- The Revd Canon Camellia Flanagan, TSSF
The baptism of Jesus
210110 Baptism of our Lord. B Genesis 1:1-5 Ps 29 Acts 19:1-7 Mark 1: 4-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
There are two questions that are critical for Christians: “Is Jesus God’s Son?” and “Did Jesus rise to life after being dead? ” If the answer to these questions is “No” then the Christian faith should be abandoned, and no attempt should be made to persuade others to accept it.
If Jesus is the Son of God and did rise from the dead, then he can claim to be Lord of All. Lord over all creation and all people everywhere and with the power to give his Holy Spirit to his people and to grant eternal life to those who believe in him. Then we might ask “ Why baptism?” We are told that Jesus commanded the Disciples to baptize so that believers would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and the gift of everlasting life when Jesus returns.
So, what evidence do we have that the stories we read in the Gospels and elsewhere are true? In about 47 AD five Christian leaders met in Jerusalem (Galatians 2: 7-9 Three of them, James, Cephas known as Peter and John were the pillars of the Church of Jerusalem and two – Barnabas and Paul – were leaders from the Church of Antioch in northern Syria. All the missionary work of these leaders achieved significant results and the writing of the gospels were included and assisted in this work. The Gospel attributed to Mark who had acted as interpreter to the Greek speaking audiences for Peter’s Aramaic preaching wrote his Gospel based on his own recollections of Peter’s words.1
It is considered that his gospel was written in Rome for Gentile subjects of the Roman Emperor, to commend God’s true King to them – the crucified Son of God. It is not certain when it was written but is considered to be the earliest of the Gospels within a time frame of AD 33-100.
The association between John Mark and Peter spans about thirty years and Peter’s ministry is mentioned in Acts 12:12 when he escaped from prison, he went to the house of Mary the Mother of John whose other name was Mark. During this long period, we have snippets of Mark in missionary work. The truth was handed on in true rabbinical style. Mark was a disciple of Peter who was a disciple of the Lord. Peter was also an eyewitness to the life of Jesus on earth at the time. It is through the written word of Mark that allows us to hear at first hand, detailed events concerning the Son of God’s mission on earth. Mark’s gospel in the passage read this morning announces the clear details of the historical background to the coming of the Messiah. John the Baptizer’s clothes were not the latest style of his day. He dressed much like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8) to distinguish himself from the religious leaders whose flowing robes reflected their great pride in their position.(Mark 12:38) and to identify with the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah. John’s striking appearance is reinforced by his striking message.
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 Jesus’ message can be heard and understood. The need for forgiveness needs to be admitted before forgiveness can be accepted. Repentance is also part of the equation.
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 him, like untying his sandals. This was usually the job of the house slave in the society of the time. But John is showing 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.
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.
We know that John’s baptism was different from Christian baptism because Paul had John’s followers baptized again, so they would receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 19: 2-5)
In Mark’s account of Jesus’ baptism, we are told that Jesus saw the Spirit descended like a dove on him, and the voice from heaven proclaimed the Father’s approval of Jesus as his divine Son. We see the three members of the Godhead at work. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
But we are given no explanation as to why the Son of God might require a “Baptism of repentance” for the forgiveness of sins. It is not until the sons of Zebedee attempt to make a deal with Jesus for power and prestige in the coming Kingdom of God that Jesus reveals that the “Baptism” is one of suffering and identification with sin. “Jesus said to them; ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’” (Mark 10:18).
As a human being, Jesus descends into the waters of sin and death to conquer them for ever. Only the beloved Son of God can achieve this, because only he possesses the divine power, the infinite love of God and the humanity that will enable him to do this. When we as Christians are Baptized, we die with Christ and we rise again to a new life as a new person transformed by the Spirit’s power through the willingness to change through faith. This is a life-long process of learning, faith, and love.
When relating to the call on our lives as disciples of Christ. can we denounce the world’s dead-end attractions, sinful temptations, and harmful attitudes?
Can we put our trust in the Beloved Son of God and follow him as redeemed and beloved children of God?
1 The Truth about Jesus. Paul Barnett, Aquila Press, 1994 Australia.