But this year, there are more people trying Dry January than ever before and it’s no wonder why. According to a recent survey, there has been a predictable increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic. More people are drinking greater amounts of alcohol. What this pandemic drinking tells us is that it’s not just social events, peer pressure, or societal expectation that inspires drinking. But drinking, even more than before, can take place in isolation.
I have more supports, more accountability, and more experience than ever before and I am so grateful and so much healthier for it. But I am just as close, if not closer to relapsing.
Because sitting at home in isolation today, I know that I could fall into the temptation of substance bliss all over again. And unfortunately, if I can feel that temptation, I know that there are hundreds (probably thousands) of people that are experiencing that temptation too. And I know that there are hundreds (probably thousands) of young people that may be learning the power of alcohol or other substances during this time of isolation. Getting lost in whatever brief euphoria they can manufacture in attempts to numb the pain and release anger and frustration.
Here in John’s account, there is beautiful room to tell a story of “being known.” After we get the long prologue of John, we the reader should have little doubt as to who Jesus is: the Word, the light, the Messiah. But even though we have this beautiful poetic prologue, this opening scene with John the Baptist immediately has a profound intimacy.
For centuries the question of “Why was Jesus baptized?” has been asked by theologians. John’s was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. So why was Jesus baptized since he did not need repentance? How does it connect with our baptism?
Everything in you may be begging you to preach on the “name of Jesus” (Luke 2:15-21) this Sunday rather than the “slaughter of the Holy Innocents” in Matthew’s text. But I implore you to consider preaching this Matthean text.
Matthew and John are essential Gospels for our Triune Christology. Obviously, John 1 helps us with the Word in the beginning. But Matthew helps as well with the introduction of the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14), “‘and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.’”
I’m not sure that people often think of Matthew as a provocative gospel. I think that designation usually goes to Luke’s gospel as people will cite Jesus’ interactions with women, his stance on money, and the mission to the Gentiles in Acts. However, if you’re willing to sit in the tension, Matthew is a wonderfully provocative gospel.
We get this question from John, “Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?”
As I mentioned last week, Matthew portrays Jesus as prophetic figure more than any other Gospel. True to other prophets in the scriptures, there is a handoff that occurs from one prophet to another: Moses to Joshua, Elijah to Elisha. Matthew’s use of this tactic is for the purpose of recognizing the transition of authority from John to Jesus but also to make it abundantly clear that, for Matthew, Jesus is playing the role of a prophet. And as prophet, Jesus will continue speaking the hard truths that we have just heard from John.
Today’s text is a continuation of a long apocalyptic/eschatological section in chapter 24. Throughout the gospel, but especially in this section, Matthew is channeling a prophetic voice that calls people to repentance and promises the “day of judgment.” More than any other Gospel, Matthew portrays Jesus as a prophet like Moses and Isaiah. And like a prophet, Jesus speaks of the day of judgment that is to come, calling for repentance… or else.