Posted on Wed, Jan 15, 2014
January 11, 2014
Baptism of Jesus Sunday
Matthew 3:13-17 “Search us Deeply Make us Anew”
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16And 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. 17And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.’
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased.’
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved;* with you I am well pleased.’* 23 Jesus was about thirty years old when he began his work.
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’*
John the Baptizer certainly had the attention of the people of Israel. They seemed to have been totally convicted and moved to action by his words. He must have spoken something that was powerful and went straight to the heart of the listener, because the scriptures tell us that people came from all over, even as far south as Jerusalem and north as Galilee to hear him and ultimately be baptized by him.
His audience was the people of Israel, but what was he saying that was so powerful? It was simple, “Repent!” Meaning, for a Jewish person, “you have strayed from the Law and are lost, turn yourselves around, ask for forgiveness/atonement, and return to the life you have been called, the Chosen People of God. Or, acknowledge you have sinned, ‘get’ forgiven, and restart, reboot, your lives according to your true identity, “Children of God.”
Along with his warnings, he would perform an age-old practice of ritual cleansing, but this time, he was doing it in a very public space, the river. And we think he was doing this Northeast of Jerusalem in the Jordan River. Close enough for the people of Jerusalem to get too him, but far away enough for him to not cause too much trouble for the religious and Roman leaders.
The concept of a ritual cleansing was very common in Jesus. We found many ritual bathing pools called Mikvahs all over the Holy Land. They are even used today and I found the World Wide Mikvah Directory on the web as I prepared for today’s message. Check it out at: http://www.mikvah.org/directory
The people understood the need for “Ritual Cleansing” but there was something much deeper going on here. In a “Ritual Cleansing” in a mikvah, it is a personal experience; you conduct the ritual alone according to specific practices. In today’s text, the people were coming to “be baptized by John.” They came to have someone else cleanse them, their repentance and cleansing required a holy person to cleanse them properly and proclaim that their sins were forgiven, and now they were “presentable” to return to their lives as a true Child of God, all with the hopes that they would not return to their old ways… but that was what the mikvah was for…
Another key element of John’s warning and calling was that the people needed to repent in their hearts, and cleanse their bodies in order to make themselves presentable to God… so that they would be able to welcome the Messiah when he comes! John was born to announce the coming of the Messiah, and he was preparing the people to welcome the Messiah when he comes. Little did anyone know, but that day was today!
Jesus has made the long journey from the region of Galilee to where John was along the Jordan, steps from the crowd to face John and asks to be baptized… John the Baptizer knows full well that the moment he has been preparing his entire life for, has begun. John knows full well that Jesus never sinned!
Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.
John is confused because he sees the gift of baptism as the means of cleansing and forgiveness, but Jesus sees Baptism as a way of giving a person a new name and identity as a FORGIVEN CHILD OF GOD. The purpose of Jesus’ baptism is not for His sake, but the people standing around them, Jesus is about to begin his ministry, and it is time for God to announce exactly whom this carpenter from Nazareth truly is!
The text says, 16And 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. 17And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.’ Who heard these words? Who saw the dove alight on him? Who saw the heavens torn/rent apart? It wasn’t Jesus, Jesus already knew what was going on, and also there was the foreshadowing of the temple curtain being torn from top to bottom, the moment Jesus gave up His Spirit for our atonement/forgiveness. The words, dove and torn sky was for the people standing around Jesus and John.
When John stood facing Jesus, probably looking a little confused as to why Jesus required baptism, Jesus used this little phrase again, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
Righteousness is not something we can attain by ourselves, even through belief… It requires God to do something for us. It requires God’s faithfulness and Jesus’ obedience to give his life on the cross. Ritual cleansing is a personal matter, but the Gospel writer helps understand that true forgiveness and the bestowing of righteousness is totally a gift of God.
Today at the 7:30 worship little Cash Holden will become a “Child of God” through the gift of baptism. He will receive total redemption and adoption into the Family of God, not by anything he did… he is only four months old, but totally and unconditionally through the death and resurrection of Jesus… And for what purpose?
Reason one: it is a command from Jesus! Jesus commands us to baptize in Matthew 28:8-20: 8And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’*
Second: To give you a new identity as a Child of God from this moment forever more. When you baptized you are forgiven and made God’s very own child now and forevermore! This changes the way we see, hear, speak and even think about the world. The world is now a garden that belongs to God and we are responsible for it. There are no longer strangers but other people that God loves just as much as God loves you. Each day isn’t a mountain given to climb, but a gift to be experienced. Through baptism we are changed.
Look at page 228 in your ELW’s and look at the promises our sponsors and parents make to the one they bring forth to be baptized. They are to:
The most important words are “so that;” we baptize SO THAT we can live according to faith, not works, SO THAT the Light of Christ will shine in our world! We baptize SO THAT the Light of God shines in a world so divide by lies and hate. We baptize SO THAT the Blessing of Christ can be made known through words and deeds of God’s people, the church, which means YOU!
Let the Light of Christ shine through you so that the world can see and hear the Good News of Christ Today! Amen.
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