Apparently even after Jesus witnessed the dove and heard the voice, John continued his ministry as if nothing had happened. According to legend after John had been arrested he sent two of his followers to Jesus to ask, are you the one, or should we look for another? This represents a level of uncertainty that is inconsistent, if John had seen the dove and heard the voice.

Clearly whatever happened, his baptism was a turning point for Jesus. His life could never be the same after that experience. For many people who want to believe that Jesus had a fully developed messianic consciousness even at birth, the very idea of a turning point in Jesus’ life is blasphemous. If he experienced a turning point, then that would call into question the very idea that Jesus was pre-destined to be the messiah, the son of God. And experiencing a turning point is just somehow too human for someone we want to put on a pedestal, so we don’t have to follow his example.

But what if Jesus was truly human like us. Then we might all ask ourselves, what have been the significant turning points in our lives, and how was God involved in those important moments? If God is still speaking, maybe God speaks in those decisive moments in our lives. We might all wish God would send a dove and a voice or sign posts to point the way at the turning points in our lives. Most of the time, however, we don’t even know we are at a turning point, until we look back in hindsight. Also turning points at least in the moment are seldom as clear as they seem in hindsight. Consider that after his baptism Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness considering the implications of his call to messiahship. He had to work through several temptations in that time of contemplation. Perhaps he was even questioning the very meaning of the dove and the voice during that time.

Week of January 7 – January 13: First Sunday After Epiphany – Luke 3:15-22 – Affirmed by Love – Isaiah 43:1-7, Psalm 29, Acts 8:14-17.

Epiphany means to be revealed, and during Epiphany season our scriptures focus upon stories of the revealing of Jesus to the world. Last week we had the Christ Child revealed to the Wise men, this week Jesus is revealed in his baptism.

The three Synoptic Gospels were clear that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. The Gospel of John tries to finesse that issue by never actually presenting the baptism of Jesus. Probably by the end of the First Century, when the Gospel of John was being written, the early church was embarrassed to admit that Jesus had been a follower of John.

What happened, when Jesus came up out of the water after his baptism? If someone had had a video camera, would they have been able to record anything? Or were the dove and the voice visible to anyone besides Jesus? We don’t know, but we can speculate. Apparently even after Jesus witnessed the dove and heard the voice, John continued his ministry as if nothing had happened. According to legend after John had been arrested he sent two of his followers to Jesus to ask, are you the one, or should we look for another? This represents a level of uncertainty that is inconsistent, if John had seen the dove and heard the voice.

Clearly whatever happened, his baptism was a turning point for Jesus. His life could never be the same after that experience. We might all ask ourselves, what have been the significant turning points in our lives, and how was God involved in those important moments? God is still speaking, and God speaks in those decisive moments in our lives. But then those are considerations for next week.

LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT

1. According to the text when asked whether or not he was the Messiah, how did John respond?

2. According to the text John baptized with water, what was his successor going to use for baptism?

3. According to the text did John predict his successor would be an all loving all accepting messiah, or a figure of judgment and punishment?

4. According to the text why was Herod reproved by John?

5. According to the text what did Herod do in response to John’s preaching?

6. According to the text when did Jesus come to John to be baptized?

7. According to the text what happened to Jesus after his baptism?

8. According to the text was this even perceptible to everyone or only to Jesus?

LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US

1. If God sent an angry punishing messiah into the world, where do you think he/she would start?

2. What kind of messiah do you think John was looking for?

3. Do you think John’s challenge to Herod’s marriage was the primary event that triggered his arrest, or do you think there may have been other reasons for his arrest?

4. Do you think the voice and the dove after Jesus’ baptism could be seen and heard by everyone or only by Jesus?

5. How many major turning points would you say you have experienced in your life?

6. Do you see any common threads running through those turning points?

7. In looking back do you see God’s presence in any of those turning points?

8. Did any of your turning points call you to greater spiritual growth or greater service?

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