Welcome to Friday on Sunday. Got a post to catch up on, so let’s check out Matthew 14. It’s one of the three chapters in Matthew that gives the story of John the Baptist. He first arrived on the scene in chapter 3, and in chapter 11 Herod imprisons him, though I kinda skipped over that because I had a single verse to focus on, to the omission of everything else in the chapter. But we’re not skipping over John the Baptist today, because Matthew 14 is the chapter where he dies. Spoiler warning, John the Baptist dies.
Around the time we started Luke, in celebration of the Christmas season, we also read through the nativity narrative in Matthew. Now we’re coming back to Matthew to finish what we started, and the third chapter here is basically everything Matthew has to say about John the Baptist’s ministry. We won’t see John the Baptist again until chapter 11, where we find him in prison, and again in chapter 14 for the events leading up to his execution at Herod’s hands. But today it’s the John’s Ministry Chapter, all the time JTB.
If the gospel of Luke were a comic book, you’d read the story of twelve-year-old Jesus getting lost in Jerusalem, you’d turn the page, and you’d see a huge establishing shot of the wilderness with John the Baptist. The narrative box would read, “Twenty years later…”, there’d be a bunch of John-the-Baptist stuff, and you wouldn’t see Jesus again for like six pages. I’d love to see how Cartoonist Luke would illustrate the genealogy that concludes the chapter, but the point remains: in the early chapters, Luke’s book about Jesus features Jesus less prominently than you might expect.
Welcome to the gospel according to John the Baptist.
Jesus’ arrival is mad good news for John. As he’s baptizing, he sees Jesus coming and says, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (1:29). As a Jew speaking to Jews, John is making a reference to the Passover lamb, sacrificed every year to commemorate the Exodus. When God killed the firstborn of every Egyptian, he spared the Jews because of the sign of lamb’s blood that they applied to their doorposts. John uses the lamb as a metaphor for Jesus’ own sacrifice, suggesting that those who count on Jesus’ blood to cover them will be spared from God’s wrath. John the Baptist has been critical of both the ruling Roman state and his Jewish countrymen; he knows the world’s neck-deep in its own sin, so the news that Jesus will take away its sin is good news indeed.
Welcome to Luke. The first mention of the gospel comes as the coda to a passage of John the Baptist’s preaching: “So with many other exhortations he preached the gospel to the people” (18). His preaching, however, is hardly a message of comfort and consolation. He calls his audience a “brood of vipers,” (7) tells them that the axe is at the root of the trees (9), ready to cut down those that don’t bear fruit, and warns that the coming Messiah will separate the wheat from the chaff and burn up the chaff (17). Good news, judgment is at hand!
Today’s passage: Mark 1:14-15 Today’s passage immediately follows Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and his 40-day temptation in the wilderness by Satan. It’s short enough that we might as well paste it here in its entirety: Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and […]
Today’s passages: Mark 1:1-8, Malachi 3:1-7, Isaiah 40:3-11 The word ‘gospel’ appears no more than five words into Mark’s account, which opens with: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (v.1). Right from the outset, Mark tells us that the gospel is Jesus Christ’s. It’s from him and belongs to him, as […]