Here's this week's Bible study blog post for i.ucc:
Jesus’ baptism was an event. It was the event that inaugurated his ministry as an adult. It’s recorded in all four gospels, for (insert your chosen word here) sake!
But the description of Jesus baptism in this week’s Bible reading is a little bit . . . boring.
the heaven was opened, and 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.
It’s so . . . romantic. It feels so poetic.
Is it that way in all the gospels?
(Matthew 3:16b-17 NRSV) suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
That’s a little less airy. It still has some poetic feeling, (alighting? Come on!) but in this description everything happens suddenly. It’s a bit more action-packed. I wonder what it is like in John?
(John 1:32 NRSV) And John testified, "I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
A flashback, eh? That’s very mysterious or science-fictiony. The poetic-romantic stuff is still there, but it seems a bit clouded. I think that makes it more interesting.
But then there’s Mark. Now there’s a powerful description:
(Mark 1:10b-11 NRSV) he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
The heavens were torn apart! That image is astounding and memorable. It makes the voice coming from heaven seem to be louder and stronger. It makes the dove descending even less soft.
I’m biased. I like the earthy description of Jesus’ baptism more than any other. But I also recognize that the descriptions from the other gospels bring the scene to life for other readers.
Which of the four affects you the most? How? Why?