Posted on Mon, Jan 9, 2012
January 8, 2012
The Baptism of Christ Sunday – “Who are You?”
Gospel Text: Mark 1:4-11
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And 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. 11 And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
We have all had “life changing experiences.” Or, at least I hope so. “Life changing experiences” differ depending on our age but they can happen almost anytime and for any one. A “life changing experiences” will be different if you 5 or 95, but they are still “life changing experiences.” For a five year old, a “life changing experience” may happen everyday! EPIPHANY is all about a time in world history when all life would be changed because of the manifestation of a very special child, and from the manifestation of this Christ Child, the way we would see ourselves and understand our relationship to God would be changed forever.
During the season of Christmas we see lives turned upside down because of encounters with Angels messages about God sending our Savior and how a young woman named Mary would become the mother of our Savior and a carpenter named Joseph, would become responsible for taking care of Mary and her child… and with the birth of Jesus, their lives and the world was changed forever. God would not be seen or thought of in the lofty heights but in the face of a very real baby. Somehow, there were magi from the east who felt the need to leave their homelands and cross a desert to SEE this newborn king. After their difficult journey to the town of Bethlehem, and actually laying eyes on Jesus, can you imagine how their lives changed? Something compelled them to make this journey, a difficult and potentially dangerous journey, but they were successful in actually finding Jesus and laying their eyes upon him… regardless of what their faith practice was, I don’t see how their lives could have remained the same…
After a “multitude” of heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds during that dark Christmas night, I wonder how their conversations around the campfires changed from that night on… Seeing the baby was great, but a “multitude of the heavenly host?” Come on, that had to have been a real shocker for a bunch of shepherds sitting out in those dark fields… needless to say, their lives must have been changed from that moment on for the rest of their days.
Then there was a time of relative quiet… John went out “into the wilderness.” There is some historical evidence that John may have visited the Essenes in Qumran for a while. There was a “Manual” that required that those wishing to enter Qumran "shall go into the wilderness to prepare there the way of Him; as it is written, Prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a path for our God." John the Baptist quoted the same passage from Isaiah in his call to baptism in the Jordan River.
Whether John was a member of the community in Qumran or not, their passion was the same and they were very much in the same vicinity. My point is that after meeting a person like John and hearing him preach, I don’t see how your life could ever be the same again as well.
The main thing, is that the moment Jesus stepped out of the crowd to be baptized by John, John’s ministry totally changed; his mission was fulfilled because with Jesus’ baptism, Jesus’ ministry began… and from that moment, the world itself would be forever changed.
The ministry of total transformation began even though almost nobody noticed, or understood what had happened when Jesus was baptized… Through the scriptures we know that Jesus saw the heavens ‘opened up’ but we don’t know if anyone else saw this… we do know that God’s announcement of Jesus’ true identity was heard by the people as John makes this clear in the Gospel of John in the first chapter of the Gospel when he testifies to what he has seen and heard when Jesus was baptized; but the point is that John’s ministry is complete, the One who has come into the world to save the world, has been revealed, manifested, in his baptism.
Humanity witnessed salvation incarnate, in the person of Christ. His identity is announced in His baptism. God says from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.’
When Andrew and Kai were born, they didn’t really have an identity until we named them. They will carry those names for the rest of their lives.
For whose sake did God speak from heaven the words, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased?’ it was for us to hear directly from God who this man who has walked all the way from Nazareth to the outskirts of Jerusalem just to be baptized, to be dunked into the River Jordan by John is… Jesus is “God’s Son, The Beloved…” and in Mark, the message seems for intimate between God and Jesus, God is speaking directly to Jesus, “with YOU I am well pleased.” Everybody could hear it, but in Mark’s words, it seems very specifically meant for Jesus.
And this is important, because right after Jesus was baptized the Spirit forced him into the wilderness to be tempted!
From this moment on, Jesus’ life would be changed and transformed! He was to begin his life living, teaching, preaching and healing AS THE MESSIAH TO ISRAEL AND THE SAVIOR TO THE GENTILES.
He was no longer the carpenter from Nazareth, and he no longer created useful objects from wood. He now began to focus on the objects of God’s love… people. People who were lost, people who were hungry, people who were sick or dying, people who were possessed by demons or distress. Jesus also confronted the leadership when there was injustice or the warping of God’s word for the sake of social power.
And think about how the lives of each person Jesus encountered, written about in the Gospels changed forever… Go down the list! Begin with each disciple Jesus called to be His disciples, from Matthew the tax collector to Andrew the faithful one seeking the Messiah; the crowds he preached the sermon on the mount to, all those who were filled fish and bread; even the lawyers and scribes who tried to trick Jesus only to have their motives and illuminated and revealed for what they were, lies and trickery; think about the Pharisee Nicodemus who, at great peril and risk to his position, came to Jesus longing to hear the truth; the Roman centurion just trying to save his beloved servant… every person who had an encounter with Jesus was changed for the better forevermore!
Each person accounted for in the Bible was changed just through an encounter with Jesus. Even those who were hung on a cross for their crimes, they received the promise that they would be with Jesus in paradise!
Who are you in thee Gospel stories? There are many characters to relate to, many to fit the joys and struggles for each and every day. Who are you?
Through your baptism, Jesus has encountered you and made you God’s very own beloved child! This is your identity! You may be like Mary longing to hear more words of Jesus, Martha too busy to listen to Jesus; Peter who oftentimes spoke before he engaged his brain; you may be like the man possessed by a Legion of problems and issues; you may be like Lazarus dead as a doornail, but not forgotten by Jesus!
Who are you in your life journey?
You may have no idea who you are today… you might have had a clue yesterday, but today you may be confused. It really doesn’t matter because Jesus knows you, better than you will ever know yourself, and Jesus says to you, “You are my Child! With you I am well pleased!”
Let the Gospel of Jesus encounter you and change you forever. Let the Gospel change you into a person now with the title, “Loved and cherished, I am a Child of God.”
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