Edit: I forgot to mention that I pointed out that Matthew was misquoting Isaiah -- saying that Isaiah says, "A voice is calling: 'in the desert, yadda yadda,' " so in Isaiah the speaker himself isn't necessarily in the desert, and that I know it's not a substantial difference I'm just apparently that obnoxious that I have to bring it up. Karl talked about oral tradition, and I said wasn't it written down in like 400 BC and after all we have a scene in one of the gospels where Jesus picks up a Torah scroll and reads from it. Karl said that Jesus quotes Scripture a lot and when he does so he's quoting from memory and he sometimes misquotes. I said, "That's problematic, because he's God." Mike suggested that the people who wrote down what Jesus said might have gotten it wrong, and said I was willing to be okay with that. (Though it does raise my recurrent problematic of how people decided what was God-breathed Scripture and what wasn't and how we can trust their discernment. But that's a huge issue all on its own.) /edit
Mike mentioned how John seems like a bit of a whack job -- living in the desert, wearing camel hair, eating locusts and honey -- and how as he said last time, it's the stuff like this that makes him feel like this is more likely to be true, because if you were making this up you wouldn't include this kind of stuff.
I brought up the "Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?" line, how it seems so bizarre to me. Mike suggested that the Pharisees and Sadducees were coming to get baptized by John because that was the latest trendy thing to do, not because they were truly repentant or anything. Karl's reading was that John says God's judgement is coming and cannot be avoided.
We talked some about baptism, about what baptism might have meant for John and the people he baptized.
Karl mentioned that the baptism of Jesus scene reminds him of the Transfiguration.
Karl read the desert temptation scene as the 3 internal temptations -- focus on yourself, testing your God, and earthly power.
Karl said Matthew 4:23 is a succinct mission statement -- teaching, preaching (his translation had "proclaiming" the good news, which he preferred, as it's more distinct from teaching than preaching is) and healing. I pointed out that it may be a succinct mission stateent, but it doesn't say anything about what you're supposed to teach or proclaim. (Yes, I know we get to that later. I'm just saying.)
Karl asked us how we feel the Church is doing in fulfilling that mission statement, and I said I thought the part that churches tend not to do so much is healing -- being a healing space for people, providing a community where people can be vulnerable and can make their sufferings known, etc. Other people mentioned the Presbyterian Church's historic involvement in getting hospitals built and stuff, and how most of those things are self-sufficient now and how there's focus on that sort of stuff in missions now.