Baptism of Christ 13.1.13 Luke 3.15-17, 21-22

6 01 2013

Drama With John

This brief passage is full of energy and surprise.  There is fulfilment but also promise. We might wonder whether John’s words about Jesus are true to the Jesus reveled as Luke’s gospel unfolds. In these brief verses the fire seems to be all with John.  Jesus accepts his baptism, prays and is deeply affirmed.

Luke 3.15-22 [The verses in square brackets are excluded by the lectionary]

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River by John. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19But Herod the ruler, who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added to them all by shutting up John in prison.]

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’


To help give shape to the reflection here are three types of question: head questions, heart questions and hand questions. They are about our intellectual response, our emotional response and our practical or behavioural response. I hope that you will want to work at all three levels.

‘Head Questions’

  1. The noun ‘baptism’ and the verb ‘to baptize’ occur a lot here. What does the word mean?
  2. Why might people think John the Messiah?  What sort of Messiah would he have been?
  3. Why have the lectionary editors removed verses 18-20?

‘Heart Questions’

  1. Notice that expectant people ask big questions. Does this ring true to you?
  2. What emotions do you connect with John the Baptist?
  3. How does the word ‘beloved’ touch you?

‘Hand Questions’

  1. Are there questions floating around which only you can stand up and answer?
  2. Are you perhaps called to be a bit more Baptist-like in your life and ministry? When did you last use your winnowing-fork?
  3. The only thing Jesus does here is pray.  Does that affirm or challenge your own priorities and to-do lists?


These questions are intended to challenge you to engage more closely with the passage and to hear and feel what it has to say to you.  That’s more than a five-minute task. And so is the follow-up, working out what you might want to say to others as a result of engaging with the passage with head, heart and hands.  Take your time.