Tuesday, 10 January 2017
Sermon January 8, 2017
The Baptism of Jesus
This is really surprizing. Jesus is coming to John to be baptized. Why did he need to do that? After all John was baptizing for the forgiveness of sins. Even John was surprized. Did Jesus need to have his sins forgiven? John certainly didn’t seem to think so. He tells Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
After all, John and Jesus knew each other well. We know that they were cousins and were both born in unusual circumstances. Both John and Jesus were part of the divine plan for God’s relationship with humanity. They probably grew up together and were playmates and in my imagination spent a lot of time talking together and trying to figure out what is was that God had planned for them. We know that John had been very active in his search to discover—to discern—what God’s plan for him was. He had spent time in the wilderness away for the usual activities of the people—God’s chosen people. He had come to the understanding that he was there to proclaim the coming of the one who would baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit. John decided he was ordained to prepare people to receive the one who the People of God had been waiting for, for two thousand years.
We’re not sure what Jesus had been doing up to the time of his baptism. Other than the incident at the temple when he was twelve we do not have any information about what Jesus was doing. We can only imagine that he was also, in his own way discerning what God’s plan was for him. There are apocryphal stories about some of the miracles he performed as a boy—some which were not all that nice to his playmates. But none of these stories has made it into the bible. In any case we can realistically assume that it had been a while since Jesus and John had seen each other. John was away in the wilderness eating locust and honey and wearing animal skins. Jesus had been doing his thing probably as part of the community.
Now Jesus appears to John and asks—no demands to be baptized. No wonder John is taken aback. This is the messiah; the one John is called to prepare the nation and the world to receive.
The answer that Jesus gives him tells us what we need to know, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” To fulfill all righteousness; to make everything right with God and with God’s people.
Let’s make sure we know what this righteousness is that is Jesus is fulfilling. The definition that applies is “acting in accord with divine or moral law”.
So what is it actually that Jesus is doing? He is declaring to John and to those in his community and to us that he has come to act according to the divine law. He has come to begin to bring the fulfillment of the law and to establish God’s kingdom in this world.
This act of righteousness by Jesus is a wonderful beginning. There is the voice of the Heavenly Father proclaiming that this is righteous; that Jesus is righteousness, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
A wonderful beginning; but it is only a beginning. Jesus begins his ministry among the Jews, God’s chosen people. It is a beginning of a journey that will take him to the cross and to the defeat of the cross to the triumph of the tomb and the defeat of death.
When we are baptized that is exactly what happens. We are made righteous; we are made part of God’s plan for us and for the world. We are initiated into the people of the way—the way of Jesus Christ. We are initiated into the people who acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the only begotten son of God the Father. We are initiated into the people who follow Jesus and his call for us to live as he has commanded us to live; to love one another as he loves us.
But wait; that not all. Just as Jesus’ baptism was only the beginning of his ministry and journey to the cross.
Our baptism is also a beginning; the beginning of a journey—the journey of a lifetime until we are reunited with our Heavenly Father when our journey on this earth has run its course. It is a journey which we are called to share the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. Just as Jesus and John spent many years discerning their part in God’s plan for them and for the world each of us is called to discern God’s plan for us.
Take a few minutes to consider what that might be. What is God calling you to be and do as part of God’s Kingdom that was launched two thousand years ago in the Jordan River when John baptized Jesus and the proclamation came from heaven?
Let us close by turning to page 158 in the Book of Alternative Services for the renewal of our baptismal vows.