Baptized Into Christ for a Purpose
Today we move from the story of Jesus birth and take a great leap forward in Jesus life. Past 18 years of basically silence. Except for the fact that Jesus was probably trained as a carpenter, we know nothing really.
Now, here he is at the age of 30. He had grown up as a Jew and had been taught the Torah, the Mishnah, had listened to the priests and rabbis as they taught. He could have simply struck out as a rabbi himself, wandering and gathering his band of followers as rabbis did.
But he made a very different choice. He went out to the desert where his cousin John the Baptist was preaching and calling people to a baptism of repentance for their sins. He was baptizing thousands in the Jordan River.
John was preaching to the people at the riverside when Jesus approached. The crowd was wondering if he was the one to come, the Messiah. But John said, I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I was coming. I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
That’s quite a statement coming from someone as fiery as John himself was. It made Jesus sound like another John, someone to fear and obey not out of love but out of that fear. It sounded like this one to come was a Messiah of vengeance, or judgement.
With that kind of introduction, you wouldn’t expect to see Jesus coming down to the riverside to be baptized for the remission of sins.
Why would that kind of Messiah need that kind of baptism? Or any baptism?
And yet the way Luke tells the story Jesus is simply one of the crowd coming to John for baptism. In Matthews gospel John protests this saying the he should be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus says that his own baptism was necessary to fulfill all righteousness.
Why would Jesus need to be baptized? He was the Son of God, and had no need for a baptism of repentance.
These two things are at the heart of our faith. Baptism for the forgiveness of sin and entrance to the Christian community and repentance as a way of life, of living in that community.
Jesus, in his baptism, modeled what his followers were being called to do. To seek forgiveness in a public concrete way, and after this to live in a community that honored that act by living in the path of repentance and forgiveness in daily life.
Jesus didn’t stand up and claim his status as the Son of God. He simply waded into the water for his turn for baptism.
In this he was claiming his place as one of us, as a fully human person in need of God. This was appropriate. Jesus was fully human as well as divine.
Jesus came to John to receive baptism in the same way that others did. While they were there for repentance Jesus was there to receive the GIFT of baptism from John as he began his ministry. It wasn’t required, but he still wanted it.
So John baptized Jesus the same way he baptized everyone else.
But what happened afterward was like nothing anyone had seen or heard before.
As Jesus came up from the water, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in the form of a dove, and a voice from heaven was heard saying,
“ You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased.”
God was setting God’s seal upon Jesus as he prepared for the next part of his life, his ministry. Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit in order to go out into the world for the work he was born to do.
During baptism, when we come to the font, when our families and congregation commit themselves to teaching us the stories of Jesus, the church, to sharing and modeling a life of faith with us, we are being prepared to fulfill God’s purpose for us.
What is the purpose God has for each of us today?
As Luther would put it what is the vocation we are called to take up to bring the kingdom to this time and place. Are we teachers, doctors, nurses, rescue personnel, military, do our jobs make the world run more smoothly? Are we parents grandparents foster parents, those who take the care and raising of all children to heart?
We have each been baptized into Christ for a purpose. Each day when we get up and go about our daily lives, we are bringing Christ with us in all we do. Sometimes its easy. Other times it is a struggle. Yet Christ is with us in the humanity of his baptism wherever we go, whatever we do.
For the next week I am giving you an exercise to do.
Each morning when you get up, as you prepare for the day, when you are washing your face, splash your face with water three times. After each splash say to yourself I am baptized. When you have done this you have completed the ancient formula for baptism, by splashing yourself three times.
Do this to remember that you belong to God, you are beloved by God and that God will be with you and never let you go, whatever happens each day. You are precious and beloved, named and claimed by the same God who spoke to Jesus from the clouds, “You are my beloved Son, With you I am well pleased.”
You can do this at night before you go to sleep as well, to remind you that God has all things in Gods hands.
In our baptism, we are joined to Christ in life and death. Our promise of eternal life is sure. Gods love will never fail or desert us. What better way to remind ourselves each day than with a little splash of water?