Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-43 Mathew 3:13-17
A new year is a time of hope for new things to happen, that this year will be better than the one we have just left. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus is baptised by John the Baptist. Some questions that often arise out of this passage include Is Jesus baptism about our baptism or Jesus’ baptism? But another and perhaps more relevant question, Why does Jesus need to be baptised at all?
Before I answer these questions, I want us to consider what baptism is about. Sometimes I hear people say I want my baby christened. What they are asking is for their child to be baptised. The two words are quite interchangeable but I would encourage us to use the word Baptism. Holy Baptism is one of the two biblical Sacraments. The other is Holy Communion. In the Nicene Creed we say ‘We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins’. So why baptism. Jesus commanded it. In John ch 3:5 Jesus said, unless one is born of water and the spirit, [they] cannot enter the kingdom of God and at the end of Matthew in what is called the Great Commission, Jesus said, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ Matthew 28:19.
Our baptism is a sign of our commitment to Jesus Christ. It symbolised the washing away of our sins. Our old life of sin and separation is washed away, that is what the Creed means when it speaks of ‘baptism for the forgiveness of sins’). And in Christ we are adopted as sons and daughters of God. It is a moment of decision to turn away from our old life and welcome the life of Christ into our hearts and minds. It is also the moment the Holy Spirit is welcomed into our lives to work in us, to will and do the will of God.
So is Jesus baptism about our baptism. The simple answer is yes and no. Yes in the sense that is a precursor to our own. And it is a no because Jesus baptism in Matthew’s gospel does not urge us to be baptised like Jesus. When Matthew does talk about disciples being baptised, it is after the resurrection in the context of the Great Commission as we heard earlier, rather than from Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river.
Jesus’ baptism occurs before his public ministry which does not begin until Matthew chapter 4:17. Matthew’s gospel lays the foundation of Jesus’ identity from chapter 1 to chapter 4. Jesus is identified as the Messiah, the son of Abraham, son of David. Jesus is born of the virgin Mary. King Herod attempts to kill the boy Jesus . The Magi come and worship Jesus, offering him gifts worthy of a King. Joseph heeds the voice of the angels and ensures Jesus is safe from harm, from Herod. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Jesus’ birth is the fulfillment of prophecy and therefore the fulfillment of scripture. And finally, John the Baptist says in Chapter 3 verse 11 ‘I baptise you with water for repentance, but the one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Jesus identity as the Messiah is affirmed by John and as Jesus is baptised, not only is he affirmed by John, but by God and the Holy Spirit. A voice from heaven is heard, ‘This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased. The opening of the heavens is a reminder of ‘divine revelation’. God revealing who Jesus is, the Son of God, the beloved one of God.
And if this is not enough to show us who this Jesus is, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus ‘like a dove’. The Holy Spirit along with the Father testifies to Jesus identity as the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. The Holy Spirit comes to empower Jesus for the work of ministry. In Isaiah chapter 42, the words of the prophet proclaim who Jesus is, ‘Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my sou delights. I have put my spirit upon him’. The Holy Spirit comes to affirm Jesus’ identity.
John ‘would have prevented Jesus, saying ‘I need to be baptised by you’. But Jesus response to John affirms to us that it was right for John to baptise Jesus. Jesus did what he believed was necessary. In verse 15 of chapter 3, Jesus replies to John, saying, ‘It is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness’. And John consents and baptised Jesus, making way for God and the Holy Spirit to affirm Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, the Christ, the one who came into the world to reveal the love of God to all people.
Finally, after Jesus’ baptism, Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. And he overcomes each temptation.
Jesus baptism testifies to Jesus identity as Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. He too shared in a baptism of repentance. At baptism, we ae asked to turn to Christ, to repent of our sins, to reject selfish living and all that is false and unjust and to renounce Satan and all evil. Today, if you have been baptised, may we recall to mind the promises that were made on our behalf, or we personally professed, continue to live in them. I turn to Christ, I repent of my sins, I continue to reject selfish living and all that is false and unjust and I renounce Satan and all that is evil.
Jesus baptism reveals to us who Jesus is. May we continue to come to know in our hearts and minds the one who is called Messiah, Son of God, the Beloved one.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.