So, my goal is to do the Bible study blog posts at least once a week, and ideally more. With all the craziness of still trying to unpack, this week I wasn’t able to do more.
The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus
The story this week seems pretty straightforward–it is, as the title suggests, about the baptism and temptation of Jesus. There aren’t a lot of differences between the translations that I looked at, so I won’t focus any time on that.
Basically, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. When he comes up out of the water, he sees heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
What does that mean? Did the sky open up? It is metaphorical? Did he actually see the Spirit, and was it actually in dove form? Or is that metaphorical too? Did anyone else see it?
On glancing through the other gospels, this story is actually told in all four gospels, which is incredibly rare, and probably points to its importance. John gives the most details, and says that John the Baptist saw the Holy Spirit descend out of the sky and was told ahead of time that whoever that happens to is the one who baptizes with the Spirit, and that’s how he knew that Jesus was the one.
I’m still not sure of the dove thing. I think it has some kind of symbolism, but I’m not well-versed enough in Bibleology to know that that symbolism is. (Anybody reading who’d like to elaborate… please do!)
And, back to the story, then a voice comes from heaven saying, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Presumably, that’s God. And I guess that helps other people understand what they saw (even if they left confused, it was clearly a monumental occasion.)
After that, the Spirit sends him out into the desert, where he hangs out for 40 days with wild animals, all the while getting tempted by Satan. Luke and Matthew give more details about what the temptations consisted of. John doesn’t talk about the temptation of Jesus. It doesn’t say in Mark, but in Matthew and Luke it is clear that he did not succumb to the temptations.
Once again, the question that I come away with is why is this passage important? Why does it matter that Jesus was baptized?
According to Wikipedia, there is some background of water purification rituals in the Jewish tradition, so baptism through water wasn’t a totally foreign concept to the Jews.
The question of baptism is one that I haven’t fully thought through or researched. Is baptism necessary for everyone? Was it necessary for Jesus? I know that my LDS baptism was a day of some significant spiritual experiences that I have had. But is baptism required for everyone? Does God care if we’re baptized? If so, why? (Note that I’m not making light of the question by being somewhat flippant, but just trying to flesh out my questions so that as I read more, I know what kinds of answers I’m looking for.) The fact that churches don’t agree on necessity, mode, or age of baptism makes me think that the whole issue isn’t totally clear. And if it isn’t made totally clear by the Bible, and according to most Christians that’s the Word we have to go on (excluding the LDS who believe in latter day prophecy which clears up a lot of the specific requirements for things like baptism), how important can it really be?
Then there is the spirit descending like a dove. I have no idea what that means.
And finally, the temptation. Why was Jesus tempted four 40 days? Is it one of those foreshadowing of things to come (since 40 is one of those Biblically significant numbers that perhaps doesn’t literally mean 40, it might mean that he was tempted for a long (infinite?) time, foreshadowing the infinite nature of the atonement)?
Also, and finally, I wonder what it is like to be ministered to by angels.
I realize as I’m reading and writing that my questions mostly revolve around ‘why was this put in the Bible’ and ‘why should I care’. It’s not because I’m a big cynic, but more that it seems like if this is the stuff that has stuck around, and is the stuff on which I should be basing my faith, what about it should be resonating with me, what about it is significant?