The Baptism of our Lord – Sunday January 12, 2014
Liturgically the first Sunday after Epiphany is the Sunday in which we remember the baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The lectionary reading this Sunday is Matthew 3:13-17 which reads (ESV), “13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him,[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.””
Imagine the scene and witnessing this miraculous occurrence. A dove appears and the voice of God speaks proclaiming His pleasure. A part of me yearns for it, but another side would be almost fearful to hear the audible voice of God, especially if speaking to me. You may wonder why a pastor who has his faith centered in Christ and the Holy Word of God would be fearful and the answer is simple. I know that I am a sinner. I am aware of my shortcomings and that continual draws me nearer to my faith in Jesus Christ. The difference between me and Jesus is that Jesus was perfect and sinless, He was by nature divine because He was the Divine when He walked amongst us and I am not.
I cringe when I hear people and theologians speak of our choice, the ditch is all around us. There are those that decry infant baptism because they argue, “The child has no choice in the matter and they cannot make that decision to believe.” Then there are those that toss out any understanding of natural law or ultimate truth and instead say that our nature reveals how we are created and we should celebrate that instead of submitting it and in that moment deny sin altogether as a construct to keep people down and feeling sorry for themselves.
I neither hold people to the standards of Jesus baptism nor do I see the baptism that we receive in the glorious Sacrament like the baptism of John. In the baptism of Jesus, our Lord transformed baptism into something greater as something we are buried into (see Romans 6) and brought us into the fullness of the new life given to us through our Lord Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection upon that cross so long ago. I find my hope in the rebirth that I have been given and continue to receive as, through the Holy Spirit, I am being continually reshaped and renewed. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther, so many centuries ago, opened so many doors of understanding when it came to reminding us of our redemption that his word still speak to a society and a people that are searching for a redemptive God, a God that is not seeking to crush us under his thumb, or strike us down for any indiscretion. He came up with a solution in entering His own creation and coming down in His Son for one purpose and one purpose alone, to open the door for us for salvation that we may have the hope of entering into His presence.
How does this differentiate from the baptism of John? John’s baptism was simply a baptism of repentence that would require one to return over and over again, but the waters of the baptism we receive in Jesus Christ are connected to the Word which gives us the promises of Christ and adopts us as sons and daughters of the One and Only Living Lord through His triune person – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are renewed in these waters and given the fullness of life eternal and when we cling to the promises we can be led away from the temptations that lead us to sin. People that argue for choice and free will do have it right in one aspect, we are free to choose sin and rebel against God, but in our submission to God we are truly freed from the bondage of sin and shame that covers our daily living. As we live in a world which falls under the banner of “Be True to Yourself” we, as Christians are called to a different standard, a standard that reads “Lord, Thank You for Saving Me from Myself.” May the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in the true faith of Jesus Christ our Lord.