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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Daniel 4:28-37; Psalm 66; 1 John 4:7-21; Luke 4:31-37

The story ends with a brief epilogue in which we see the king walking in his magnificent roof garden admiring all that he has done by his mighty power and royal majesty. His hubris is about to be undone. The king has not taken Daniel’s advice to atone for his sins with righteousness and his iniquities with mercy to the oppressed people, Israel. Twelve months later, King Nebuchadnezzar is walking on the roof garden of the royal palace, congratulating himself on all that he has accomplished in “magnificent Babylon” and his glorious majesty, when, suddenly, “while the words were still in the king’s mouth,” a voice comes from heaven saying, “the kingdom has departed from you! You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately, the sentence was fulfilled. The king is driven away, he eats grass, is bathed with the dew, his hair grows long as eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws. At the end of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar is restored, just as the Most High God had declared to him through Daniel. And so, the passage ends with a psalm of praise on the king’s lips, blessing the Most High, praising and honoring the One who lives forever. Nebuchadnezzar’s health, mental acuity, strength and reign are returned to him, and he now acknowledges and praises the King of Heaven. Historical footnote: there was a Babylonian King Nabonidus, who reigned near the end of the exile, who went into a self-imposed exile in the Arabian Desert for a period of time. Scholars think that incident lies behind the development of this story, with the events transposed onto the greatest of Babylon’s kings, Nebuchadnezzar, as a means of affirming their hope and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty.

Psalm 66 calls upon the entire earth to make a joyful noise and sing to the glory of God’s name, telling God how awesome he is. The whole earth is called to worship God. Then, all are invited to “come and see what God has done among mortals.” The psalm then remembers God’s acts of redemption out of Egypt and deliverance at the Red Sea. God has kept us among the living and does not allow our feet to slip. But, God also tests. And so, the people have known the burdens that come with subjugation by other peoples. But, in the end, God “brought us out into a broad and spacious place.” The psalmist now vows to enter the temple with burnt offerings to fulfill the promise that his lips have made, making an offering of bulls and goats. Finally, the psalmist calls on all who fear God to listen as he tells them what God has done for him. He cried aloud and extolled God and God listened because the psalmist was innocent. Had he cherished iniquity in his heart, God would not have heard his voice. But truly, God has listened. Blessed be God, who has neither rejected his prayer nor removed his steadfast love.

We have come to the heart of John the Evangelist’s letter: “Beloved, love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” However, a word of explanation is in order. The Greeks had four words for love: sexual, familial, friendship and divine. The word consistently used here is agape—love borne out of divine fullness that is sacrificial—love as Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. This is the love that was revealed to us in Jesus, God’s only Son, sent into the world so that we might live through him. Here, the term “only Son,” is used to mean that Jesus was not one among many, but “one of a kind,” and is employed in a culture in which emperors and other heroic figures regularly called themselves “sons of God.” This is love: not that we love God, but that God loved us and sent his son to cover the distance that separates us from God—sin—and atone for it, that we might know God’s love and live in it. Since God loves us this much, ought we not love one another as well? Though no one has seen God, if we live in such love with one another, God lives in us, is revealed in us, and his love comes to perfection in us. Again, how do we know we are abiding in this love? We know because God has given us his Spirit, which leads us to testify that the Father sent the Son to be the savior of the world. (Behind this confession lies the fundamental issue that had divided the churches, as the Gnostics did not believe Jesus to be a true human come to redeem humanity, but rather a divine spirit who came as a teacher of secret knowledge. As such he could not suffer, much less die, which is why the confessional material makes so much of his atoning sacrifice.) Now we hear the central theme of all of John’s theology: “God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them.” This kind of love makes us bold on the day of judgment because, like Jesus, we are “not of this world.” This kind of love not only makes us bold, when perfected, it drives out fear; it convinces us we have nothing to fear in the judgment. Moreover, this love does not come from us, but from God: we love because he first loved us. Finally, those who say they love God but hate their sisters and brothers are simply lying to themselves; for, how can we love someone we have not seen when we can’t love those whom we see? His commandment is this: love one another.

Jesus leaves Nazareth and makes the two-day journey to Capernaum, a vibrant fishing village on the Sea of Galilee, which will become his new home and base of operations. On the following sabbath, he is again in the synagogue, as was his custom, and he is teaching. Like those in Nazareth, the people of Capernaum are astonished at what they are hearing from him, and the authority with which he speaks. In the synagogue with them is a man possessed by an unclean spirit, who cries out with a voice loud enough for all to hear, “Let us alone! What have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebukes the man, but more, he not only silences the demon within him, but demands that the demon leave the man. The demon obeys, throwing the man to the floor but leaving him unharmed, as he departs. Everyone listening to Jesus has seen this and is amazed. They keep saying, “What kind of utterance is this? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out?” Little wonder then, that word about Jesus begins to spread throughout the region.

Posted April 21, 2015
Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday, April 20, 2015
Daniel 4:19-27; Psalm 124; 1 John 3:19-4:6; Luke 4:14-30

Daniel is severely distressed because he truly understands the meaning of the dream and is aware that kings do not take bad news lightly and are known to vent their anger on the messenger. The king senses this and, calling Daniel by his Chaldean name—Belteshazzar—tells him not to let the dream terrify him. Daniel responds with proper deference—“may the dream be for those who hate you”—and describes the dream in elaborate detail, complete with its interpretation. The king is going to be changed into an animal that is driven into and lives in the wild for seven years. He will be bathed with dew and his lot will be with the other wild animals. That is the end of the dream given to the king. It has been decreed by “the Most High” who has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and gives it to whom he wills. But, Daniel quickly adds, as it was commanded to let the stump remain, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom shall remain for him until the time when the king learns that Heaven is sovereign. Though Daniel does not say it, the implication is clear: it is time for Nebuchadnezzar to learn who truly is the Sovereign One. Daniel quickly turns from interpretation to preaching, telling the king to atone for his sins with righteousness and his iniquities with mercy to the oppressed (Daniel’s people), so that his prosperity may be prolonged.

Psalm 124 gives thanks for the Lord’s deliverance saying, “Had not the Lord been on our side—now let Israel say—had it not been the Lord who was with us when our enemies rose up against us, we would not have survived.” This is a communal psalm of thanksgiving following a war that was just barely won, in which Israel survived, in spite of its lack of strength or might, and now gives thanks where it understands thanks is due. The Lord is blessed for not giving them into the enemies’ teeth as prey. Israel escaped destruction as the bird escapes the fowler’s broken snare. The psalm ends with the theme recurrent, not only in the psalms, but throughout the Bible: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” A paraphrase of this psalm was sung in Coventry Cathedral in England, at the conclusion of World War II, as recognition of the country’s own deliverance.

How will we know that God abides in us? When we put our love for one another into action—this is how we will know that we are from the truth, and it will not only assure us that God abides in us, but also reassure us before God—even when our hearts condemn us! For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. If our hearts do not condemn us, then we have boldness before God and receive from God whatever we rightfully ask, because we obey his commandments, and, thus, please him. John would not say that such pleasing behavior earns us these gifts, but rather, it puts us into a relationship with God in which we can receive God’s good pleasure. The commandment to love is expanded to believe in Jesus and take him at his word, just as he has commanded. Scholars point out that, in the Greek text, the word “in” is missing, but has been included here because John regularly speaks of “believing in” Jesus. If that is the case, the meaning of the sentence shifts from “believing in” to simply “believing” Jesus—taking him at his word. That is enough. All those who believe him and obey his word truly abide in him, and he in them. Such believing obedience results in a time when we finally know that God abides in us, because of the Spirit that God has given to us. But, we must beware; not every spirit in the world is the Holy Spirit. They must be tested to ensure that they are from God. How do we know? The test is the spirit’s ability to confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh from God—the issue the Gnostics were contesting. If the spirits can so confess, they are from God. If not; the spirits are the antichrist, the one they have heard is coming into the world. Again, invoking his term of endearment, John tells them they are not to fear, for the One who is in them is greater than the one who is in the world. For, they are not of the world, but are from God, know God, listen to God, and, from this, they know the Spirit of truth and can tell it from the spirit of deception and error.

Jesus has begun teaching in the synagogues in Galilee, and Luke records for us Jesus’ inaugural sermon in the synagogue where Jesus worshipped when growing up in Nazareth. Jesus has returned home, and on the sabbath, as was Jesus’ custom, he goes to the synagogue where they give him the scroll of Isaiah to read. (What Luke reports is a combination of Isaiah 58:6 and 61:1-2.) After reading the text, Jesus rolls up the scroll, gives it to the attendant, sits down and begins to teach, saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your own hearing.” Those in the synagogue are pleased with his gracious words, but also wonder, “Is this not Joseph’s son?” Recognizing their doubt, Jesus quotes an aphorism that, in effect says, “Show us!” and reminds them that no prophet in Israel has ever been accepted among his own people, why should things be different here? But, he tells them, like Elijah and Elisha before him, he and his message, is being sent not to them, but to those on the margins of life. When those in the synagogue hear this, they take great offense, are filled with rage, and rise up to take him out to the edge of town, to the brow of the hill, in order to throw him off its cliff and then stone him. Somehow, Jesus simply passes through all of them and continues on his way. It is not yet time for this prophet sent to Israel to die. There are others in the land who need to hear what it is he has to say on God’s behalf—especially in Jerusalem.

Posted April 20, 2015
Sunday, April 19, 2015

Readings for the Third Week of Easter

Sunday, April 19, 2015
Daniel 4:1-18; Psalm 136; 1 Peter 4:7-11; John 21:15-25

King Nebuchadnezzar has another dream that requires interpretation and none of the wise men, the magicians, seers, enchanters, or diviners of the land, can interpret it. Once again, the king must turn to Daniel, one of the Jews of the exile, to tell him its meaning. The story, which is cast in the form of an open letter to the nations, is about an episode of madness or exile of the king, and his ultimate restoration. It begins today with the king writing to “all nations, people and languages that live throughout the earth”—notice the sense of world domination—in order to bless them and confirm for them that he has come through a difficult time and is securely back on the throne. Consequently, it begins with a doxology, praising “the Most High God,” who has re-established Nebuchadnezzar who has now learned that this God is sovereign from generation to generation. In the dream, a great tree appears, grows into the heavens, expands in foliage and fruitfulness, providing food for all and shelter for all the animals of the field and the birds of the air. But then, a “holy watcher” appeared, an angelic being with a message from heaven: “Cut down the tree, chop off the branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit.” Leave only a stump with bands of iron and bronze about it. Leave it in the field, amid the tender grass, and let him (now the tree is personalized) bathe in the dew of heaven, taking its lot with the animals. Let his mind be changed to that of an animal until seven times (years) pass over him. The sentence is decreed by the watchers, a decision of the holy ones, in order that all who live—not just the king!—may know that “the Most High” is sovereign over the kingdom of mortals. It is this God who gives to whom he wills and “sets over it the lowliest of human beings.”

Psalm 136 proclaims that God’s goodness and steadfast love endures forever. This becomes the refrain in a litany of praise extoling God for both who God is and what God has done. The Lord is God of gods and Lord of lords, who alone does great wonders. God made the heavens and earth and all that is within them. God struck Egypt to bring Israel out from their enslavement, divided the Red Sea, made a path through it, overthrew and devoured Pharaoh in the sea, lead the people through the wilderness, struck down great kings and gave their land to Israel as a heritage. God remembered them, not only in prosperity, but also in their second bondage and again rescued them from their foes, probably a reference to the Babylonian exile. Citing the Lord as the source of sustenance to all people, the psalm ends with one more title for the Lord: the God of heaven (see Daniel 2:18, 19, 37, and 44) whose steadfast love endures forever.

The church to whom 1 Peter is written is expecting the imminent return of the Lord. In that context, its members are exhorted to be serious and discipline themselves spiritually. But notice the discipline: they are to maintain constant love for one another. Almost like a “throw away” we are told that “love covers a multitude of sins.” They are to maintain hospitality with one another without complaining. As good stewards of the grace that God has given them, those who speak among them are to do so as one “speaking the very words of God.” Those whose grace is service are to serve with the strength that God supplies. Through all of this, God is glorified through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter then ends this section with a doxology that is, in all probability, part of the church’s liturgy.

In the gospel of John, the disciples have returned to Galilee and have again taken up their fishing businesses. Jesus appears to them standing on the shore next to a charcoal fire, and they are reunited in this breakfast by the sea. Jesus now turns to Peter and asks, “Do you love me more than these?” Peters says, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus responds, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asks this of Peter two more times, giving Peter an opportunity to recover from his three denials at Jesus’ trial before the council. The third is a painful reminder for Peter, but with it, Jesus’ point has been made, and that incident placed securely in the past. Now, Jesus talks about Peter’s future, and it is not one Peter would choose, but one that will be chosen for him and lead him to martyrdom. “Peter,” says Jesus, “follow me all the way to the cross.” And, of course, Peter did. Peter turns and sees “the disciple whom Jesus loved” following them and asks, “Lord, what about him?” Scholars argue over the identity of this disciple; let us not get distracted with that question. Rather, Jesus simply says, “What is that to you? If it is my will that he remain until I return, what difference does that make with regard to my command that you follow me” to martyrdom? We then hear the editorial comment that, because Jesus had said this to Peter, a rumor arose that “the beloved disciple” would not die. The author—who identifies himself as the “beloved disciple”—clarifies that matter, and then concludes the gospel, reminding his readers that it has been written by an eye witness to all of these things. His testimony is true. Yet, this gospel does not include all that Jesus did and said. It is his supposition that if every one of those things were written down, “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

Posted April 19, 2015
Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015
Daniel 3:19-30; Psalm 149; 1 John 3:11-18; Luke 4:1-13

The three young men refuse to bow down to the golden idol King Nebuchadnezzar has set up, and the king flies into a rage demanding that the furnace fire be heated to seven times hotter than usual and that the three be bound hand and foot, in their clothing, and thrown into the fiery furnace. The fire is so hot that those who bind the three and throw them in are themselves killed by the heat. But the king is astonished. When he looks into the furnace, he sees not only the three unbound and unharmed, but a fourth man who “has the appearance of a god.” Nebuchadnezzar approaches the furnace and demands that the three young men, who he now addresses as “Servants of the Most High God,” come out. The three do, and all of the king’s officials who have gathered are witnesses to the fact that the fire had no power over the men; the hair of their heads was not even singed. Nebuchadnezzar then blesses the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who he recognizes has sent an angel to protect and deliver them. They disobeyed the king’s command “and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” (Here is the center and the point of the story as it is being repeated in a time when Jews are being commanded to worship the Greek gods.) The king now issues a decree: any people, nation or language (note the expansiveness to the tale) that utters blasphemy against the God of the three young men, shall be “torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruin.” The king now confesses, “There is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” The tale ends with the promotion of the three men to higher ranks in the province of Babylon.

Psalm 149 is another “Hallelujah” psalm that calls on the assembly to “sing to the Lord a new song.” Employing Hebrew parallelisms, Israel is called to be glad in its maker, while the children of Zion are to rejoice in God their king, making melody with tambourine and lyre, and praising him with dancing. The Lord takes pleasure in his people, adorning the humble with victory. Let the high praises of God be in their throats as the two-edged battle sword is in their hands, executing God’s vengeance against their enemies, binding the defeated king in fetters and that king’s nobles in chains. This is less the people’s doing than judgment decreed by the Lord. It is glory for all of God’s faithful and ends as it begins, with a Hallelujah—“praise the Lord!”

The evangelist John continues to work with the commandment to love one another. We are not to be like Cain—who was from the evil one—who rose up and killed his brother Abel, because Cain saw that Abel was righteous. So, too, they are not to be surprised that the world hates them because of their own righteousness. They have passed from death to life, because they do love one another. Love is the litmus test. Whoever does not love abides in death. Any who hate a brother or sister are murderers just as Cain was a murderer, and they have no life in them. The true witness to love is that Jesus laid down his life for us. Therefore, we ought to lay down our lives for one another. So far, the focus here has been on how anger in a church conflict can turn to hatred. The evangelist is warning the congregation that they must not let the conflict that divided them escalate into hatred of those who have left. But now, he turns the corner on love and asks how God’s love can abide in someone who has the world’s goods and sees a sister or brother in need and does not help. It is not enough to love in word or speech. We must love in truth and action. Here—with love in action—is how we will know that we are from the truth and it will reassure us before God—even when our hearts condemn us. But more, God is greater than our hearts and knows everything. If our hearts do not condemn us, then we have boldness before God and we receive from God whatever we rightfully ask. John would not say that obeying God’s commandments earns us these gifts, but rather, doing so puts us into a relationship with God in which we can receive God’s good pleasure. The commandment to love is expanded to believe in Jesus and take him at his word, just as he has commanded. Scholars point out that, in the original, the word “in” is missing so that the sentence shifts from “believing in” to simply “believing Jesus”—taking him at his word. All who believe and obey his word abide in him, and he in them. Finally, we will know that he abides in us because of the Spirit that he has given to us.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, is led by the Spirit into the wilderness where for forty days he is tempted by the devil. During that time, Jesus eats nothing. Consequently, when the days come to a conclusion, he is famished. It is then that the devil delivers these three most significant temptations. Jesus is famished. Will he use his power for his own need, to turn stones into bread? The devil uses the word “if” to mean “since you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” Can the Son of God be tempted? Jesus responds, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” (Deuteronomy 8:3) Thwarted, the devil “led him up in an instant” to show him the kingdoms of the world. The devil insists that all their glory and power have been given over to him to grant to any as he so chooses. (Really? Remember, the devil is a liar!) He will give it to Jesus, if Jesus will but worship him. Jesus responds, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” Jesus has quoted scripture twice to the devil to deflect the temptation, and so the devil now quotes scripture back to Jesus—proof-texting has its limits in the face of evil! Snatching Jesus up to the pinnacle of the temple he says to him, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Does Jesus believe scripture? Is he willing to stake his life on it? Jesus responds, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” It is not that Jesus does not believe and trust scripture; it is that he knows his primary allegiance must be, not to scripture as it is quoted to him, but in the Lord. It is something we need to remember whenever we find ourselves caught up in “battles over the Bible!” With that, the devil has done his best—he has even quoted scripture—but it has not been good enough. He departs from Jesus until an opportune time.

Posted April 18, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday, April 17, 2015
Daniel 3:1-18; Psalm 148; 1 John 3:1-10; Luke 3:15-22

Today’s lesson is as much satire that mocks kings who would be worshiped, as it is about God’s power to deliver. We read only the first half of the lesson today. King Nebuchadnezzar has built an enormous statue. A cubit was roughly three feet—you do the math! And presumably, it is a representation of the king as a god. Covered with gold, Nebuchadnezzar has the statue set up on the plain of Dura. Then, he calls together all of his functionaries—their number as ridiculous as that of the size of the statue. Hear the humor intended as they are named and then repeated; do the same for the list of musical instruments named in the musical ensemble that is to call the people to prayer before the idol. The author is having some good fun at the expense of kings and their functionaries. Once all the officials have gathered for the dedication, an official declares that, when the ensemble calls on them, they are to fall down and worship the statue the king has erected. Punishment for failure to do so is to be thrown immediately into a furnace of blazing fire. The first scene closes with the people being called by the ensemble and “all the peoples, nations and languages” falling down to worship the statue. Again, notice the gross exaggeration. Scene two opens with “certain Chaldeans” coming forward to denounce the Jews for refusing to bow down as the king has commanded—again, there is elaborate repetition. The Jews are named—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (noticeably, Daniel is absent here). Nebuchadnezzar erupts in royal rage and demands that the three be brought to him. As is typical in martyr stories, this gives opportunity for witness to the oppressor. The king asks them, “Is it true?” but adds not only that they have failed to bow down to the statue, more, they do not worship the king’s gods. The three confirm that, indeed, it is true. The king gives them one last chance: if they are ready to bow down when the ensemble gives the sign, well and good. Otherwise, they shall immediately be thrown into “the furnace of blazing fire.” And now the center of the story emerges as the king asks, “And who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” The three respond that they don’t know if their God will deliver them or not. If he is able, let him do so, but regardless, the three will not serve the king’s gods or worship the golden statue.

Psalm 148 calls upon all creation—the sun, moon, stars, highest heavens and waters above the heavens—to shout, “Hallelujah!”—“Praise the Lord!” The Lord commanded and each was created. Sea monsters and all deeps (the place of chaos), fire, hail, snow, frost and stormy wind are not blights of nature, but actually agents that fulfill God’s commands. The Lord is sovereign over all. Mountains and hills, fruit trees and cedars, wild animals and all cattle, things that creep and things that fly, kings of the earth and all their people, young men and women alike, old and young together, are to praise the name of the Lord, for the Lord’s name alone is to be exalted. God’s glory (presence and power) are above both earth and heaven. Finally, all are to shout “Hallelujah” because the Lord has “raised up a horn for his people” (the horn a symbol of deliverance and strength that is often used to speak of Israel’s kings). But now, the dignity, honor, and praise due the king are given not to the king, but to the people of Israel who are close to the Lord. Hallelujah!

God’s love given to us is revealed in the fact that we are called God’s children; and indeed we are. Repeating words we heard from Jesus in John 17, the readers are reminded that the reason the world does not know them as God’s children is because the world did not know Jesus, God’s son. He goes on to remind them that, if they are God’s children now, what they shall ultimately be is yet to be revealed. This probably witnesses to one of the points of division in the community that caused the others to leave; if that group were Gnostics, then this may be about the notion of the resurrection of the body. What they do need to know is that when the risen Lord is revealed, they will be just like him. Those who hold onto this hope purify themselves as Jesus is pure. That leads to talk about sin in a way that suggests more than just behavior that is unacceptable to believers. John has mentioned sin in chapter 2, but this seems to be sin of a different order—rejecting Christ himself. For now, the typology is either being a child of God or a child of the devil. Those who abide in Christ (notice same imagery Jesus uses in John 17), are children of God, while those who commit sin are children of the devil. In other words, one cannot abide in Christ and set forth to intentionally sin. That behavior is of the devil. The Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil. Those who abide in the Son cannot sin because God’s seed (Jesus) abides in them. In this way, the children of God and the children of the devil are revealed. All who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.

John’s appearance, preaching and baptizing, has filled the people with the expectation that he is the coming Messiah. Remember, that in the day this gospel was first written, John had as significant a religious following as Jesus, and there was debate between the two communities over who was superior. Though all the gospel writers present John as the forerunner, with John himself clearly denying that he is the “coming one,” Luke presents his story in such a way that John has already been arrested by Herod when Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized. John baptizes with water, but one more powerful than John is coming. John is not worthy to even serve as his slave and untie the thongs of his sandals. This coming one will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. With clear references to coming judgment, John portrays the “coming one” in fearful terms: winnowing fork in hand to separate the wheat from the chaff, gathering the wheat into his granary, but burning the chaff, not simply with fire, but fire that is unquenchable! Then, with two verses about Herod imprisoning John because John had publically challenged Herod for marrying his brother’s wife, Luke takes John off the scene. Only now does Luke tell us that Jesus was baptized with all the other people. And is it as Jesus comes up out of the water, or thereafter, when he is in prayer, that the descent of the Spirit takes place? Luke regularly uses times of prayer as moments of revelation. If so, it is an additional way of distancing John and assuring his ministry as one of preparation for Jesus’ more important one. Regardless, Luke tells us that, after his baptism, while Jesus is in prayer, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon him and the voice from heaven speaks to him, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” He has been anointed for his ministry as the Anointed One—the Messiah.

Posted April 17, 2015
The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson

Author: The Rev. Dr.       Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012

The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.

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