This first Sunday after Epiphany (Baptism of Our Lord), we continue in the narrative of the Gospel of Matthew. Before Christmas we started with the angel of God coming to Joseph in a dream (Matthew 1:18-25) and then right after Christmas we swung back to pick up the genealogy in the first portion of Matthew 1 (vv. 1-17). Last Sunday (Epiphany Sunday), Jesus was revealed as the king of the Jews by traveling Magi (Matthew 2:1-23).
30 Years Later…
Scholars estimate that between verses 2:23 and 3:1 is a time jump of about 30 years (give or take). Clearly, Matthew is not concerned about Jesus’ childhood. Skipping 30 years, the Gospel gets right to Jesus’ ministry. Here, the adult Jesus comes into the narrative introduced by two voices: John and God. John’s introduction comes as a warning of a coming judgment. The voice of God declares Jesus’ identity as God’s Son, the Beloved One.
Isaiah, Vipers, and Chaff
Matthew 3 is a story, but it’s a complicated story. To really understand what’s going on, you need context. This is doubly so for children and youth. Not only is it important for us to understand some of the cultural and historical background (e.g. Who’s Isaiah? What’s the deal with John’s clothes and food? Who are the Sadducees again?), but even some of the vocabulary is difficult to understand, like “brood (of vipers),” “winnowing fork,” and “threshing floor.” As you are teaching or preaching about this text, make sure you explain these and other things so that your younger disciples can understand, too. Many of the adults will secretly appreciate this as well.
Come to the Water
Many Bible editors see our narrative as broken into two parts, verses 1-12 and 13-17. An important thing that connects these two sections is water, specifically baptism. This theme of water provides a wonderful opportunity for a multisensory activity. Invite your congregation or class to come to touch the water in the baptismal font (or a bowl of water) and mark themselves or each other with the sign of the cross. Or, you can use our free activity this week, “What Is It?” to introduce kids (and perhaps youth and adults) to this theme. This activity was created for our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd) curriculum.
How are you going to engage your faith formation participants in the story this week?
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
Epiphany is upon us, but it’s not too late to order faith formation resources! If you had ordered Fall Living the Word resources or are interested in just getting started, order your Winter resources now, which go to Transfiguration Sunday. As soon as your payment is processed, you can download the Winter (and Spring) quarters immediately and start using them!
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!