Why He Came: cup and baptism

serve-one-anotherJesus Responds. It would be good to know Jesus’ tone of voice when he responds. Is it exasperation caused by their continuing blindness? Is it said as a tired sigh but with a willingness to again engage them and lead them to a deeper understanding and awareness? Does it have an edge? It might well be the simple inquiry to uncover what they understand: “Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

There are several lines of interpretation regarding Jesus’ reply. Some scholars hold that the images offered (“drink” and “baptism”) do not hold the same significance for the disciples as they do for Jesus. In this line of thought, the cup and baptism point to Jesus’ voluntary obedience unto death for the sins of humanity; whereas, the images suggest the disciples moral participation in Jesus’ passion. [Lane, 379]. But the construct of the sentence is in the present tense. In other words, right at his moment, Jesus is drinking and being baptized. This seems to point to something other than a future moral participation in the Passion. Continue reading

Behold the Lamb of God: commentary

I-saw-the-Spirit-come2John 1:29-34 29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. 30  He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ 31 I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” 32 John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. 33 I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ 34  Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”

Commentary. After John’s interrogation by priests, Levites and Pharisees, the evangelist tells us, The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ This is but the start of a short, compact testimony by the Baptist witnessing to the One he had just baptized. Continue reading

Baptized, Sent, and Falling Short

Homa Bay, on Winam Gulf, Lake Victoria, Kenya;...

Homa Bay,Kenya

You’ve seen the movies: a person is in danger, slipping off a cliff or a building or some other perilous perch. Another person grasps them by the hand and desperately tries to pull him or her to safety. That is the image Isaiah gives us: God grasps the chosen servant by the hand and hangs on for dear life.  “I have grasped you by the hand; I formed you, and set you as a covenant to the people” (Is 42:6). It is an image that  Pope Benedict XVI sees in his book Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus, the sinless one, plunges into the waters of our life, grasps a new covenant people by the hand, rises from the waters, all the while hanging on for dear life – our life.  And we are baptized into Christ, raised toward eternal life, commissioned to journey through this life.  Baptized and sent.

18 years ago, on the 2nd day of my mission to Kenya, I found myself in the back seat, traveling by car from Kisumu to Homa Bay on a mostly rough, uneven, dusty and rock-strewn dirt road only meters from Lake Victoria. The land was dry, parched, and in need of irrigation – all the result of irrigation projects promised but never seemingly a high enough national priority for this out-of-the-way corner of the nation.  Later we were to discover we were between the short rains of December and the long rains of July and August – and in reality, at the beginning of a year-long drought. Continue reading

The Things We Know….or should…

Baptism-JesusYou know your birthday.  You know your significant other’s birthday – or if you don’t you should learn it quickly!  You know your anniversary.  If you’re a priest like myself, you know your date of ordination.  But….do you know the date of your baptism?

It is a question Pope Benedict asked in his first general audience of 2014.  Heck of a question, heh? Here are some of Pope Francis’ insights: Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: context

The baptism of Jesus by John the baptist, as i...Matthew 3: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Context. The story of Jesus in Matthew 3:1–4:16 is bracketed by John the Baptist’s ministry.

  • In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (3:1-2).
  • From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (4:17)

John prepared the way for Jesus and his ministry. Where John’s proclamation is that the kingdom is “right around the corner,” Jesus announces that the kingdom is here in the person of the Messiah, the Son of God.  The “inauguration” of the in-breaking of the kingdom (kairos) into Time (chromos) occurs at the baptism of Jesus which serves as the occasion for the coming of the Spirit and the Father’s approval of his beloved son. Continue reading

In those days: John’s Baptism

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...Matthew 3:1-12. 1 In those days John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea 2 (and) saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: “A voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’”
4 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him 6 and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. 7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Continue reading