Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Pope’s Jesus 2

posted by xscot mcknight

In his Introduction, Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes Jesus unmediated contact with the Father, and this will emerge throughout his Jesus of Nazareth. Our concern today is his treatment of the baptism of Jesus (chp 1).
The choice to be baptized is understood as “an expression of an unrestricted Yes to God’s will, as an obedient acceptance of his yoke” (17). Taking on a recapitulation theory for Jesus’ mission, he says this: “Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan” (18). Thus, the Baptism — and many have said this, but very few historical Jesus scholars say it today — “is an anticipation of the Cross.”
For our part: “To accept the invitation to be baptized now means to go to the place of Jesus’ Baptism. It is to go where he identifies himself with us and to receive there our identification with him” (18).
He explores biblical texts and has a nice little survey of the Lamb of God theme.

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posted May 29, 2007 at 6:27 am

I think we could say literally that Jesus’ whole life was in anticipation for the cross.
I think more along the lines of Titus 3:5 and his baptism being symbolic of a washing of rebirth.

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John W Frye

posted May 29, 2007 at 6:52 am

Does the Pope link Jesus’ baptism with the descent of the Spirit empowering Jesus for his vocation? I liked what you taught in *The Jesus Creed* that Jesus substitutes, represents and calls us to participate in his baptism experience.

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posted May 29, 2007 at 8:01 am

If we read, “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased,” as an allusion to Psalm 2:7 or to Isaiah 42:1b, (and why not?) then we have to do here with the appointment of a mission in history. It is the call to a task. Jesus is commissioned to be, in history, in Palestine, the messianic son and servant, the bringer of goodwill and the promise of God. Immediately after Jesus’ baptism this mission is further defined by the testing. “Son of God” cannot have pointed to the ontological coessentiality of the Son with the Father. I’ve always thought the title is meant messisanically and not metaphysically.

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posted May 29, 2007 at 9:29 am

I would agree that baptism implies the cross, in terms of a willingness to do God’s will regardless of the cost. But what are the crosses in our lives? Is a cross something you willingly take on to serve God or something you bear, such as an illness that afflicts you but you have no choice over?

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Michael Barber

posted May 29, 2007 at 1:28 pm

The Pope writes: “A broad current of liberal scholarship has interpreted Jesus’ Baptism as a vocational experience. After having led a perfectly normal life in the province of Galilee, at the moment of his Baptism he is said to have had an earth-shattering experience. It was then, we are told, that he became aware of his special relationship to God and his religious mission. This mission, moreover, supposedly originated from the expectation motif then dominant in Israel, creatively reshaped by John, and from the emotional upheaval that the event of his Baptism brought about in Jesus’ life. But none of this can be found in the texts. However much scholarly erudition goes into the presentation of this reading, it has to be seen as more akin to a ‘Jesus novel’ than as an actual interpretation of the texts. The texts [of the Baptism account] give us no window into Jesus’ innner life–Jesus stands above our psychologizing (Guardini, Das Wesen des Christentums). But they do enable us to ascertain how Jesus is connected with ‘Moses and the Prophets': they do enable us to recognize the intrinsic unity of the trajectory stretching from the first moment of his life to the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus does not appear in the role of a human genius subject to emotional ubpheavals, who sometimes fails and sometimes succeeds… he stands before us as the ‘beloved Son.’ He is, on one hand, the Wholly Other, but by the same token he can also become a contemporary of us all, ‘more interior’ to each one of us ‘than we are to ourselves’ (St. Augustine, Confessions, III, 6, 11)
(Jesus of Nazareth, 23-24).

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posted May 29, 2007 at 2:25 pm

I agree with WJY (#3) – I’m just wondering here but isn’t asking the question ‘why did Jesus choose to be baptized’ (which is the implied question being discussed I think) – isn’t this asking the wrong question of the text? I’m wondering if the gospel writers would have thought of us asking that question. For me the issue revolves around his commission – if anything it looks like God is anointing Jesus as the promised king of Psalm 2.

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posted May 29, 2007 at 3:35 pm

Actually, in the text, in response to comments 1, 4, and 6 so far, Ratzinger points out that Jesus’ life was really for death and that in His baptism, Jesus takes on the Mantel of Sin to prepare for His death on the Cross. He compares the immersion in the river as immersion into death and foreshadowing Jesus’ descent into Hell to take the keys of death from Satan. An amazing baptismal theology that I had no idea I would agree so wholeheartedly with (see Paul’s writings in Romans 6 and others on being baptized into the death of Christ and rising into new life in Him).
Fascinating reading so far, and I’m far from the point where I can make a coherent argument, but it seems that Ratzinger is mainly right on the money with the personhood of Jesus Christ (I’m only into chapter 2). I’m also really looking forward to Book 2, providing Ratzinger publishes it).
This book actually has gone well, believe it or not, by reading Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis directly preceding it. Bell and Ratzinger point out many of the same things and the same implications. Bell is more personal, yet historical and contemporary. Ratzinger is more theological, yet historical and contemporary, as well. Who knew an Emergent guy and the Catholic Pope went so well together? Like steak and potatoes, complimenting each other by being part of the same meal, but both being very different contributions to the nutrition of the person eating. (So far…)

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posted May 29, 2007 at 4:56 pm

I just rec’d this book after my trip to Korea. I’m glad i can read it along with you and other readers.

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bob (baruch)

posted May 29, 2007 at 7:27 pm

Stephen (number 6) commented: “…I’m just wondering here but isn’t asking the question ‘why did Jesus choose to be baptized’ … – isn’t this asking the wrong question of the text?…”
Consider that John, in effect, asked the very question when he said “I should be baptised by you!” before finally consenting to baptise Jesus.

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posted May 29, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Michael B, given your interest in sacramental eschatology…what do you say to that passage you quoted?
BTW, as a dilettante, I really loved B16’s slap down of our psychologizing. I am thinking this could also be read as a critique of some historical Jesus scholars who claim Jesus was just some poor deluded wannabe prophet or something. Am I wrong to think that?

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posted May 30, 2007 at 1:10 am

Isn’t attaching Jesus’ baptism with the cross (too tightly) reading a bit of Pauline theology (Rom 6) back into the gospels? I can’t help shaking the feeling that the baptism accounts are actually far simpler in what they’re trying to convey (see my comment #6).

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posted May 30, 2007 at 2:56 am

Don’t know if you have the book but B16 asks the question because just prior to the account of Jesus’ Baptism, we are told confession of sins is a component of Baptism and because of John the Baptist’s own question to Jesus “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Mt 3:14).

Matthew goes on to report for us that “Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented” (Mt 3:15).
It is not easy to decode the sense of this enigmatic-sounding asnwer. At any rate, the Greek workd for “now” – a’rti – implies a certain reservation: This is a sepcific, temproary situation that calls for a specific way of actiing. The key to interpreting Jesus’ answer is how we understand the word righteousness. The whole of righteousness must be fulfilled. In Jesus’ world, righteousness is man’s answer to the Torah, acceptance of the whole of God’s will, the bearing of the “yoke of God’s kingdom,” as one formulation had it. There is no provision for John’s baptism in the Torah, but this reply of Jesus is his way of ackonwledging it as an expression of an unrestricted Yes to God’s will, as an obedient acceptance of his yoke.

He then continues to say Jesus baptism – which implies a confession of guilt and a plea for forgiveness in order to make a new beginning – this Yes to the entire will of God also expresses solidarity with men who have incurred guilt but yearn for righteousness but that the significance of this event could not fully emerge until seen in light of the Cross and Resurrection. Luke notes Jesus was praying while he received baptism – “in conversation with the Father” – and B16 says in the light of the Cross and Resurrection, people realised what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders and bore it down into the depths of the Jordan.

He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross…the fact that he bears “all righteousness,” first comes to light on the Cross: The Baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word baptism to refer to his death (cf Mk 10:38; Lk 12:50)

The Pope’s prose, even in translation, is wonderfully lucid and easy to read but at the same time, quite dense and a bit difficult to summarise.
I don’t think this is the only significance of Jesus’ Baptism given how the evangelists place the Baptism in their gospel rendition, but it is worthy of reflection.
Hope this helps.

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posted May 30, 2007 at 9:49 am

I would agree that the Cross may not be the only thing that Jesus’ baptism implies or foreshadows. There are things in the Scriptures that are fulfilled through this baptism, and in some sense, it is the beginning of His public ministry. But, by the same token, looking at the purpose of Christ’s ministry on earth, He was put here to die for us.
Everything else that Jesus did was good, for God can be only good, but it only matters that He gave us good words on how to live, how to interact with others, who God is because He died on the Cross. Many other men had come and have come preaching many of the same words, and yet we don’t follow them as Truth. But the fact that Jesus was God puts His words into proper perspective.
Everything Jesus did in life led up to and was preparing Him and us for the Cross.

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posted May 30, 2007 at 3:20 pm

“Ratzinger points out that Jesus’ life was really for death and that in His baptism, Jesus takes on the Mantel of Sin to prepare for His death on the Cross.” (#7)
But see Paul’s words: “Wherever we go we carry death with us in our body, the death that Jesus died, that in this body also life may reveal itself, the life that Jesus lives…for continually…we are being surrendered into the hands of death, for Jesus’sake, so that the life of Christ may also be revealed in this mortal body of ours. (II Cor 4:10f) Stirring words for the disciple as participant in Christ.
I’ve not read R.’s book but I seem to be hearing a high theology, a tendency both in the early church and in modern scholarship, to redefine Christ in some more “contemporary” meaning, less dependent on just who the crucified Jesus was. Thanks.

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posted May 30, 2007 at 3:47 pm

I see no problem looking at that verse in light of the quote from my post (#7). You have to remember that Jesus’ death is not the end of the story, but it is the point on which all of history is centered.
We are baptized into the death of Christ, but like Him on the third day, we are raised again into a new life with Him. We are called to live our life now because of the wonderful promises Christ made and we are in the Kingdom now. Of course, we look forward to the day the race is over, the end is here, and we enter into a life beyond our physical limitations.
Just don’t forget that if it weren’t for the crucified Jesus, there’d be no point to being Christian.
I guess more than that, I’m not sure what you are trying to point out. Paul’s words seem pretty clear.

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