This is the season of Epiphany (manifestation).The Baptism of Jesus is one of the key moments of the epiphanos of God in Christ. This year we will read Matthew’s Gospel. Mt 3:13-17 follows on several key texts which will help us understand what today’s ‘manifestation’ of God in Jesus means.
In Advent 4 we read Mt 1:18-25; how ‘the birth took place.’ We learned that the angel gave Him ‘the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.’ We learned the birth ‘fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, that the virgin will conceive and bear a son and his name will be Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”’ The ancient practice of giving children symbolic names is in the background here. [If I was a prophet my kids would be named “America is going to hell in a handbasket” and “the church is unfaithful to her calling.” They much prefer the names they have!] That name, “God with us” is the answer to the fundamental question we hear voice in Exodus 17:7 “Is the Lord among us or not?” It is a constant question in the Bible…Jesus, the Incarnation of God, is the Divine “Yes” to that question.
Last week we pondered the horrible story in Mt 2 of the slaughter of the baby boys in Bethlehem. We mentioned that this was an intentional literary allusion to Moses, who was born when Pharaoh ordered the murders of the male Hebrew newborns. Biblical writers use typology all the time, and Moses was a primary focus of that typology. Therefore, Matthew’s echoes of Moses and the Torah accounts are no accident. We do well to remember that Jesus’ identity is revealed in the words of Scripture, and the Scripture is the Jewish Bible.
The Jewish Bible is like a photo album. Parents can compare photos of the toddler to other family members at the same age. We are struck by the similarities. Or perhaps behaviors remind us of a previous child at that age. Then our parents inform us that the child is just like we were at that age… When we read Torah we find Jesus. When we encounter Jesus, Torah is understood more deeply and clearly. Types are the previous generations.
So today we do well to listen for types and look for typology:
Jesus came to John at the Jordan
In Advent 2 we met John, the preacher and baptizer. He was oddly dress like Elijah. Elijah the paradigm of the Prophet in the Jewish Bible (recall at the Transfiguration Moses and Elijah appear). So John the Baptist recapitulates Jewish prophecy (Elihjah). And John is at the Jordan. The same river the first Jesus (in Anglicized Greek), or Joshua in Hebrew, parted and crossed with the Hebrew people. A new beginning and a new life, fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham.
In Advent 2 John declared that “God is able from these stones to raise up children of Abraham.” A new family of Abraham is alluded to, a new beginning and new creation. One recalls that when Joshua led the people across the dry land of the damned up (at the city of Adam) Jordan river God told him to have the leader of each tribe take up a stone from the river bed. These stones, representing Abraham’s offspring-Jacob/Israel. God does raise up new tribes from stones (Peter-petros-stone: the apostle who represents us all) as Jesus makes a new family of God (and children of Abraham) of all who believe in Him. Jesus fulfills God’s promise, “I will make you a father of many nations and multiply your seed like the stars of the sky.” The billion Christians in our world today, like twinkling stars, are Abraham’s promise complete. Through Abraham God will bless the whole world---and Jesus is that Blessing!
So Jesus stands in those waters, the Jordan, passage way to the Promised Land.
The waters recall other waters.
The watery chaos of Genesis 1 and creation. The wind/breath/spirit of God hovering over the chaos.
The watery chaos of the Flood story in Genesis 7. And the dove which is sent out the window by Noah. And the great wind/spirit, again in creative grace, drying up the chaotic waters to reveal dry earth and a second creation, a new beginning.
The waters of the Nile, where baby Moses, set adrift in a small ark (remember the Hebrew word appears only in these two stories). Moses, who is taken up out of the waters by Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses who is taken up by God to save His people and reveal His love and teachings.
So, now the Spirit hovers yet again, like a dove. Our minds are bombarded with connection upon connection, the stories of God weaving together in perfect fulfillment in the incarnate son.
The Son who is the only one, the beloved one. And in those words, yet again, are echoed other sons.
Isaac, the son, the only one, the beloved, of Abraham, who fulfills the promise of offspring. Isaac, whom God calls he only, beloved son even as He asks Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The sacrifice will not come to be, God will provide a lamb in Isaac’s place. Here God reveals who that Lamb is: Jesus; God’s son, the only and beloved.
Israel, the nation, is also God’s beloved son. God calls His son out of Egypt we read last week. Fulfilling Hosea, who said these words referring to Israel, the nation, called out of Egypt in the Exodus. Now Jesus, who is called out of Egypt, begins His public life. In Him the promises are fulfilled.
Jesus is the perfect and true child of Abraham, the perfect and true Messiah like Moses, the perfect, true and complete sacrifice like Isaac, the perfect, true and final Savior like Joshua. Jesus is the ARCHETYPE of all these (and more). Jesus fulfills (fully fills up) every Scripture. God has seen to that and the intricate weaving of stories and images are but a sign of that Divine hand at work.
Standing in those waters Jesus takes in all of His people and brings us to God.
Is God among us? Is God for us? In Jesus, YES.
Behold God’s Son
You are baptized into Him. Trust Him who is God’s Son. Trust and Love, Worship, Obey and Proclaim Him who is baptized for us and begins the new creation