A Big Event, Epiphany 1 (C) – 1998
January 11, 1998
The Baptism of Jesus is a big event. There are a lot of things that come together in Jesus’ baptism. There are a lot of things that come together in our Baptisms.
First, let us consider John the Baptist. John is a certifiable wild man. He came from the wilderness. He dressed in what was likely the shedding from a camel. What ever it was it wasn’t an elegant camel’s hair coat type of fabric. He ate locusts and wild honey. This is hardly a conventional diet, either then or now. His sermon or at least what we have recorded said, “you den of poisonous snakes, who warmed you to flee from the wrath to come?” This was not an approach designed to gently convince people that they should come to a conclusion about God in their life.
The people who came to John for baptism were desperate to change their lives. The crowd is identified as a mix of tax collectors prostitutes, soldiers and religious people like the Scribes and Pharisees. The Pharisees may have been there to spy. They may have been there to determine whether or not John was the Messiah. Most likely, they were desperate to know the move and peace of God just like the obvious sinners. John said he wasn’t the Messiah when he was asked if her were. John said “Jesus is.”
Jesus came to be baptized by John. John’s baptism was a washing for repentance. Jesus didn’t need to repent. So, Jesus’ baptism changed the meaning of baptism.
These things happened in Jesus’ baptism. As Jesus was praying after the immersion, the heavens opened. The Holy Spirit came down on him in bodily form, like a Dove. Imagine if you will, something physical, visible, swirling and swooping down and coming onto Jesus. This is a strange event. Something outside of normal reality is happening.
Then a voice, a thunderous voice said, “you are my son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
Everything we know about God and Israel prior to this time is focused in this saying. This is God’s anointed. God is well pleased, God loves him. He is even identified as God’s son.
Presumably, Jesus then looked out and saw the gathered tax collectors, prostitutes and other sinners who had been baptized with him. These are the things that happened to Jesus in baptism.
- He was given an identity…God’s son.
- He was identified as the focus of God’s love.
- He was identified as being very pleasing to God.
- He was physically given God’s Holy Spirit.
- He was joined into a new group, those who were baptized by John.
Jesus changed what baptism means for us. We receive the same gifts when we are baptized. We receive the gift of water. Water is life. Without water there is no life. We are given an identity. The meaning of our name is transformed. It is now name given by God. Some of us have had the experience of being a sponsor. God parent or parent at a baptism. When the name is pronounced and the words “I baptize you in the name of God, The Son and God The Holy Spirit are joined to the gift of water a new creature is proclaimed. A child of God, life, Spirit and power is held up. A new creature, with the identity, child of God, is in our midst.
We are named as beloved by God. In the same way that God announces that Jesus is beloved, we are announced as beloved. We are given the gift of God’s spirit. There is the expectation that God’s spirit in us will lead us to lives of holiness and true joy.
We are given a community. We join with the people present at our baptism who are baptized and with everyone who was ever baptized. And, yes there are still tax collectors and prostitutes in that community. In fact, one of the ways we know that God loves and accepts us just as we are is because God loves accepts other people who are as messed up and sinful as we are.
Baptism is a big deal. It is a chance for people who are desperate to change their lives to gain the same identity, in God’s eyes, that Jesus has. It is the way, the event, that leads to salvation Praise be to Jesus for bringing us this gift. Praise be to God for giving us this gift. Praise be to the Holy Spirit for sustaining us in this gift.
The gift is the unconditional love and pressure of God in our lives.
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Sermons That Work podcast to hear this sermon and more on your favorite podcasting app! Recordings are released the Thursday before each liturgical date.