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Why Jesus’ baptism is told differently

The Baptism Site on the Jordan side of the Jordan River is one of the most important recent discoveries in biblical archaeology. Excavations only began here in 1996, following Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel in 1994, but have already uncovered more than 20 churches, caves and baptismal pools dating from the Roman and Byzantine periods. (Picture from Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic)

The fact that our New Testament contains four Gospels by four writers with four viewpoints can sometimes be tricky to navigate when some events of Jesus’ life are told differently.  Yet there are substantial blessings in having these four accounts for Bible students twenty centuries later:  we gain a fuller picture and understanding of Christ Jesus’ life and ministry.

The Master’s baptism is one of a number of examples where there is diversity in the four accounts.  This video blog tells the story of two versions of the baptism, one from Matthew and the other from Luke, that will perhaps shed light on some discrepancies you’ve no doubt noted.

Before reading further (spoiler alert!), you might want to reread Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:4-8, Luke 3:21-22 and John 1:29-34, the four evangelists’ versions of the baptism of Jesus.

The video below was taken on a recent trip to Israel, standing at the traditional site of the Jordan River where historians believe this pivotal event of Christianity took place. (The picture above is from the Jordanian side of the river where new excavations are occurring.)  Christian tourists travel from every continent to be baptized as was the Master Christian.  Here are the hopes of a lifetime to experience the purification that this 2000-year-old immersion in water symbolizes for believers.

Since Mark is believed to have been the first Gospel written, we see how significant the baptism is to the early Christians as Mark chooses to open the story of Jesus not with his birth, but his baptism.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved with you I am well pleased (Mark 1:9-11).”

John baptizes Jesus as he has so many others but this time a sense of God’s presence is so vivid that John hears a voice claiming Jesus as God’s son and identify Jesus.

But in the Luke version, John is not even at the baptism.  He is miles away imprisoned in one of Herod’s fortresses, just before his death.  Again, by rereading the Luke version below, you’ll see the writer is telling us John is well off the scene so that Jesus is known to be unmistakably the Son of God.  There would be no confusion, in Luke’s relating of the story, which figure was the son of God.

20 “…he shut John up in prison.  When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened”  (Luke 3:21,22).

One baptism.  Two versions.  Each writer had his own reasons…thus the beauty of four distinct gospels.

11 Responses to Why Jesus’ baptism is told differently

  1. Arnaldo Carrera August 5, 2017 at 7:05 am #

    Truly enjoyed the video and the explanation. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  2. Jane Luthy August 5, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    This was riveting! Thank you so much. Jane

  3. Marcia August 5, 2017 at 11:44 am #

    Wonderful to remember the importance of the four Gospels.
    Thank you for sharing the video!!

    🤓

  4. David Caswell August 5, 2017 at 5:27 pm #

    Very interesting. Thank you for sharing this.

  5. Carol Rounds August 5, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    Thank you for sharing this. I appreciate your insight into this subject. It was very thought provoking and well explained. I loved it.

  6. Doug Edgar August 5, 2017 at 7:51 pm #

    Madelon: Your distinctions and reasons are incredibly enlightening. I had to listen two and three times to get it all. Thank you for explaining things so well.
    I forwarded this to Paul and his family.

    • Madelon August 9, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

      Thank you Doug. So glad you enjoyed it and appreciate the article reference on the BEatitudes. Will look it up. Best to you, Madelon

  7. Joanne Fernbach August 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    Truth be told…I don’t think I ever read the Luke version and I had to read it several times including the parts leading up to the mention of Jesus having been baptized to get Luke’s whole picture. What an eye-opener! And I loved your insight as to its application to our own lives! Spot-on, Madelon! Many thanks!

  8. Nancy Gruber August 6, 2017 at 6:03 pm #

    Wonderful explanation. Especially liked the link between Matt. 3 and the baptism and God saying ‘this is my beloved son’ and immediately in Matt. 4 where the devil says If thou be the Son of God …. Very enlightening.

    • June Nettles Clark CS August 8, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

      June Nettles Clark, C.S

      Thank you. Madelon, your explanation is so clear, enlightening and appreciated.

  9. Tawny Cleveland August 24, 2017 at 2:19 pm #

    Oh my word, thank you Madelon! I love how you unpacked the baptism story.

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