According to the Revised Common Lectionary, the appointed Gospel reading for this Sunday when the church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus is Luke: 3:15-17, 21-22. But what about the missing verses 18-20?

How many of you read the Bible? Probably all of you. I’m not going to ask  how often you read it. I’m not that bothered.

That’s up to you. Just be reassured everybody has missed a day or two. 

Next question. I don’t want you to put up your hands.

How many would say that they study the Bible? Some people accept every word of the Bible as factually true without question. A few, and I have to say I don’t know anybody in this category,who may reject the whole of the Bible based on a few inconsistencies.

To be fair, except for a few nerds like some clergy, readers and professional theologians people don’t do a lot of Bible study as opposed to Bible reading.

Whenever the lectionary leaves verses out of an appointed reading I can’t help wondering why.

Could the missing verses contain some hidden information that might threaten some established Christian doctrine?

Might it be a bit rude and offend someone.

Most of us have heard this story of Jesus’ baptism so many times that we think we know it all.

John the Baptist, proclaimed that the Messiah was coming and that the children of God, needed to repent and be baptised.

This so-called baptism of repentance was popular among Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries but it was troublesome to the Roman Empire.

As his first public act Jesus went down to the Jordan River and even though John protested that he was unworthy to baptise Jesus.

Despite Matt suggesting, last week, th\at Jesus was perfect he submitted to John’s baptism of repentance.

That’s how so many people learned the story and the way most people remember it.

That is, after all, pretty much what the what the Gospel according to Luke actually says provided you leave out verses 18 to 20.

Why don’t we read those verses during our worship on the Sunday that celebrates Jesus baptism?

What’s in those verses that caused those who decide, what is read in church on a Sunday morning, that those verses shouldn’t be included?

If you consult the lectionary commentaries most of them will tell you that these verses are left out so as not to confuse the people in the pews.

These verses are left out to protect worshippers.

The so-called “experts” believe that, if these verses were read, worshippers might become confused and their childhood memories of this story would be challenged.

My view, for what it’s worth, is that such action is not quite honest.

“But Herod the ruler, whom John rebuked because of his wickedness, including his relationship with his sister-in-law, Herodias—committed another crime by throwing John into prison.”

Those are the two missing verses. The two verses that the experts decided should not be read this morning lest they confuse you.

Herod threw John the Baptist into prison, but we leave that out and without a by your leave, we read on:

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in bodily form like a dove And a voice came from heaven,“You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I AM well pleased.”

If John was in prison when Jesus went down to the Jordan to be baptized, who baptized Jesus?

I don’t know and I’m not particularly worried about it. It does, though, pose questions.

 “Why is that snippet there?”

Could it be that we don’t know everything about this story?

Could it be that there’s more to learn?

Could it be that the writer is trying to say something that we’ve failed to consider in the past?

Is the writer trying to distance Jesus from the teachings of John?

Could it be that the writer of the Gospel is trying to let us know that the Baptism of Repentance practised by John was different to Jesus’  baptism?

John proclaimed that the Messiah will baptise with fire.

“The Messiah will carry a winnowing fork in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Not such palatable news.

Are you wheat or chaff?

We are often told that we are unworthy and we can almost feel the unquenchable fire singeing at our heels.

But according to the writer of Luke, Herod tossed John into prison and we don’t hear from him again until just before his head was lopped off and served up on a silver platter.

John sent his disciples to inquire as to whether or not Jesus is the hoped for Messiah. With John in prison the writer of the Gospel according to Luke, has Jesus go down to what became a different kind of baptism. Not a baptism for the repentance of sin, but a baptism in which God claimed Jesus as his beloved son, in whom God is well pleased.

Good parents don’t keep their children in constant fear and guilt. They don’t use the threat of punishment as a way to encourage their children to grow. Good parents help their children to grow by loving, nurturing and encouraging them.

If you read this story carefully you can almost hear the God of all that is glowing with pride as he says, “That’s my son!

Just look at him! Isn’t he marvellous! I’m so very pleased with him!”  No wonder the skies opened up and the Holy Spirit descended on him!

If we insist on making God in our image then it is not unreasonable to create an image of God that reflects the best in us. If you carry with you an image of a God who is waiting to punish then please drop it. Forget the image of God as an abusive parent and begin to see God as the best parent there can be. That image will still fail to reflect all that God is. But it will give us a better glimpse of some of what God is. Then we can begin to see that, like any good parent, our God is a God who empowers us. We can begin to see that in our baptism we also are made children of God and that God delights in us.

Maybe, then, we can begin to claim our inheritance as children of God. Let’s put aside those awful ideas that we are unworthy. Perhaps we will see that under the power of the Holy Spirit we can, like Jesus, grow into all that a loving God created us to be