Matthew

3:13-17

2. The gospel of the kingdom, 3:1-4:25

ii] The baptism of Jesus

Synopsis

Jesus comes to John the Baptist at the Jordan river and, with some hesitation on John's part, is baptized there. The significance of this event is confirmed by a word from God and by the anointing of the Spirit.

 
Teaching

The story of Jesus' Baptism announces the mighty news that he is the long expected "Son" of God, the one in whom God is well pleased. This announcement comes from the throne of God itself; it is no human declaration. Jesus is the messiah, king David's greater son, the king of Israel, the long expected one, the righteous one.

 
Issues

i] Context: See Matthew 3:1-12.

 

ii Structure: This passage, The baptism of Jesus, presents as follows:

Setting, v13;

The exchange between the Baptist and Jesus, v14-15;

The baptism of Jesus, v16-17.

 

iii] Interpretation:

Jesus' corporate role as the righteous child of God: The kings of Israel were always viewed as the embodiment of the nation such that the nation existed as an entity embodied in the king, an extension of the king's personality. So, when the prophets spoke of the messiah, David's greater son, they were speaking of God's people, just as if they were speaking of the messiah himself. So, the coming "righteous one" is both king and people.

Jesus is that "one"; he is the righteous king, but also righteous Israel. It is for this reason that we can speak of ourselves as being God's righteous people, his children, sons, those in whom he is well pleased. We are the new Israel "in" Christ, given that we are members of his body. Jesus lived the life of the one true, faithful, loving, righteous man, and because he is a corporate entity, we are able to associate with him and be regarded by the Father as that righteous son of God.

So then, Jesus is proclaimed as God's Son. As the one pleasing to God, about to embark on his mission to bring in the kingdom of God, he is empowered by the Spirit of God. Jesus is given the wherewithal to undertake this mighty task on our behalf.

 

The symbolic nature of Jesus' baptism: Matthew tells us that Jesus' baptism is "to fulfill all righteousness", to bring to fulfillment the era of righteousness, to usher in the new age when all will be made right in the sight of God. The historic picture of this process was painted in the life of the nation Israel when the people passed through the waters of the Reed sea and entered the wilderness of testing. Jesus, as the true and faithful Israel, must pass through the same waters and enter the wilderness to begin the same sequence of events leading up to the establishment of the kingdom. In fact, he must do this, because we must do it, the new Israel must do it. For this reason, Jesus does it for us.

 

iv] Synoptics:

It is interesting to note the differences in the synoptic accounts of the baptism of Jesus, differences which are similar in the record of other common stories found in the gospels. It is clear that during the thirty years following the crucifixion of Jesus, an oral tradition developed which was shaped and authorized through the preaching of the apostles. The similarity of the stories and teachings in the synoptic gospels shows how firmly this tradition was preserved in the Christian church. It is commonly held that Luke referred to Mark, and Matthew referred to both Mark and Luke, yet it is possible that the gospel writers functioned independently of each other, drawing on a common oral tradition. Given that oral tradition is not set in concrete, the slight differences in the separate gospel accounts may well reflect a different source in the oral tradition. The preservation of the substance of the teaching is what mattered. Most likely it was this concern for the preservation of truth that prompted the writing of the gospels in the first place, given that the apostolic band had begun to thin in the passing of time.

Yet, the gospel writers did more than just record the preserved oral tradition of the church. They were theologians and therefore, shaped the tradition to emphasize their particular understanding of the truth. They did this in the selection and arrangement of the stories and teachings, and by subtle changes to the tradition itself. So, in our text for study, we should note that v14-15 are only found in Matthew and that Luke doesn't actually say that Jesus was baptized by God, although it is assumed.

The question of inspiration obviously plays on this issue. In the end, we must discount the idea that only the original words of Jesus are inspired and rest on the idea that it is the recorded words that are inspired, ie., the authors of our gospels were inspired. Such is a faith act, but then we are on safer ground relying on the idea that the message from the authors of our gospels is God's word to us, rather than try to decipher the original words of Jesus from the recorded text.

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 3:13

The baptism of Jesus, v13-17. i] Setting, v13. Jesus journeys from Galilee (Mark tells us specifically "Nazareth") to be baptized by John in the Jordan. Some suggest that Matthew wants us to see this as a private event, but the "then", tote, is most likely indicating that the baptism took place while John was involved in his public ministry, v1-12. As Luke puts it, "when all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too."

tote adv. "then" - Temporal.

paraginetai (paraginomai) pres. "came" - comes [Jesus]. Historic / narrative present = consummative aorist, a cessation of the act of coming; "Jesus left Galilee and went to the river Jordan", CEV.

apo + gen. "from [Galilee]" - Expressing separation, "away from", or source, "from".

epi + acc. "to [the Jordan]" = Spacial; "down to the Jordan."

proV + acc. "-" - to [John]. Spacial; of motion toward.

tou baptisqhnai (baptizw) aor. pas. inf. "to be baptized" - The genitive articular infinitive expresses purpose; "in order to be baptized." Mark simply says "and was baptized by John", but here Matthew brings out the purpose of Jesus' coming to John, "with the intent purpose of having John baptize him."

uJp (uJpo) + gen. "by [John]" - by [him]. Instrumental, expressing agency.

 
v14

ii] The exchange between the Baptist and Jesus, v14-15. Although John the Baptist, at this point in time, probably didn't understand that Jesus was the messiah (John the evangelist explicitly says he didn't, Jn.1:31-34), he certainly knew of Jesus - his wondrous conception and birth, and most probably his early life which was marked by a knowledge of the scriptures, Lk.2:41-52. Jesus and John were related and so John was certainly not ignorant of Jesus. John's reluctance to baptize Jesus is probably driven by a knowledge of his character. John is a humble man and so defers to a more worthy man. So, John's objection is reasonable, but he consents when Jesus says "it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness." By "fulfill", Matthew means "accomplish" and by "righteousness" he means something like "conformity to God's will", so Jesus is telling John that it is fitting for both of them to accomplish God's will as it is revealed in the scriptures. Jesus is the suffering servant who represents lost Israel (this inevitably means all believers). Like Israel's baptism in the Red Sea, Jesus must be baptized, he too must strive in the wilderness, battle in the land, and be victorious over the powers of darkness in the city of Zion. Israel has failed in this task and Jesus must do it as the obedient son, on behalf of the disobedient sons.

de "but" - but, and. Probably transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, although possibly adversative, as NIV.

diekwluen (diakwluw) imperf. "tried to deter [him]" - [John] tried to forbid, prevent. A connotative imperfect indicating action attempted, but not achieved; "John unsuccessfully protested, saying ...."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "saying" - The participle is adverbial, treated either as modal, expressing the manner of his trying to deter him, or means, "by saying", but possibly just attendant circumstance, "he forbid him and said."

baptisqhnai (baptizw) aor. pas. inf. "to be baptized" - [I have need] to be baptized. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing the nature of John's need.

uJpo + gen. "by [you]" - Instrumental, expressing agency.

kai su erch/ troV me "and do you come to me?" - and you come to me. Rhetorical question, "surely you do not come to me", Phillips.

 
v15

apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[Jesus] replied" - having answered, [Jesus said to him]. This common expression, formed by an attendant participle with a finite verb, is a common Semitic construction, but is rather awkward in modern English. Usually treated as redundant (pleonastic).

arti adv. "[let it be so] now" - [permit] now. Temporal adverb. The "now" underlines the idea that Jesus' submission to John is but "for the present" only, so therefore John has no need to be reticent. "For the present, do as I am asking."

ou{twV gar "-" - for thus. Possibly explanatory, but more likely causal, giving the reason why it is proper for Jesus to be baptized by John. "For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness", AV.

prepon (prepw) pres. part. "[it is] proper" - fitting. Participle with the verb to-be forming a periphrastic present. It is seemly / proper for John to baptize Jesus; "for now this is how it should be, because we must...." CEV.

hJmin dat. pro. "for us" - Dative of interest, advantage, "for us", or reference, "with respect to us."

plhrwsai (plhrow) aor. inf. "to do this to fulfill [all righteousness]" - to complete, accomplish [all righteousness is fitting for us]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the verb to-be. "Righteousness", dikaiosunh, is being used in the sense of "conformity to God's will" such that the phrase virtually means "to accomplish God's will as revealed in the scriptures." A salvation history approach is best in understanding this phrase such that Israel's baptism in the Red Sea serves as a type for Jesus' baptism in the river Jordan as he serves to complete / fulfill / accomplish God's will for his son, Israel, see above. None-the-less, other interpretations have been offered. Some suggest that Jesus' baptism prefigures his crucifixion, others that Jesus is fulfilling prophecy by his identification with sinners in their response of repentance expressed outwardly in water baptism, cf., Isaiah 53:11-12. "Accomplish conformity to God's will" = "to conform this way with all that God requires", NEB.

tote adv. "then [John consented]" - then [he permits him]. Temporal adverb.

 
v16

iii] The baptism of Jesus, v16-17. Immediately, after leaving the water, the Spirit descends on Jesus, dove like. Matthew doesn't say whether it is a vision, or something more substantial. Luke says he descends "in bodily form." "He saw", refers to Jesus, but the Baptist too may have witnessed the event. So the Spirit, dove like, oversees the new creation in Christ, just as he moved over the face of the waters at the creation of the world, Gen.1:2. God then speaks, possibly for all to hear. The Lord God breaks his silence and so ushers in the messianic age. The words of God link Isaiah 42:1 with Psalm 2:7 ("You are my Son"). Jesus is announced as the suffering servant, messiah, the Davidic king, so defining his messiahship and how, as messiah, he will represent God's people Israel. So, God declares that Jesus is his one and only Son ("beloved", "whom I love"), the one "on whom my favor rests."

de "-" - but, and. Here transitional, indicating a step in the narrative.

baptisqeiV (baptizw) aor. mid. part. "as soon as [Jesus] was baptized" - having been immersed. Most translators treat the participle as adverbial, temporal, "when Jesus had been baptized", NRSV, although result is a possibility, "so Jesus was baptized", CEV.

euquV adv. "-" - [Jesus] immediately. The TEV, links "immediately" with "baptized", although most translators link "immediately" with the verb "rise up", "just as he came up from the water", NRSV. "It was just then, when he came out of the water, right at that moment, that the Spirit fell upon Jesus."

apo + gen. "out of [the water]" - [came up] from [the water]. Expressing separation, "away from", or source, "out of."

oiJ ouranoi (oV) "heaven" - [and behold] the heavens. "The heavenlies", the dwellings of the divine, although in English usage it is singular.

hnew/cqhsan (anoigw) aor. pas. "was opened" - were unlocked, split open. The separation of the heavenlies from the earth was breached.

auto/ dat. pro. "-" - to him. Dative of interest, advantage. The sense is that the vision was for Jesus only. This personal pronoun is found in only some manuscripts, but Matthew does seem to describe the vision as something witnessed by Jesus alone. "To him", TEV.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the Spirit] of God" - [and he saw the Spirit] of God. The genitive is most likely adjectival, relational, but possibly ablative, source/origin; "from God." The definite articles both for "God" and "Spirit" only appear in some manuscripts. Although both nouns could be anarthrous (without an article), it would be assumed that "God" is definite, and this would imply that "Spirit" is definite as well. "A spirit of God" would not be an acceptable translation. The Holy Spirit is obviously intended.

katabainon (katabainw) pres. part. "descending" - As with "coming = alighting [on him]", the participle serves as the accusative complement of the direct object "Spirit", standing in a double accusative construction.

wJsei "like" - This comparative introduces a comparative clause. Like a dove in appearance, or descending as a dove would descend. As already noted, the creative role of the Spirit is at work here and so this image is likely to reflect the rabbinic interpretation of Genesis 1:2 - the Spirit moves over the face of the waters "like a dove that broods over her young, but does not touch them." As such we have a "new creation" image.

peristeran (a) "a dove" - a dove [coming upon him]. Accusative object of an assumed verb; "like a person sees a dove." The actual bird intended is unclear, but a dove is probably in mind. It should be noted that a dove is used in the OT as an image of Israel more often than an Image of God's Spirit. The image is sometimes interpreted here as a type of Israel, indicating that Jesus is the Israel of God, although the logic is not overly clear. The dove is not Israel, Jesus is Israel, and in him we become Israel, "a new creation." The creative Spirit of God works to this end.

 
v17

This divine declaration is usually viewed as a melding of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. See above on the possible allusion to Genesis 22:1.

ek + gen. "from [heaven]" - [and behold a voice] out of the heavens. Expressing source/origin. Simply stating that it was the voice of God, "God said".

legousa (legw) pres. part. "said" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the implied verb "came"; "a voice came from heaven and said."

ouJtoV pro. "this" - Demonstrative pronoun, referring back (anaphoric). Mark and Luke have "you are my son", addressing Jesus personally, but Matthew has the words as a public proclamation.

mou gen. pro. "my" - [is the beloved son] of me. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

oJ uiJoV "Son" - Predicate nominative. Most probably in a messianic sense rather than identifying a filial relationship with the Father.

oJ agaphtoV (oV) "whom I love" - the beloved. The articular adjective serves as a substantive. Jesus certainly has a very intimate association with the divine, "dear son", TEV, although the word here probably means "only" such that Jesus is God's "only Son"; "the one and only Son."

en + dat. "with [him I am well pleased]" - in [whom I am well pleased]. Adverbial use of the preposition expressing manner , "with whom", or reference / respect, "with respect to him ..." The NIV, as with many other translations, understands the phrase in the terms of God being pleased with the way and who Jesus is, but it seems more likely that God is announcing that his favor rests on his beloved; "On whom my favour rests", NEB. With this translation the verb eudokew is taken to mean "give consent", rather than "think it good / pleasing." As such God's announcement is messianic, designating Jesus as God's servant messiah, Isaiah 42:1, 44:2.

 

Matthew Introduction

Exposition

 

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