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The Baptism of the Lord, Year C

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

Another element of this prophesy that’s sort of fascinating is the fact that this anointed servant brings the gospel, or brings the good news, to the Gentiles, right. Which, as we’ll see, a very important theme in the Gospel of Luke is the fact that the Gentiles are going to be saved along with Israel. You can see this, you might have missed it, but in verse four when it says, “the coastlands wait for his law.” The coastlands is always an image in the Old Testament for the Gentile peoples. You might remember in the Old Testament, for example, the Philistines, who were the pagan enemies of David, they lived on the coast of the holy land. So the coast and the sea, like Rome and Greece, those lands across the sea were always associated with the pagan peoples of the worlds. So when it says the coastlands wait for the Torah, the law of the servant, what Isaiah is describing here is a new Torah, a new law.  It is not going to be like the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses, the Torah of Moses, was just meant for the Jewish people, just meant for the people of Israel, the 12 tribes; but the law of the servant who is anointed with the Spirit is going to be for the Gentiles, and the Gentiles are waiting for that new law to come to them when the servant is finally anointed with the Spirit. And that's what it means when he says I've given you as “a light to the nations.” The nations there, the Hebrew word goyim is just another word for the Gentiles, for the pagans. They’re going to receive the light of the new law of the servant, who again, in light of other passages in Isaiah, can be interpreted as the Messiah.

So the reason the church picks this passage as background to the Baptism of Jesus is because Jesus is being revealed as the beloved, not just the Son, but the beloved servant of God, in whom God’s soul takes delight, upon whom the Spirit comes, and who will eventually bring this new law, this new light, not just to Israel but to the Gentiles as well. That's what he’s going to do, and the way you’ll know he's the servant — I almost missed this but it’s important — is through his miracles, right. He's going to open the eyes of the blind, he’s going to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon. That's exactly what Jesus is going to begin to do in his public ministry, open people's eyes to the truth of his new law, but also literally open their eyes through his healings, and his signs, and his wonders.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

However, I’d like to home in on the opening section of this passage and draw some of its implications out, because it’s one of those texts in the New Testament that is easily misunderstood and needs to be situated in context...and actually, it has some real implications not just for the Baptism of Jesus, but the sacrament that flows out of His Baptism in our Baptism, and whether it’s necessary for salvation or not.

So in Acts 10:34, that opening verse, Peter here says:

Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Now I have seen this verse used as a kind of biblical foundation for a kind of universalism. In other words, some people will point to this text and say, “See, look, all religions are equal really before God. God has no partiality to the Jewish people, for example, or to the Christian Church, for example. But everyone in any nation who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” So in other words, this can be used for a kind of universalism or relativism—or it’s sometimes called indifferentism, where you have an idea that all religions are basically created equal and none of them has any absolute claim to the fullness of truth and to an exclusive way of salvation.

Now, the only way to interpret that verse in that way is to rip it completely out of its context. So I want to look at what it actually means in context. So if you back up—you won’t see this in the lectionary for this week—but if you back up a few verses in Acts 10, the context of Peter’s statement here is the famous vision of the sheet that comes down from Heaven and the revelation to Peter by God, through the vision, that He has accepted the Gentile people...that salvation isn’t just for the Israelites, but that it’s for the Gentiles as well.

So if you might remember in Acts 10, a centurion—a Roman centurion, a pagan, Cornelius—has a dream where he’s told to seek out Simon Peter, who is one of the leaders of Jesus’ disciples. So while Simon Peter is there in Caesarea, he has a dream in which a sheet descends from Heaven with all kinds of animals on it, including some animals that were unclean—so for example, lizards were considered unclean. I don’t know why you would want to eat one anyway, but they were considered unclean so they were forbidden to the Jews.

And in the vision, God says to Peter, “Rise, kill, and eat.” And Peter says, “Well, I’ve never eaten anything unclean.” And then the vision comes again. It happens three times. God tells him, “Rise, kill, and eat.” And the explanation of the vision is given to Peter, and what God says here is in chapter 10:15:

“What God has cleansed, you must not call common.”

And then the sheet is taken up into Heaven. Now what does that mean? What it means is this...that when Jesus goes to the cross, He doesn’t just die for the sins of Israel. He dies for the sins of all humanity. In other words, through His passion and death, all of humanity is cleansed of sin. All of humanity is offered the gift of redemption. And so the vision of the sheet is given to Peter to show him that there’s no longer clean and unclean, there’s no longer a division between Israel and the Gentiles...but God has, so to speak, cleansed the Gentile peoples through the death of Jesus, and therefore, the door is now open for them to come into communion with the beginning of the new Israel, which is represented by Peter and the twelve apostles. And of course that’s going to happen primarily through them beginning to baptize Gentiles.

Up to this point, Peter has baptized thousands of people, but if you look at Acts, it’s very clear—these are all Jews who were going to Jerusalem for Pentecost. He hasn’t...they haven’t begun baptizing non-Jews. And so in Acts 10, God says, “No, the Gentiles are going to be included.” So it’s in that context that Peter says, in the wake of his vision:

Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

So who’s he talking about there? Well, he’s talking about Cornelius, who has come to faith in God and who is actually praying to not just any God, but the God of Israel, and to whom a vision from an angel comes and appears to him and says:

“Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God…go and seek out Simon Peter.”

Now as all of this is happening, once Peter finishes his speech, if you skip down to verse 44 in Acts, it says:

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

...so the centurion, Cornelius there, and the others with him…

And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So the context here—again, the lectionary doesn’t give you everything—but the context here isn’t just Peter pointing back to the Baptism of Jesus and talking about how that was the beginning of His public ministry. It’s also the moment when we have the first Baptism of the first Gentiles. Cornelius and his companions are baptized after God pours out the Holy Spirit upon them, and they begin to speak in tongues. They receive...in other words, they receive the same gift of the Holy Spirit—these pagans—that Peter and the apostles received at Pentecost.

Now I say they’re pagans, but they’re pagans by nationality but not by belief, because it tells us that Cornelius had already begun praying to the God of Israel—that the God of Israel heard his prayers. So there’s some context there too for you. So when Peter says:

...I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

What he’s not saying there is that if the Egyptian person worships their Egyptian gods, and the Greek person worships the Greek gods, and the Roman person worships the Roman gods, that they’re acceptable to God and they’re okay—that as long as they do that and they do what is right, they’re acceptable to Him. No, what he’s saying is, when a Gentile like Cornelius fears the God of Israel and prays to Him and does what is right, He is acceptable to God. And that’s why the vision came to Cornelius, to come to Peter and seek what? The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, which comes to him, above all, in Baptism.

So far from being a kind of text that can be used here to endorse a lax universalism that doesn’t have any vision of a Christian mission because everyone’s going to be saved through their different religions, Peter’s words here is saying, “We can’t keep the Gentiles from receiving Baptism, because those of them who fear God and who live according to the commandments, are acceptable to God. And they’re so acceptable that we have to bring the Good News of peace by Jesus Christ and offer to them the gift of Baptism, which will cleanse them from sin in the name of Jesus Christ.”

So, this is going to be the beginning of the Gentile mission. It’s very important. A lot of people think that Paul was the one who came up with the idea of baptizing the Gentiles and the door being open to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles being saved, and the Good News going to the Gentiles—not according to Acts. According to Acts, in Acts 9, Paul is still persecuting the Church. In Acts 10, it’s Peter who first opens the door of salvation, through Baptism, to the Gentiles.

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Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


***Subscribe or Login for Full Access.***

GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

Another element of this prophesy that’s sort of fascinating is the fact that this anointed servant brings the gospel, or brings the good news, to the Gentiles, right. Which, as we’ll see, a very important theme in the Gospel of Luke is the fact that the Gentiles are going to be saved along with Israel. You can see this, you might have missed it, but in verse four when it says, “the coastlands wait for his law.” The coastlands is always an image in the Old Testament for the Gentile peoples. You might remember in the Old Testament, for example, the Philistines, who were the pagan enemies of David, they lived on the coast of the holy land. So the coast and the sea, like Rome and Greece, those lands across the sea were always associated with the pagan peoples of the worlds. So when it says the coastlands wait for the Torah, the law of the servant, what Isaiah is describing here is a new Torah, a new law.  It is not going to be like the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses, the Torah of Moses, was just meant for the Jewish people, just meant for the people of Israel, the 12 tribes; but the law of the servant who is anointed with the Spirit is going to be for the Gentiles, and the Gentiles are waiting for that new law to come to them when the servant is finally anointed with the Spirit. And that's what it means when he says I've given you as “a light to the nations.” The nations there, the Hebrew word goyim is just another word for the Gentiles, for the pagans. They’re going to receive the light of the new law of the servant, who again, in light of other passages in Isaiah, can be interpreted as the Messiah.

So the reason the church picks this passage as background to the Baptism of Jesus is because Jesus is being revealed as the beloved, not just the Son, but the beloved servant of God, in whom God’s soul takes delight, upon whom the Spirit comes, and who will eventually bring this new law, this new light, not just to Israel but to the Gentiles as well. That's what he’s going to do, and the way you’ll know he's the servant — I almost missed this but it’s important — is through his miracles, right. He's going to open the eyes of the blind, he’s going to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon. That's exactly what Jesus is going to begin to do in his public ministry, open people's eyes to the truth of his new law, but also literally open their eyes through his healings, and his signs, and his wonders.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

However, I’d like to home in on the opening section of this passage and draw some of its implications out, because it’s one of those texts in the New Testament that is easily misunderstood and needs to be situated in context...and actually, it has some real implications not just for the Baptism of Jesus, but the sacrament that flows out of His Baptism in our Baptism, and whether it’s necessary for salvation or not.

So in Acts 10:34, that opening verse, Peter here says:

Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Now I have seen this verse used as a kind of biblical foundation for a kind of universalism. In other words, some people will point to this text and say, “See, look, all religions are equal really before God. God has no partiality to the Jewish people, for example, or to the Christian Church, for example. But everyone in any nation who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” So in other words, this can be used for a kind of universalism or relativism—or it’s sometimes called indifferentism, where you have an idea that all religions are basically created equal and none of them has any absolute claim to the fullness of truth and to an exclusive way of salvation.

Now, the only way to interpret that verse in that way is to rip it completely out of its context. So I want to look at what it actually means in context. So if you back up—you won’t see this in the lectionary for this week—but if you back up a few verses in Acts 10, the context of Peter’s statement here is the famous vision of the sheet that comes down from Heaven and the revelation to Peter by God, through the vision, that He has accepted the Gentile people...that salvation isn’t just for the Israelites, but that it’s for the Gentiles as well.

So if you might remember in Acts 10, a centurion—a Roman centurion, a pagan, Cornelius—has a dream where he’s told to seek out Simon Peter, who is one of the leaders of Jesus’ disciples. So while Simon Peter is there in Caesarea, he has a dream in which a sheet descends from Heaven with all kinds of animals on it, including some animals that were unclean—so for example, lizards were considered unclean. I don’t know why you would want to eat one anyway, but they were considered unclean so they were forbidden to the Jews.

And in the vision, God says to Peter, “Rise, kill, and eat.” And Peter says, “Well, I’ve never eaten anything unclean.” And then the vision comes again. It happens three times. God tells him, “Rise, kill, and eat.” And the explanation of the vision is given to Peter, and what God says here is in chapter 10:15:

“What God has cleansed, you must not call common.”

And then the sheet is taken up into Heaven. Now what does that mean? What it means is this...that when Jesus goes to the cross, He doesn’t just die for the sins of Israel. He dies for the sins of all humanity. In other words, through His passion and death, all of humanity is cleansed of sin. All of humanity is offered the gift of redemption. And so the vision of the sheet is given to Peter to show him that there’s no longer clean and unclean, there’s no longer a division between Israel and the Gentiles...but God has, so to speak, cleansed the Gentile peoples through the death of Jesus, and therefore, the door is now open for them to come into communion with the beginning of the new Israel, which is represented by Peter and the twelve apostles. And of course that’s going to happen primarily through them beginning to baptize Gentiles.

Up to this point, Peter has baptized thousands of people, but if you look at Acts, it’s very clear—these are all Jews who were going to Jerusalem for Pentecost. He hasn’t...they haven’t begun baptizing non-Jews. And so in Acts 10, God says, “No, the Gentiles are going to be included.” So it’s in that context that Peter says, in the wake of his vision:

Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

So who’s he talking about there? Well, he’s talking about Cornelius, who has come to faith in God and who is actually praying to not just any God, but the God of Israel, and to whom a vision from an angel comes and appears to him and says:

“Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God…go and seek out Simon Peter.”

Now as all of this is happening, once Peter finishes his speech, if you skip down to verse 44 in Acts, it says:

While Peter was still saying this, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.

...so the centurion, Cornelius there, and the others with him…

And the believers from among the circumcised who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can any one forbid water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

So the context here—again, the lectionary doesn’t give you everything—but the context here isn’t just Peter pointing back to the Baptism of Jesus and talking about how that was the beginning of His public ministry. It’s also the moment when we have the first Baptism of the first Gentiles. Cornelius and his companions are baptized after God pours out the Holy Spirit upon them, and they begin to speak in tongues. They receive...in other words, they receive the same gift of the Holy Spirit—these pagans—that Peter and the apostles received at Pentecost.

Now I say they’re pagans, but they’re pagans by nationality but not by belief, because it tells us that Cornelius had already begun praying to the God of Israel—that the God of Israel heard his prayers. So there’s some context there too for you. So when Peter says:

...I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

What he’s not saying there is that if the Egyptian person worships their Egyptian gods, and the Greek person worships the Greek gods, and the Roman person worships the Roman gods, that they’re acceptable to God and they’re okay—that as long as they do that and they do what is right, they’re acceptable to Him. No, what he’s saying is, when a Gentile like Cornelius fears the God of Israel and prays to Him and does what is right, He is acceptable to God. And that’s why the vision came to Cornelius, to come to Peter and seek what? The gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, which comes to him, above all, in Baptism.

So far from being a kind of text that can be used here to endorse a lax universalism that doesn’t have any vision of a Christian mission because everyone’s going to be saved through their different religions, Peter’s words here is saying, “We can’t keep the Gentiles from receiving Baptism, because those of them who fear God and who live according to the commandments, are acceptable to God. And they’re so acceptable that we have to bring the Good News of peace by Jesus Christ and offer to them the gift of Baptism, which will cleanse them from sin in the name of Jesus Christ.”

So, this is going to be the beginning of the Gentile mission. It’s very important. A lot of people think that Paul was the one who came up with the idea of baptizing the Gentiles and the door being open to the Gentiles, and the Gentiles being saved, and the Good News going to the Gentiles—not according to Acts. According to Acts, in Acts 9, Paul is still persecuting the Church. In Acts 10, it’s Peter who first opens the door of salvation, through Baptism, to the Gentiles.

For full access subscribe here >

 



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