Weekly Meditation: 8th January 2017
There are different faces of God revealed in today’s readings, and in Matthew’s gospel the three persons of the Trinity come together at the baptism of Jesus, as his ministry begins.
There is the awesome Old Testament God, portrayed in Psalm 29, whose voice roars across creation. This is not the Father, however. It is the one who moved over the surface of the waters at the very beginning – the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:1-2). We meet him in the Psalm, thundering over the waters, majestic and powerful (29:3-4). He breaks the cedars, shakes the desert and strikes with lightning (29:5-8), but he gives strength to his people and blesses them with peace (29:11). And at Jesus’ baptism he appears as a dove (Matthew 3:16), come to strengthen and bless the Christ.
The prophet Isaiah reveals the Servant, the Messiah (42:1-4). Endowed with God’s Spirit, he comes in power, equipped to ‘bring justice to the nations’ (42:1). Yet he is gentle, neither raising his voice nor treading carelessly (42:2-3), and although his work is to ‘establish justice on earth’, he has also come to open blind eyes, to free captives and to be a light for the Gentiles and to those sitting in darkness (42:4, 6-7). At his baptism, Jesus – the Servant-Messiah – presented himself to do God’s will. God’s glory would be revealed in the work of the Servant, but God could say ‘I will not give my glory to another’, in acknowledgment that he and the Son are one (42:8).
When Jesus began his ministry, he was baptised by John as a demonstration that in him Isaiah’s words were fulfilled – here was God’s servant, chosen and upheld by him (Isaiah 42:1a), come ‘to fulfil all righteousness’ (Matthew 3:15). The promised Holy Spirit descended on Jesus as he came out of the water (Isaiah 42:1b; Matthew 3:16), and the Father spoke from heaven, acknowledging his Son and declaring his delight in him (Isaiah 42:1a; Matthew 3:17). Jesus’ ministry was to bring light and salvation into the world, a work in which all the persons of the Godhead were involved. Equipped in this extraordinary way, Jesus lived a life that revealed God’s love to a sinful world. He demonstrated God’s power by healing the sick, feeding the hungry, raising the dead. He proved God’s love by his teaching, and he reconciled sinful humans to God by dying for them. Through Jesus, God’s light shone out to all who sought him.
This light, which was also for the nations, shone first on a Gentile called Cornelius. The story of his coming to faith in Christ is told in Acts 10. In this account, the gospel of Christ – related by Peter (10:36-43) – and the action of the Holy Spirit, bring about Cornelius’ conversion. This is the beginning of the work of reaching the Gentiles with the gospel, which was to spread throughout the world, like a light reaching into dark corners and dispelling the shadows of ignorance and sin.