Matthew 3: 13 – 17

It appears I should have left my complaint about silly language for this post because there’s the first actual conversation and it has Jesus’s first words spoken in Matthew. Here’s the NIV version:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”

John the Baptist’s question is worded a little incongruously, but Jesus’s reply has an idiom that no English speaker would use, so there’s no way in the world this is a verbatim quote of what he actually said. A Christian cannot seriously debate these words as the actual words that Jesus spoke. To do so is being dishonest to the reality of how we speak.

But enough about silly speech translated from 2000 year old texts. Before I went down this side-street about the unrealistic way biblical characters talk I’d intended to write about the gap of several decades between Matthew 2 and 3.

The point to consider is where Matthew’s information is coming from. Based on what has been written about such as the supposed exact words spoken in conversation by angels or John the Baptist’s speech admonishing the Pharisees and Sadducees, then at least some of this information must have come from the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit as the ghostwriter this long gap in the story of Jesus’s life is quite incredible. You’ve got to wonder why the Holy Spirit would allow Matthew to pass over so many years. To be fair to Matthew none of the Gospels add much detail to the Jesus’s salad days, so it’s a question which plagues all the Gospels.

And it’s not only the silence from the Holy Spirit that is strange. Mary and Joseph both knew from the beginning that Jesus was the Messiah, and when I say knew I don’t mean they had a gut feeling about it. A virgin birth and multiple visitations by angels confirmed this for them. Then there are the earthy proofs that they could hear of such as Herod killing a couple of dozen children to try to eliminate Jesus. Yet they too made almost no record (that we know of) of what Jesus was like as an infant, a child and a young man. Add to that the other people in their circle who must have known that Jesus was special, and the gap is really weird. Did no one have anything of substance to say to the Four Evangelists, or was the information passed on but redacted? With an almost thirty year gap of silence no answer is plausible.

Surely as the the son of a god Jesus must have been special. The weird thing is that even in his ministry he was only special in the transitory miracles he performed. As far as we know he had no special knowledge of the natural world or of mechanics, for he gifted no scientific knowledge to the ages nor made any inventions. He really left no legacy that we can check up on. It would have been nice if he’d written some mathematical proofs that would take until some future generation to fathom, if he’d written about a verifiable feature of the natural world that no one in his time could have known about such as DNA, or maybe if he’d just written haiku, or even simply spoken it, in Japanese. Something special about him that would have taken until a more enlightened time to discern, and thus would have shown that he was the Son of God. Even Heracles got super strength.

But apart from being  precocious about ancient Jewish law, which is no more remarkable than a teenager making up his or her own set of rules for a fantasy football league, and despite having the mantle of the Messiah upon him since birth, as far as we know the young Jesus didn’t do anything worth writing home about. And so Matthew 3 begins with “In those day” as if we’ve just turned the page of one continuous story. Except we haven’t. What we have done is skipped over almost all of the short life of the most influential person who ever lived.

2 thoughts on “Matthew 3: 13 – 17

  1. vonleonhardt2

    The quote fits what we know from Josephus, in his history he paints John as refusing to baptise for repentance and only would baptise for righteousness sake (antiquities xvii, vii).

    Also, there is a book by a rabbi “a jew listens to Jesus” or something similar that I don’t have on hand… Of course great source right?
    Anyways his point is Jesus on the law is not particularly novel most the time.

    Reply

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