Baptism of Christ


Acts 1: 1-7 & 9 Mark 1:4-11
SMAS 9.00am & 10.30am Service

I want you to stop and think for a moment about anything you might have done wrong this week? Don’t worry I’m not going to ask you to own up to it now. It is of course possible that you think you haven’t but you would be deluding your self. All of us will have done some something, not robbed banks or mugged old ladies. But all of us will have done something where we put our thoughts and feelings first or something that harms someone else in some way – like gossiping about them.

And it has always been like that. That Bible reading speaks of people queuing up to be baptised by John the Baptist. And John’s Baptism was for people to confess their sins and be washed clean.

Baptism still stands today for the same thing – the water symbolises being washed clean from sin. So it’s actually more like being washed clean on the inside. Baptism today also stands for something else too and I’ll talk more about that later.

But if you listened to the Bible Reading you’d have heard this passage was about Jesus being baptised by John the Baptist. Surely that is rather an odd thing for Jesus to do? Jesus was the Son of God and was without sin. Why would he need to be baptised?

In fact in the same account of this story in Matthew’s Gospel John is heard to protest that he didn’t want to baptise Him because he knew He was already clean on the inside.

So what does all this mean then? People are flocking to John the Baptist to have their sins washed away and then Jesus turns up also wanting to be baptised. Let me read something to you that attempts to explain this, perhaps better than I can.

John the Baptist is baptising in the river Jordan, and huge crowds are coming to him, and it is all rather disorganised. So some businessmen in the crowd decide to sort things out and tidy things up. They set up tables and get people into queues and as each person reaches the front of the queue they are asked for their name, which is written on a sticky label. Then the person behind the desk asks what their main sin is, what it is that they want to be forgiven for. So Bob walks up to the table.

'What's your name?' 'Bob.'
'What's your most awful sin, Bob?' 'I stole some money from my boss.' So the person at the table writes in big letters BOB - EMBEZZLER on the label, and sticks it on Bob's chest.

The next person comes forward.
'What's your name?' 'Mary.'
'Mary, what's your worst sin?'
'I gossiped about some people. It wasn't so bad, what I said, but I know I shouldn't have done.'  So they write down MARY - GOSSIP and stick it on her.

Another man walks up to the table. 'Name?' 'George.'
'George, what's your sin?'  'I've often thought about how much I'd like to have my neighbour's car.' So they write down GEORGE - COVETER and stick it on him.

Another man comes up. 'What's your name?' 'Gordon.'
'What have you done, Gordon?' 'I had an affair.' So they write down GORDON - ADULTERER, and slap the label on his chest.

Then Jesus comes to be baptised. He hasn't got a label on his chest. But he walks down the line of people waiting to be baptised and one by one, he peels the labels off their chests and sticks them on himself. Then he goes to John, and as he steps down into the water, the river washes away the writing from every single one of those labels.
Adapted from Gordon MacDonald, quoted in Haddon Robinson, in A Voice in the Wilderness Multnomah Press, 1993, pp 77-78.

That’s what Jesus does – He takes our sins and dies in our place – if we will but give Him those sins that is.

But there is something else in this passage that is truly amazing. I want you to think now; instead of something that you have done wrong of something that makes you feel  special? What thing has happened to you this week that has made you feel special?
For children t might have been getting a certificate at school this week, getting into the school team or scoring a goal. For grown-ups it might have been getting some flowers or chocolates, or getting a job or promotion, or maybe it comes from knowing that someone loves you or has noticed that you have done something?

Lets go back to that story of Jesus being baptised. I wonder if you know what Jesus had done before this story? What miracles He had performed, what story or sermon He had told? Well that is a trick question because He hadn’t! He hadn’t performed any miracles or told any stories.

But do you remember that God’s voice came from heaven saying ‘this is my Son, whom I love. With You I am well pleased. This even though at this point in His life Jesus hasn’t done anything!

We often assume that people will only love us or like us if we have done something to deserve it. But the Bible tells us we are special in God’s eyes because we are who we are not because of anything we might have done. You should repeat that to yourself many times, God loves you because of who you are not because of what you have done. You might even want to say that sometimes when you have done something, like this: I have done such and such but God loves me because of who I am not because of what I did.

Olivia will be baptised in a little while. This will remind us that God loves Olivia and washes her clean from her sins on the inside. It will also be a reminder that God loves Olivia thinks she is very special. But even more it is a reminder that every one of us is very special too in God’s eyes. He loves us all; we are all His beloved children.

Do you know how special you are? I wonder if feeling special is something you find hard to do? Unfortunately we live in a world where people are often made to feel anything but special. Where people are actually put down a lot. There even seems to be quite a market for that to happen in various TV programmes – I’ve never watched it but have sometimes seen adverts for The Weakest Link which seems to be largely about making other people look small or putting them down. And this brings me back to the other thing that Baptism is about today. It is about making someone a member of the church. We need to be clear about this – Baptism serves two purposes, it symbolises that we are washed free from our sin if we accept that Christ died taking our punishment for the sins we commit upon Himself. But it also symbolises becoming one in Christ, becoming part of Christ’s body, the church.

Olivia today will have water poured over her to show that Christ washes away her sin. And she will be accepted as a member of Christ’s church. And that is quite something in a world where she will, sadly, sometimes experience the misery of being ‘put down’. Hopefully not too often but it happens to us all from time-to-time. But within the church she will know that she is a beloved child of God. We in the church are her family, her brothers and sisters. The church will always be there for her, recognising that she is indeed a very special person, beloved of God. Not because of anything she has done but because she is His precious child. Amen