You are My Beloved
13 January 2019 – Baptism of Our Lord
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
In Luke, John’s teaching pertaining to the Messiah responds to a question from the crowds. This acknowledges that since the second century B.C.E. some in Palestine anticipated that God would anoint one or more agents to restore Israel. Recently scholars have indicated that such messianic expectations of first-century Palestine were not as pervasive as Christian traditions tend to assume. John’s claim to be unfit to unfasten the strap of the sandal of God’s anointed emphasizes his subordination to the one to come, since that was the task of a slave. This is most likely a comment added during the second stage in the development of the Jesus tradition. . .
Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism emphasizes divine affirmation of Jesus and his special relationship with God. It is not a messianic anointing as it is represented in Acts 10:38.
. . . What is distinctive to Luke’s account of Jesus’ baptism is that the theophany that occurs at Jesus’ baptism is said to take place while Jesus was at prayer. Luke combines public observation of the opening of the heavens and the appearance of the Spirit “in bodily form like a dove” with a public hearing of the voice from heaven (as in Matthew) with a message addressed specifically to Jesus “You are my Son, the Beloved” (as in Mark).
Accounts of Jesus’ baptism acknowledge the memory of the early Jesus community that in the earliest stages of his public life and before John’s arrest, Jesus was associated with John the Baptist’s ministry. –– Regina Boisclair
This poem is an assurance of Israel’s redemption from exile. The passage begins and ends with the words: created, formed, named, and called to underscore the deep special relationship between the Holy One and Jacob=Israel. Allusion to God’s protection through water and fire identify redemption from exile as a new exodus and new entry into Canaan (vv 2, 4). The historical context suggests that God would deliver Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba (i.e., Africa) presumably to the Persian Cyrus (not named in this passage) as ransom for the release of the Judean captives (see Isaiah 45:14). The passage presumes all in diaspora would be reassembled as witness to the glory of God who created, formed, named, and called Israel. –– Regina Boisclair
In the third gospel, Luke’s John the Baptist claims that the one to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 3:16). In Acts, the sequel to Luke’s gospel, the ministry of Jesus’ followers begins only after they were baptized with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1–5). From that point on reception of the Holy Spirit becomes an integral aspect of Christian initiation and is distinguished from baptism (Acts 2:38, see also Acts 10:44). Neither one nor the other alone suffice (see Acts 10:44–48) to mark new believers. This selection indicates that from earliest times the laying on of hands was the ritual act associated with prayers seeking empowerment by the Holy Spirit. –– Regina Boisclair
Regina Boisclair, a Roman Catholic biblical scholar, teaches at Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, Alaska.
Homily Service 40, no. 2 (2007): 23-34.