- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
Jesus' Baptism points to Jobs for all of us.
220109 Baptism of Christ C Luke 3.15-22 Isiah 43.1-7 Ps 29 Acts 8 14-17
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The preparations for Christmas are done and the decorations are packed away, for many the holiday is over and how we can live and work in a COVID threatened environment is the burning question. Listening to today’s Gospel reading do we find any comfort? Saint Luke has told us of Jesus, and his humanity, born to humble parents, a birth unannounced except to shepherds and foreigners.
Then we hear of the baptism of Jesus. The baptism recorded in the story is the first public declaration of Jesus’ ministry. Instead of going to Jerusalem and identifying with the established religious leaders Jesus went to a river and identified himself with those who were repenting of sin. When Jesus, at age 12 visited the temple, he understood his mission. Eighteen years later at his baptism, he began carrying it out. And as Jesus prayed, God spoke and confirmed his decision to act.
We find this strange prophet named John with a message that many were listening to. John had a job to do, he knew what his mission was. The purpose of John’s message was to prepare people to accept Jesus as God’s Son. When John challenged the people to confess sin individually, he signalled the start of a new way to relate to God. Change is needed in a person’s life before the message of Jesus can be heard and understood. The need for forgiveness needs to be acknowledged before forgiveness can be accepted. Repentance is also part of the equation. A person needs to live life in a new and different way moving closer to the life of Christ and closer to the heart of God.
As John was baptizing, he was pointing out how insignificant he was compared to the one who was coming. John was not even worthy of doing the most menial tasks for Jesus, like untying his sandals. This was usually the job of the house slave in the society of the time. John is illustrating the servant hood of a follower of the servant Christ.
John told people that Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit, sending the Holy Spirit to live within each believer. (John 20:22) John’s baptism with water prepared a person to receive Christ’s message. This baptism demonstrated repentance, humility, and willingness to turn from sin and was the beginning of the spiritual process of becoming a follower of Jesus.
If John’s baptism was for repentance from sin, why was Jesus Baptized? While even the greatest prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel had to confess their sinfulness and need for repentance, Jesus did not need to admit sin because he was sinless. Although Jesus did not need forgiveness, he was baptized to show support for John’s ministry, he was baptised alongside a host of others, to identify with our humanness and sin and to give us an example to follow.
John clearly knew what his mission in life was and he single-mindedly concentrated on the task of preparing people for the revelation of the coming Messiah.
Do we clearly know what our mission in life is? Think about this. There is definitely something God wants you to do with your life, and only you can do it. God has equipped you with your own unique personality and talents and if you don’t seek to know how to use these gifts, the work you have been created for won’t get done. All of us need to look around us and see where opportunities may be for us to be doing work for God, to be ministering to others and pointing others to Christ.
We need to have the fire of the Spirit in us, and this fire will confirm for us the way we are going and how well we are doing the job that has been given to us. The winnowing fork of the Holy Spirit will help to show us the way. The illustration of the practicality of separating the wheat seeds from the storks and husks is clear. If we are not serious about our mission in life, we run the risk of being blown about in the wind like chaff which to prevent being blown all over the place it is heaped up and burnt. Our purpose in life needs to have substance and produce results.
When we discover our mission in life, we also find that preparation is usually needed. Jesus found this and we can follow his example.
Jesus was baptised to show that his life was not going to be a life of outward hypocrisy, but of inner obedience to God. He was showing solidarity with people repenting and returning to an authentic life.
Jesus prayed and heaven opened. Prayer is essential for a good relationship with God and Jesus made prayer a priority in his own life. If we want the work we do to be successful then we need the help of the holy Spirit and the way to fetch up the Holy Spirit is to study the word of God and to pray with sincerity. It is the Spirit who goes before us to prepare the way and show us the way that has been prepared.
Jesus had affirmation from the Father. A voice came from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Sometimes we forget that although Jesus was God, he was also human. He needed to be encouraged and praised just as much as we do. He heard from the Father that his preparation for his earthly work was good. He was hearing Well done!
We also need to know that the work we are doing is actually what God wants and we want to know if we are pleasing to God. How can we know this? It would be nice if we heard a voice from heaven, but we can hear from God by reading the scriptures. We can discover how much we are loved, God thinks about us, he watches over us, listens to our prayers and answers them time and time again.
God shows us his love through nature, the beauty of our world, and through fellowship with others who pray with us and support us. God wants us all to have effective and authentic lives and has a special ministry for each of us to fulfil. John the Baptiser and Jesus, the son of God both knew what their purpose in life and ministry was and got on with doing it. As we focus on our task as John did and as we prepare ourselves for the work as Jesus did, we will find that our life will have meaning and significance.
If you have not already done so, find out what the purpose of your life is, and live it. You will be happier than ever before and amazed at what can be achieved when you have the Holy Spirit of God working with you.