Baptism of Christ - Year B
THERE ARE 2 SERMONS ON THIS PAGE
Mark 1:4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
Today, people are Baptised in Churches as a sign that they have joined God’s people.
It was different in Jesus’ day. Circumcision was the Jewish equivalent to our Baptism.
Baptism was administered as part of the process of bringing a non-Jew into the Jewish faith.
Yet, John the Baptist was baptising Jews. These people were aware that they were separated from God by their wrongdoing. In submitting to Baptism they were recognising that they were no longer part of God’s people but wanted to come back to God by turning away from their sins.
John’s Baptism recognised this. But he or the Baptism he administered, couldn’t secure forgiveness of people’s sins or give them the power they needed to live for God.
John pointed to Jesus, who could bring forgiveness of sins through His life, death and resurrection. Jesus could also give people the power to live for God by the gift of the Holy Spirit.
At His baptism Jesus, who never did wrong so had no sins to repent of, identified with sinful people who wanted to make a new start with God.
At His Baptism Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. Jesus already had the Holy Spirit because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was given in the Old Testament to equip individuals to serve God for a particular task. Jesus was being anointed for the task of being the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one who would save God’s people from their sins. It was after his Baptism that Jesus began His public ministry.
At His Baptism God the Father affirmed His love for Jesus, His Son, and confirmed that He was pleased with what He was doing. That Jesus was beginning His public ministry as the Messiah.
So, how is Jesus’ baptism relevant for us today?
It reminds us that we all sin, and we need God’s forgiveness and the power to live for God. We can only receive that forgiveness and power through what Jesus has done & by the work of the Holy Spirit.
As we start 2018 let us turn back to God and turn away from our sins. Let us thank God for the forgiveness and power that are ours through Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Our Acts 19 reading featured people who thought they were Christians but had not heard of the Holy Spirit, verse 2. Let us not fall into that error. These people were in Ephesus. Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians, 5.18. “Be filled and go on being filled with the Holy Spirit”. Let us open ourselves up to God’s Holy Spirit and ask Him to come into our lives. It doesn’t matter if this is for the first time or the thousand and first time. We all need to receive God the Holy Spirit constantly to enable us to grow in our love and knowledge of God, to live for Him and serve Him.
Alan Day, 70, and his wife, Valerie, 63 have secured a lease on a beach hut after spending four nights sleeping in their car at the front of the queue. They said it was "like winning the lottery". They queued from Thursday 29th December 2005 before realizing their dream on Monday 2nd January of having a hut at Avon beach near Christchurch in Dorset. About 30 people queued up on Monday for the two long-term huts and a number of shorter term lets.
Isn't it amazing what some people will do to get something?
Things haven't changed. Jerusalem is at least twenty miles from the Jordan River and about four thousand feet above it. It was hard going down the rugged Judean hills to the Jordan and even harder coming back up. Yet many people were making this difficult journey to see and listen to John the Baptist and to submit to his baptism. One of the reasons for the interest was that John preached that the Messiah was coming. This may have inspired people to examine themselves and decide to make a new start with God by turning away from what they knew to be wrong to follow the way God wanted them to live.
Baptism was usually administered to Gentiles who wanted to become part of God's people. In submitting to baptism these Jews were humbly admitting that their sins had separated them from God and that they wanted to make a new start with Him. The waters of baptism symbolized this spiritual washing.
Why then was Jesus baptized? After all, he had no sins to repent of. By being baptized Jesus identified himself with sinful, weak human nature, and especially those who want to make a new start with God.
This was all part of God's plan for Jesus. We see this in God's approval of Him. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. Jesus already had the Holy Spirit within Him, after all He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. However, this was a special anointing to mark the start of Jesus' earthly ministry. The dove symbolizes peace and gentleness which would be features of Jesus' life and ministry. But the dove also symbolized the deliverance of God from the flood, Gen 8:10f. This points to the way that Jesus would deliver people from sin and separation from God.
God declared that Jesus is His Son. A relationship of equals, cemented by love, evidenced by the obedience of Jesus that brought His father pleasure. Jesus was resolutely setting out on a path that would lead to his rejection, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension and the good news being given for everyone in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke [ 3:9-14 ] reports John the Baptist telling those who came to be baptized that they had to live their lives according to God's will. This is relevant for the church today. We live in a world which worships the gods of pleasure, freedom and personal choice at the expense of morality. This has affected the church in the West so that church leaders who are sexually immoral are used by some as examples of how God accepts anyone and everyone! The salvation that God offers summons believers to change their lifestyles in response to God's grace.
The baptism that John offered was preparatory and inferior to that of Jesus. "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
John could not give the motivation to convict people of sin and the power to live according to God's ways. But Jesus can! He is the one who can empower someone to live for God. When we have a bath or shower we need to repeat it to continue to be clean. When we turn to Jesus His Spirit comes and lives within us. His Spirit will bring us continuing cleansing and purifying from our sins, and continuing power to live life God's way.
This baptism with the Holy Spirit was first seen on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit descended on the first believers. Coming in power like a rushing wind. Touching them like fire to purify them. Releasing them from the constraints of language to worship God and declare what He has done.
The Greek word translated "repent" is metanoia, literally a "change of mind". Becoming a follower of Jesus involves a conscious turning away from what is contrary to God's revealed will.
At the start of 2006 and indeed at all times God offers a new start for everyone. Not like a New Year's Resolution where people do not have the power to carry it out. God gives His Spirit to every believer to give them the power to be more like Jesus, to worship and to serve Him.
Let is quietly come before God to look back on 2005. To ask His Spirit to show us where we have grown in our faith.
To ask His Spirit where He wants us to grow in 2006.
Maybe we need to consider how this fits in with the vision I outlined in the Parish News of our church being WELL. Worshipping. Evangelistic. Learning. Loving.