Baptism of Christ

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Isaiah 42:1–9 & Matthew 3:13-17
(12-1-14)

I’m really pleased to see X, Y, Z here because . . . Think of someone you are glad to see here . . . because? What could you say about someone present that makes you pleased to know them?

This service focuses upon God’s pleasure in his Son, Jesus.

Jesus’ baptism isn’t about confessing sin, as John’s other baptisms were. This baptism was about doing what God wanted - for Jesus to align Himself with us.

‘Like a dove’ doesn’t mean that there was a real bird but is a spiritual picture. There are two signs – audio and visual. God was into using multiple learning styles! The voice from heaven echoes Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1 to show us ‘divine son’ and ‘suffering servant’. It’s significant that the whole Trinity is involved as Jesus’ public ministry begins and God makes it clear that Jesus is his Son.

‘A’ – Arrived
Jesus’ journey on earth began with his birth (Christmas). At Epiphany, we remember the wise-men who arrived and worshipped him. Then Jesus grew from a baby to a boy, and from a boy to a man. Here Jesus has arrived at the point on his journey where he’s come to the River Jordan to be baptised by his cousin, John the Baptist. John the Baptist had warned everyone to prepare for the arrival of one greater than him. That person was Jesus. Now, at last, he’s arrived.

‘B’ – Baptised
Imagine the conversation between John and Jesus. John didn’t want to baptise Jesus because baptism was a sign of repentance – being sorry for and turning away from sin. John knew that Jesus was God, and that he had never done anything wrong, so he didn’t need to be baptised! But Jesus was determined to show what should be done, and insisted that John should baptise him. He identified himself publicly with the sinners he’d come to save. (v15 suggest the symbol of being ‘washed clean’ by baptism may also have been to demonstrate how Jesus would take the sins of the world and be punished instead of us when He died on the cross.)

Jesus would’ve gone fully under the water as a sign of his baptism. It was a dramatic moment, because as it took place we read that the heavens opened and the Spirit of God came down like (not!) a dove. Awesome!

‘C’ – Chosen
What do you think Jesus was chosen by God to do? After Jesus had been baptised, the voice of God announced from heaven, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ Similar to Isaiah’s prophecy 42:1, as fulfilled at Jesus’ baptism.

God was delighted that his Son, in obedience, came to fulfil His plan for the world.

‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’: Arrived, Baptised and Chosen. Jesus arrived at the River Jordan, was baptised, filled with the Holy Spirit, and went on to do the work He’d been chosen to do.

These letters are the beginning of the alphabet. This amazing event was the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry, and the fulfilment of God’s plan for his people. What was He about to do? Jesus is tempted in the wilderness immediately following his baptism and then after that begins calling the disciples.

This is interesting because, firstly, at His baptism God confirms His identity AND says He is His beloved child. This is before He has done anything. i.e. God affirms His worth and love not based on anything He’s done.

Secondly the gift of identity, of being given a clear sense of God's affirmation and identity is needed in order to begin the enormous mission in front of him. Think about it and you’ll realize that when He goes in the wilderness the actual point of the Devil’s attack is precisely at the question of identity: "If you are the Son of God...." Satan calls into question Jesus' relationship with his Father.

So whatever else Jesus' baptism may mean, its certainly not simply about obtaining forgiveness but saying He is God’s Son, how much God loves Him and His commission as it marks the beginning of His Ministry.

At both Jesus’ and our Baptism God says, “I love you,” “You are mine,” “I am pleased with you.” Powerful and emotive things especially if we realize that within them God is commissioning us to begin our Ministry. So what does our Baptism mean to us? Maybe more importantly, why does it often mean so little to us? Maybe we need a bit of a reminder? What things help do this? Confession of sin is an opportunity to remember baptism. The dismissal (Go in peace to love and serve the Lord: In the name of Christ) which sends us out to live out our baptism in the world.

We usually give someone who is baptized a candle that’s lit at the end of the baptismal service. It’s meant to be lit again each year on the anniversary of baptism. Most don’t so I’m giving you one of our Christmas candles to light now and to take home later. Not many parents remind children of their baptism or celebrate the anniversary of their own baptism with anything like the attention lavished on birthdays.

Perhaps we should sometimes to stop and remember we’re God’s beloved children - a much needed message in a culture that promises acceptance only if we’re . . . skinny enough, strong enough, successful enough, rich enough, popular enough, beautiful enough, young enough etc.

Many have identities today that are linked to a ‘product’. Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, steeped in the faith or relatively new, people crave a sense of identity. We’re all susceptible to false identities, false promises and names thrown at us. Names have power, names that arouse pride or shame. Some we choose, some are imposed. Some lift us up; others knock us down. Pause to remember some of the more difficult names you’ve been called, no matter how long ago. "Stupid", "Egghead," "Fatso", "Ugly." Loser", "Big-head" etc. Remember for one painful moment and then hear God say to you: "No! That’s not your name. You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased." This reading promises that no matter how powerful our earthly names they do not define us. What defines us is the name, given us by God, the name ‘beloved child’. Anyone with an internet connection knows how important the question of identity is today. There are many sources of receiving and constructing our identities. Few of these are life-giving, none life-saving. There’s no better time to hear the word and promise that Jesus was born, ministered, lived, died, and was raised again to demonstrate in word and deed just how much God loves and accepts us.

Our baptism in Christ means that God declares we are enough, He accepts us as we are AND desires to do wonderful things for and through us. Mind-blowing and on top remember that Jesus submitted to His baptism as an act of being in “solidarity with sinners.” Identifying with us. With those who often feel unworthy of God’s love and grace. The only pedestal that remains is the cross. St. Paul tells us that when we’re baptized, we are baptized into Jesus' death so that through that death, we can be baptized into Jesus' resurrected life. This makes us favoured sons and daughters like Jesus with the opportunity to die, and be born again, just like Jesus.

Let’s finish by looking at our candle and saying:

“I am God’s child, deserving of love and respect. God will use me to change the world.”