Gospel (C): Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

A Time For Quiet Realization

Has something of importance ever slipped by you unnoticed? When did you realize its importance? What did you do about it?

I don’t know about you. But I can only do one thing at a time. “Multi-tasking” is difficult for me. I stand in awe of people who can do more than one thing at a time.

When I am pressured and try to do more than one thing at the moment, I can get confused. These are the times I am vulnerable. Someone could approach me with a matter of importance, and I would treat it as trivial. I must admit I have made too many wrong decisions when important decisions needed to be made. Simply because I was distracted, confused.

If you are like me, then a time for reflection each day is a must. For, in reflection, we can see the gravity of events around us. And take action.

Jesus was no different. But his reflection came in times of prayer.

Popular Translation

15 The people who came to hear John preach waited for the Christ. Everyone there kept wondering, “Could John be the one God would sent?” 16 John answered that question when he said to them, “I baptize you with water. But someone will come who has more power than me. I am not worthy to untie the strap of his sandal. Unlike me, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire!”

21 At that time, John baptized everyone who came to him, including Jesus. After the baptism, Jesus was praying. Then, the heavens opened up, 22 the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven spoke: “You are the Son I love. I am very pleased with who you are and what you do.”

This gospel can be divided into two sections: John’s rejection of the title “Messiah” and the introduction of the real Messiah.

Literal Translation

15 As the people (in John’s audience) waited in expectation (in response to John’s message), and as all wondered in their hearts concerning John, if not he might be the Christ, 16 John answered, saying to everyone (there), “I baptize you with water, on the one hand. But, on the other hand, (he) comes, ONE mightier than I, WHOSE strap of (HIS) sandal I am not (worthy) enough to loosen on HIM. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

3:16 “whose strap of (his) sandal I am not (worthy) enough to loosen on him” While this clause is clumsy in English, it is elegant in Greek. The clause begins (“whose”) and ends (“on him” which is actual “his”) with possessive pronouns that refer to “strap.”

“He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The baptism of fire could refer to the Final Judgment or to spiritual maturation. In the first sense, the Holy Spirit and the Final Judgment are opposed to each other. Christ as the Great Judge would favor his followers with the Spirit, while condemning those who rejected the Spirit.

In the second sense, the Spirit was the support for the Christian undergoing persecution (i.e., “fire”). Those who expected to grow in the Spirit would encounter opposition, even martyrdom, as a result of their choice. Spiritual maturity had a cost.

Luke presented the ministry of the Baptism as a dialogue between himself and his audience. John preached. His audience took his message to heart. At the core of John’s message was preparation for the Christ.

As the people’s expectations for the Messiah rose, John defined his own status. He was the prophet, not the Messiah. He was not worthy of the Coming One. Just as Mark wrote, Luke recorded the Holy Spirit and fire prediction of John. As the note above stated, there has been some discussion about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and fire. Personally, I think they are the same, God’s love and justice. [15-16]

21 It happened (that) everyone (in John’s audience) was baptized also JESUS having been baptized and that, as HE was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 the Holy Spirit visibly as a dove came down on HIM, and (there) was a voice from heaven: “YOU are my SON, (my) BELOVED, in YOU I am well pleased.”

3:21b-22 Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke envisioned the revelation of the Trinity (descent of the Spirit and the voice from heaven) while Jesus was at prayer, not as he emerged from the water.

Unlike the accounts found in Mark and Matthew, Luke simply recorded the fact that Jesus had been baptized (past tense). The revelation of the Trinity occurs during Jesus’ prayer, not as he rose out of the water. [21] This reflected Luke’s emphasis not on historical event, but upon the revelation of it importance. For Luke, it was not when an event “happens to me”; it is the moment I “get it,” I make the connection. For Luke, prayer was the time of revelation and insight; Luke portrayed Jesus in prayer before the major decisions of his ministry.

For Luke, prayer was the time for grace, God with us. This could not be underestimated. Luke used the images of a actual dove and a actual voice to communicate the concrete reality of God’s grace with us. The heavens were torn open, so there was no barrier between God and his people. [21-22] Grace was now present; the time of realization was in prayer.

When do you realize times of grace? How has your prayer time given you those “graced” moments?

Luke recorded the message of John and the baptism of Jesus along the lines of Mark and Matthew. But he changed one small detail. The moment of realization was in prayer.

Prayer is a time for gentle insight and peace. It is not earth shattering, but it can be earth moving. God can rule with justice, insight, and liberation, but we must take the time to realize his gifts in prayer.

We cannot multi-task prayer and expect results.

This week, plan for prayer time as a time for reflection. Slow down and concentrate on your words to God. And your presence with God. See how God will bless your time with him.