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  • Writer's pictureNorthminster Church

"Claimed by God" by Rev. Jillian Hankamer

Matthew 3:1-17

I.Background of Matthew

-we’ll be exploring the story of Jesus’ baptism by John

-we’re going to be in Matthew until Pentecost in May

-make sure we have a good understanding of the background of the gospel

A. Why 4 Gospels?

-Keep in mind: purpose of Gospels wasn’t historical accuracy but evangelism

-all 4 Gospels come from different regions and traditions

-Best explanation: multiple gospels are like multiple witnesses to an accident. They’ll all notice different things.

B. Info about Matthew

-Whoever wrote Matthew wasn’t an eyewitness to Jesus

-We don’t know who wrote the Gospel. Authored anonymously.

-Attribution came later, but scholars still use name for convenience.

-Don’t know where it was authored

-Good possibility it was Anotich in Syria

1. Matt/author uses “Syria” because it’s his home region

2. Antioch in later 1st C. was large city w/large Christian and Jewish populations. See this in the tension between Christians and Jews throughout gospel.

-Written around 80 CE

-10 years after Mark

-about 90% of Mark appears in Matthew

-around 50% shared word-for-word

-also follows Mark’s basic structure and ordering

-also shared around 20% from Q Source

C. Major themes/struggle

-Rivalry between church and synagouge

-Temple destroyed approx. 10 years before

-this means sacrificial system is gone

-Jewish people had to have new way to interpret Torah and needed new principles/practices

-Sadducees and Essenes eventually disappear

-leaves 2 groups as heirs to interpret Judaism: Pharisees and Christians - tension!

-Matthew is both most Jewish and most anti-Jewish gospel

-Matthew’s Jesus is not the victim of attacks by religious authorities but the aggressor

-this should be understood as Matthew’s attempt to legitimize church and faith during struggle with synagogue

Remember: Church and pharisaic Judaism were very young when Matt. is written. Sibling rivalry is only possible with siblings, but Christianity has never fully outgrown this rivalry stage. We have to be mindful not to perpetuate anti-Jewish sentiment.

II. Transition to Baptism

A. Place yourself at shore line of river. Hear it moving and lapping on the shore. Smell the wet soil of the bank. Feel the refreshing coolness of the breeze blowing off the water. Now let the wild man standing in the river come to life for you.

-He has quite the reputation

-doesn’t mind calling out religious leader

-clothes are as unkempt as rest of his appearance

-tan and rail-thin

-not a surprise when you hear his diet is locusts and honey

-appreciate that he’s keeping kosher and living off the land but yuck!

-Hear his voice calling for “repentance!”

-Resist urge to understand that words as contemporary Christianity usually defines it.

-This is not John or Jesus’ understanding

-Repentance John’s calling for isn’t about being a bad person in need of cleansing from past mistakes

-not about being a dreadful sinner in need of cleansing

  1. “Repentance” — shuv/teshuva in Hebrew

-key word of high Jewish holidays like Yom Kippur

-call to turn back to God’s path. To where you ought to be.

-not a judgement

-Dr. Amy Robertson, “straying is the way of things.” Our way is to notice we’re off the path and come back.

-about a way of life to which we’ve been called

-not just a spiritual but active practice - you’ve been heading one way, but then you change your heart (internal) and your life (external) needs to be reoriented.

III. Kingdom of Heaven

-Another element of John’s message we need to understand

-but what does it mean?

-distinctive to Matthew

-Mark uses “kingdom of heaven”

-Matthew uses phrase around 60x

-lots of theories, best one from Dr. Robert Williamson, Bibleworm

-”kingdom” = basileia in Greek

-Same word used by Roman Empire to talk about the Empire

-So this is way to contrast Roman Empire to God’s empire

-therefore: “kingdom of heaven has drawn near”

-not mysterious or far removed but as real as Roman Empire

-not a future placed or somewhere we’ll only go in death

-Kingdom of heaven is coming. It’s closed by. A present reality with Jesus.

IV. Why does Jesus need baptism?

-Along with John you might wonder why Jesus insists on being baptized

-only happens in Matthew

-Even with a better understanding of “repentance” could Jesus possibly be on “wrong path”?

-question that’s long plagued the church

-these are Jesus’ first words in Gospel. Why?

A. “Righteousness”

-another recurring theme in Matthew

-mentioned 7x - like Joseph being a “righteous man” in nativity story

-related to ethical response to God and doing God’s will

-Therefore: baptism is God’s will and exposes one of Jesus’ most characteristic features: humbly obeying God

B. Jesus isn’t “sinful” as we normally think about baptism

-not like religious leaders John criticizes for coming to him for the show of baptism w/out changing their actions

-with this action Jesus not just obeying God, he’s publicly choosing righteousness as his way of life

-more practically he’s finding his path

-his life does need to change because up until now he’s lived as a Jew within the Roman Empire. He’s lived under the Roman Empire.

-Now he will live differently. Will live fully in kingdom of heaven.

-this action moves Jesus from one way of life to another.

-In the end, this choice and path will result in Jesus’ being killed.

-Roman Empire/all Empire don’t appreciate people not living their way.

V. Spirit descends and a voice is heard

-”This is my own dear son, and I am pleased with him.”

-Imagine that. Put yourself on that river bank again. Close your eyes, breath deeply, and see Jesus breaking the surface of water.

-See the dove.

-Hear an unexplained, holy voice, say, “this is my own dear son…”

-This is a public announcement, a public claiming by God

-God makes her love and joy in her child clear and public

-Imagine what that looks like and feels like for Jesus

-this is public, verbal confirmation that he is on the right path. That he’s chosen.

VI. Then imagine God speaking same words to you

-Imagine what it means to be beloved by God

-Imagine what it means to make God happy

-Imagine being chosen by God

-Good News: like Jesus, these things are true for us as well.

-like Jesus we are called to righteousness - to be ethical kind, thoughtful

-like Jesus we’re called to live differently

-to choose the kingdom of heaven rather than other ways of life

-like Jesus God rejoices when we make that choice - no matter how many times we have to make

-We’re God’s children and have been chosen by God

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