Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1-17. This week both lectionaries take us to this text. The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) focuses on verses 13-17 and the Narrative Lectionary (NL) looks at verses 1-17.

This is the moment when Jesus’ active ministry begins. Matthew chapters 1-2 gave us Matthew’s version of Jesus’ backstory. Now it is time to meet the man himself.

Scroll down to see my commentary.

These images come from page 3 in A Cartoonist’s Guide to Matthew.

Preview PowerPoint

This PowerPoint contains the texts for both lectionaries this week.

Feel free to use any or all of these slides and images in your own preaching and teaching.

Visual Commentary

Text Compared

This image offers a comparison between Matthew’s version of this story and Luke’s version of it. Noticing the uniqueness of each Gospel’s account gives us clues to Matthew’s theological lens.

Matthew 3:1-12

 These images offer a breakdown of John’s exchange with the Pharisees.

The word repent is the Greek word metanoia. It means to change one’s perspective. We can only see the Kingdom of Heaven if we have eyes to see it and ears to hear it. It is at hand. It is the way of God in the world, and always has been. That is what Jesus will demonstrate. John is paving the way and speaking in the language and style of the Hebrew prophets.

It seems that the people were ready for a change. Baptism by water was a Jewish practice of renewal. It was not a one-time event, but a ritual of purification.

The religious leaders claimed that it was their lineage from Abraham that made them righteous before God. This ethnic identity allowed them to draw hard boundaries between the Jews and the Gentile. This would be one of the key sticking points for the first church.

The original promise to Abraham was that God would bless his offspring to be a blessing to all nations, not to cut all nations off from God. John borrows a common image of Israel as a vineyard. The vineyard was planted to bear the fruit of God’s blessing to all nations. Vines that don’t bear fruit are dead wood and only useful to fuel the fire.

Jesus has come to prune the vineyard. The fire of truth will burn away the chaff and the water of the Spirit will cleanse, refresh, and empower the people to bear God’s fruit in the world.


Matthew 3:13-17

John shows his humility and acknowledges that Jesus is the promised one. Yet, Jesus submits to baptism. This is his anointing as the King. Here we see three persons. The first is the voice of God declaring Jesus to be the beloved son. This voice is revealed from behind skies that are opened. This is the transcendent God. The second is the physical human Jesus who is declared the Beloved Son of God. The third is the Spirit of God who Jesus’ sees as a dove that descends upon him. This is the first of many places in which the Divine is rendered in three distinct entities. It is from passages like this that the doctrine of the Trinity–One God in three persons–was officially developed in the Church. Download PowerPoint

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These sessions include:

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