The Baptism of Jesus
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved,[a] with whom I am well pleased.”
Peace and Grace to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
So there was once a small town, and in the springtime it would rain a lot. After one such rainstorm, two brothers, little Billy and little Tommy went outside, and as kids do, were jumping in puddles. It was then that little Billy noticed that there was a pot hole that had filled with water, and seeing an opportunity, tripped his brother into it. Now, the boy's mother had seen the whole thing, and running outside she asked Billy “just what was he thinking?” “But mom,” responded Billy “we were just playing church! See? I baptize him in the name of the Father, and the Son, and in the (Make motion with hands) hole he goes! (Holy Ghost, Hole he goes).
Dear friends in Christ, we are in the season of Epiphany, the season of “A-HA!” moments in which we come to understand God and Jesus a little bit better as they are revealed to us through scripture. Today we are talking about the baptism of our Lord Jesus, what it means as a part of Jesus' ministry, and what it means for all of us today. Now, this story is depicted in three of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and is an important part of the story of Jesus. Today we are looking at Matthew's Gospel, and one of the things that is different about this story than the others is that Matthew emphasizes the kingly nature of Jesus. Last week, our Gospel lesson was about the how the Wise men came to worship Jesus as the King of the Jews and the Messiah. So, this week, with the baptism of Jesus, you can think of this as his coronation, or when he becomes a king and starts his ministry. So, let's dive in to this story.
Now, Matthew's Gospel sets up this chapter by describing John the Baptizer. He tells the people around him, including the religious leaders, of someone who is coming who he, John, is not even worthy to carry his sandals. And then Jesus arrives, as asks John to baptize him. Now, if we look at verse fourteen (14) it says that John WOULD HAVE prevented Jesus, if he could, saying that Jesus was the one who needed to baptize him. Imagine the CEO or president of the company telling an intern on his first day “I want to do your job.” That is the sort of thought that was going through John's head. John recognizes Jesus as the one who he spoke of. This is the one whom he was unworthy to carry his sandals.
So, we have a case of a human telling God what God's place is. Let me put this another way; imagine a first time pet owner holding his new cat over the litter box and telling it “this is your place! This is where you should go!” For those of you who have had cats or other pets before, you know what that child is going to do (throw hands over shoulders). But in this case, Jesus has a good reason to go where he is going. He tells John “let it be so now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” And John relented. You see, Jesus came with a purpose. He knew that this was part of the plan. And so Jesus was baptized.
Then, as Jesus was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened up, and the Spirit of the Lord descended like a dove. A light shone on Jesus, and a voice spoke, saying “This is my Son, the Beloved, with Him I am well pleased.” I think at this point that John the Baptist was happy that he listened to Jesus and went through with the baptism. As he stood in awe and wonder of the sign that he was witnesses, he was probably trying hard, just like the others around him, to understand what God was doing at this point. So there are many celebrations and milestones in the human life; such as graduation, marriage, birthdays, and so on. What John the Baptist and the other on lookers were watching was one of these great events. It is here that Jesus is named and claimed as a child of God. A while ago, I had a friend of mine who when he was surprised he would exclaim “Jesus H. Christ!” and I would gently remind him not to use the Lord's name in vain. One time, however, I told him that Christ isn't actually Jesus's last name. You see, the title Christ comes from the Greek word Khristos, which means “anointed”. In the old days, two types of people that were anointed were the kings and the priests. Jesus fills both roles, and with his baptism, he could now begin his work as the Messiah. After he came out of the water, the Spirit of God descended, and a voice from Heaven affirmed that this was the Son of God. This is the starting point for all that Jesus would go on to do.
So, now we must ask ourselves, what does this mean for us? We know that in the words of the great commission, Jesus has told us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And remember that I am with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20) but what does baptism mean for us? In a letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul writes that because we share in baptism with Jesus, our sinful self, the fallen and broken parts of us, is dead in buried with Christ. And because we share this baptism, just as God raised Jesus, God will also raise us to new life. Because we have been united with Jesus the Christ in life, we will certainly be united with him in death. (Romans 6:1-6). Baptism is a gateway which opens us to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Today (During the 10:30 service, during this service) we will be able to witness this great miracle with the baptism of Ruby. During this time, parents, sponsors, and all of us as a congregation will make baptismal promises for the life of the child. These promises are commitments that we are making and that God is making for a whole lifetime. Now, I'm not saying that baptism will make a person's life easy. When Jesus was baptized, it began his ministry, a ministry that ended just over three years later with a crucifixion. Jesus knew this would happen, but he did it anyways for you, and me, and all of us. And it's because of His love that we are able to be a part of the life and afterlife in faith. This life on earth will not be easy. But I do believe that when we stand united as a congregation, as a family of faith, when we combine our talents and abilities, we will have the ability to create a more trustworthy world. We will be able to be the hands and feet of God. And we will be able to be good news to a hurting and broken world. And it all starts here, at this fount.
Now, one last thing that I'd like to talk to you about can be seen in the last verse of today's Gospel reading. This is where the voice from heaven says “This is my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” Now, there's some debate among scholars as to who this message was for. Was it to Jesus, affirming that he was the Son of God? Was it meant for John, letting him know that he had done the right thing and spoken truly? Or was it for the on-lookers, letting them know that God was now on earth, and that His ministry had begun? Perhaps this message was for all who were there, and also for all who now hear the message today. Dear friends in Christ, I would like to take a moment today to remember our own baptisms. For many of us, we won't remember it happening because our baptisms happened when we were infants. For others, it may be a more recent memory. Regardless, I would like you to now take a finger like this (hold up hand) and make the sign of the cross on your forehead. Dearly beloved, you are a child of God, sealed by the holy Spirit, and marked by the Cross of Christ forever. And for that we can turn and say: “Thanks be to God.” Amen.