Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Baptism of Jesus

Feast of the Baptism of the Lord

                 Gospel Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

The people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water,
but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

All four gospels begin Jesus' entry into public life with John the Baptist's emergence from the desert; so it is clear that John the Baptist's mission was essential to Jesus' own mission. Indeed, the Gospel of John says of the Baptist: "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came as a witness, to give testimony to the Light, that all might believe through Him." And Jesus Himself, later says of the Baptist, "Amongst those that are born of women, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist." (Luke 7:28). So the Light of the World, the Light which of all lights can never be hidden, needed someone to give testimony to Him, needed this holy, radical, ascetic John to give testimony to Him, the Son of God! Although known as the Baptizer by all his contemporaries (including even Herod), John did not invent baptism.

All religions have practiced some form of ritualistic washing of the body. In John's own day, a Jew who had been defiled by contact with a Gentile would have to wash to cleanse themselves of the defilement; and in the 16th chapter of Leviticus we find that the high priest must "confess all the iniquities of the children of Israel and shall wash his flesh in the holy place." But this was a generalized confession. John's baptism was unique in that it demanded that the individual confess their own sinfulness. Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand! John's word for 'repent is 'metanoe-ite' which means a complete change of mind, heart and soul to a life of holiness and openness to God and he was telling the Jewish people that they needed to make a profound spiritual change within themselves (from the high priests on down) to make that Kingdom possible. This in the end is what caused the rulers of his people to turn against him, and today we see Jesus, having come upon a turning point in His own life, having arrived at the threshold from whence he would leave the carpenter's life to embrace the Cross of being the Savior of nations, He insists on being baptized, to make a public statement about His life and His beliefs, to reveal the triune nature of God and to depict the beautiful work of the Trinitarian God in human salvation, to affirm John's preaching and teaching, to respond as a human being to God's inner call to live as the Chosen, Suffering Servant of God--in bringing forth justice, mercy, healing and freedom to those in darkness and bondage.

Luke's description of the baptismal scene is striking in the way he underplays the actual water event at the hand of John, choosing instead to highlight the prayer of Jesus, the descent of the Holy Spirit, and the heavenly voice proclaiming Jesus as God's beloved. These emphases are deliberate, revealing Jesus as a model for all believers. Jesus requested baptism of John not because He was sinful, but because He wished to join Himself to sinful humanity to show us that God wants to save us and empower us. It is most important to note that the descent and empowerment of the Spirit occurred when Jesus was praying! Likewise for us.... it is in prayer and through prayer that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to join in Jesus' mission.

Deacon Mary Wagner
St. Valentine Faith Community
Mass: 10AM Every Sunday
2670 Chandler Avenue
Suite 7 & 8
Las Vegas, NV 89120
702-523-8963 Rev Sue Provost, Pastor

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. " (1 John 4:9-10)

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