Matthew 3

Now there’s a point of view change. We are given a short biography of John the Baptist. I really liked the part where he says, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Note that this was about two thousand years ago. So people who say this now especially those who write this on a sign that they then strap to themselves might have some contextural problems. I mean if we have been saying the same thing for two thousand years, what’s the rush now? Also, we need to think about what “kingdom of heaven” means. It seems like some kind of kingdom is coming. To me, this suggests either an invasion or a regime change of some kind.

Also of interest is that this one of the only times the author describes one of the main characters. John is described as wearing camel’s hair and a leather girdle around his loins. I though that girdle was something you used to keep your stomache in. I would not want one around my loins. I especially would not like leather down there. It does not say what kind of leather. I’m hoping pig because I heard that this is softer than cow. I am wondering if this is allowed. I am assuming John is Jewish. Is pig leather kosher to wear?

Next John goes baptizing people in the Jordan River. I would love to have been there for two reasons:

1. I always take any religious initation of any kind as long as there is no obligation on me. I figure it’s better to cover all bases in cases of the divine.

2. I always wanted to see the Middle East. I think swimming in the ME would be great especially as they had virtually no pollution in those days so the river was crystal clear. Nearby in the region, most of the oil in the world is underground, and they don’t know it. Since in God’s revelation, he did not reveal auto design, I can conclude he does not want us to drive.

The modern river Jordan runs next to modern day Israel, Syrian, and Jordan and it flows into the Dead Sea. I wonder how close John was to the Dead Sea because I heard it is a great place to learn to swim as you can float without effort there due to the high salt content. This salt content is rising because all three countries are draining the water before it gets to the Dead Sea. I predict if this goes on, the Dead Sea will not be a sea, but salt flats.

Back to John. He seemed to have baptized everyone even people he didn’t like. He did tell off the Pharisees and Sadducees while he was baptizing them. In fact, he gives them a long speach saying amoung other things that God can turn stones into “sons of Abraham”, Jews, I believe.

He says that trees that don’t bear fruit will be cut down. I believe this is important because it shows that in Christianity, there is a big sense of obligation. Contrast this to Taoism which speaks of the only tree that lives for a very long time is the one that is completely useless. So based on these quotes, out of context, in the East it’s better to be useless. In the West, it’s better to bear fruit. Or else. I prefer the East as I am a completely useless person.

Continuing to talk to the Pharisees and Sadducees, only, he tells them that the one who comes after John will baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire. Note, that he is only talking to these two groups not everyone. So people who say that God will baptize you with fire are mistaken unless you belong to one of the two above groups. I am not even Jewish so I don’t.

Note both Sadducess and Pharisees referred to leaders of Jewish groups that were around at the time. Sadducees are no more. The Pharisees have been re-established. Sadducees and Pharisees oppossed one another like Democrats and Republicans. Therefore, John did not agree that, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” He scorned both groups. There were other groups that John was not as upset about: the Essenes, the Zealots, and the Sicarii. The Essenes are cool because the name of a grocery store I go to is Essene and I wondered where that name came from. The Essenes didn’t waste their time with politics apparently. The Zealots and the Sicarii were revolutionary groups. They’d be seen as like the Weather Underground of the day.

To the two groups he does not like, John continues to say that He will gather wheat into his garner, but burn the chaff with “unquenchable” fire. This is interesting as people often think of chaff as sinners. I see it more as people who do not fulfill their obligations. In this chapter, John does not make these obligations clear. This is similar to the cutting down the barren tree analogy, however in this case, he says “unquenchable” fire. I am interested in the unquenchable part because if this is hell then that means it does not ever end. This is not the same as saying sinners sufferings are eternal, only that the torture chamber will live on. I would say that according to John, the suffering does not last forever since if we are burning chaff, we won’t burn forever. Actually, chaff burns up pretty fast which suggests a kind of quickie hell.

Finally, the chapter wraps up with Jesus going to John to be baptized. Note that Jesus was a baby in Chapter 2. Now he seems to be more of an adult. It does not say what age he is. So in this book what happened between infant and adult is not specified. To me, this suggests that:

1. There are chapters between two and three that are lost.

2. Matthew is not good with writing transitions.

Next, there’s a little back and forth between Jesus and John. John does not want to baptize Jesus because he does not feel worthy, while Jesus insists on it. So here’s a bit of humility on John’s part. When Jesus gets baptized things get interesting. “Jesus went up straightway out of the water”. I don’t get it. Is Jesus just walking out of the River Jordan or is he levitating?

“The heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God decending like a dove.” This line has been highly misinterpreted. First of all, it says, “he saw” not “peopel saw”. This means that this is a vision that only Jesus could see. This does not mean that everyone saw God come out of the sky. Also, it says “like a dove.” So God is not coming _as_ a dove, this just shows how God is coming down. That is, he is flapping his wings as he decends.

“And lo a voice from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son in whom I am pleased.”

Here is is not clear who was hearing this voice. It is strangely worded because it does not say who is speaking. It is clearly not God because he’s not in heaven anymore. He had all ready decended (like a dove). So here are the questions:

1. Who’s talking?

2. Who can hear it?

In this case, I feel that at least one other person than Jesus should be able to hear this because if the voice was only talking to Jesus it would say: _You_ are my beloved son.

Finally, the author neglects to show a reaction shot of who heard this. This is a missed opportunity to show the impact of such a huge statement. Since there is no reaction, I have no idea how to feel about this. I am guessing that this is a good thing, but what does it mean to the people of the time?

Chapter three is definitely one of the better chapters so far. The action moved quickly. There was some conflict between John and some political groups. He spoke truth to power calling them out for being vipers. On second thought, John does not forgive them nor does he say that they will be forgiven. This is interesting because I was taught that baptism forgives all sins. I was also taught that anyone who asked for forgiveness would be forgiven. This is clearly not true according to John. If John thinks you are a viper, he’ll baptize you, but you still need to face The Holy Spirit and fire. I think that this implies that the rest off us, non-vipers do not have to face that guy and hot stuff.

This leads to one more brain teaser. Since John is not around anymore, how do we know if we are a viper or not?


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