Rev. Rosemary Webb
13th January 2019
The Baptism of Christ

I think one of the surprising things about Jesus’ baptism is that there is only a very short account in Luke’s Gospel.

Apart from hearing that John knew who Jesus was and really couldn’t therefore imagine that he was the person who could baptise him, that is nearly the whole story.

We do all know the story of John walking around calling people loudly, more like yelling at them really, to repent calling them to be baptised in the River Jordan. Assuring the people he wasn’t the Messiah and someone greater than him was coming. When one day Jesus walked by and basically joined in. It wasn’t a special service just for him, we heard that Jesus joined the people and as he was baptised, he was also praying. Then the heaven opened, the Holy Spirit came down on him as a dove and there was this voice from heaven saying ‘this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased’. When we think how the Jews thought the Messiah would come in power, this must have been a huge challenge to them, for John was known by his what you might call scruffy attire, today he would probably be called a rough sleeper A reminder to us all that we shouldn’t judge people’s worthiness by the way they dress.

Not just was Christ setting the example of how God wanted people to turn to him, but he was showing the crowd the Trinity for the first time. The son being baptised, the holy Trinity coming down as a dove and the father’s voice telling the people that this was the Messiah.

John had baptised others but it was only this Baptism of Christ which was about to transform the world. It was this baptism that has given us our basic understanding of Baptism,. When we think about it Jesus didn’t need to be baptised for he is God, and when he was baptised, no one had to tell him what to do, he basically knew what to do, he knew how he was going to baptise from that day on.

We also need to remember that this was Jesus setting out on his earthly ministry, we know very little about his early years, God obviously wanted him to be accustomed to being with different people, to have an understanding of earthly life before calling him to reach out, tell the world about his father We need to always remember that whilst Jesus Is God he was also truly human, he thought like we do, he suffered like we do.

Was Jesus’ baptism only for himself? Was his baptism simply an important event, in his personal story, was Jesus saying perhaps that on this day each year everyone should be baptised?

We know the Light of Christ enlightens every human being, shines upon everyone, so surely Jesus is here for the whole world not just for Christians. Whether people wish to accept that fact is their decision, however much they dislike being told it, God sent his son to earth to show all mankind his love.

The nature he assumed was not simply for the benefit of those on earth then, but for the benefit of all future generations also. This baptism gave God the opportunity to declare that ‘This is his beloved son’.

That everything Jesus did in his earthly life was for the good of all people, that God had sent him to show the father’s love for all people that in three years time Christ’s death was an atonement not just for the chosen few but for the sins of the whole world. The risen body of Easter was not simply in order to raise up a few, but to raise up the great harvest of the dead, of whom Christ is the first-fruits.

Luke seems to suggest that Jesus’ baptism was John’s final baptism. It is as if Jesus not only completes the preparatory work of John, but transforms it, this is a new baptism, a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, a baptism that can only be done in the name of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The passage from Acts brings a different dimension for we learn that the people of Samaria had been baptised only in the name of Jesus. We hear that there was nothing to suggest that the Baptism was not in order, nor that it was apparent that they had not received the Holy Spirit. But we learn that Peter and John were sent to Samaria to lay hands on them so that they also received the Holy Spirit. I personally don’t think God is criticising Philips ministry but he is stressing that it is important that all Christians are baptised in the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit and surely particularly if, like the Samaritans, the people had been regarded as outsiders. That it is important all Christians are acknowledged as equals for in God we are all one.

Jesus’ baptism embraces all Christ’s work, all his life from the River Jordan to Calvary, so surely, we must also understand that our baptism embraces all of our lives, it is what set us out on the road to discipleship.

When our parents and godparents, or we ourselves if we were adult, committed us to service Jesus it shouldn’t just be a glib response but a true commitment to service God, one we must never forget. Jesus gave his life for our salvation, the least we can do is serve him.

We are called to proclaim the glory of Christ in all his fullness and invite men, women and children to come to him in faith. The love of Christ compels us. Jesus’ baptism and life was for every one of us regardless of our faith, we must teach we are all God’s children and he loves each one of us, the Holy Spirit is here for us all, to strengthen and support.

The concept of the Holy Spirit is, I think, difficult for some people. When I was priested at the Cathedral one of my daughters and her family were sitting just at the side of the altar, very close, and after a minute or two her three year old piped up ‘I am watching and I haven’t seen that person come down once yet!’

We live in such a visual world, there are so many buttons we can press and pictures appear from round the world. Jesus came to earth so that people could see him, his appearance could be handed down o future generations, but he could only help those he met.

When The Holy Spirit is called upon in our baptism to come down we may not see him but he can always see us, he can touch our hearts and strengthen our faith, for he is here. It is God’s life-giving grace coming down to us individually, God is always with us. Many people get comfort from visual things but they cannot really respond to us. The Holy Spirit is not visible but it is God’s presence in or lives, God will never leave us, he loves us and will always reach out to us, just as Christ reached out to all he met in his earthly life, Jesus never walked by on the other side, neither does the Holy Spirit.

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Acts 8