1/13/02, Baptism of the Lord

“This is my Son

(13) "Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. (14) But John didn't want to baptize him. 'I am the one that needs to be baptized by you,' He said, 'so why are you coming to me?' (15) But Jesus said, 'It must be done, because we must do everything that is right.' So then John baptized him. (16) After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. (17) And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my beloved Son, and I am fully pleased with him." (Matthew 3: 13-17, NLT).

Whether we individually believe Jesus to be the Son of God it is clear that this text proclaims Him so, Jesus understood Himself to be so, and God recognized Him to be so.

Any parent would recognize their child even if they had not seen the child in thirty years. Perhaps the child had grown a beard and was becoming a bit stooped from years of hard carpentry: He was probably sun tanned, strong and lean, looking nothing like the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, but the parent would know the child. Thus, we hear God speaking from heaven saying, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." (Mt. 3: 13-17, NRSV). Any parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle can feel the Father's love and pride in that sentence. We love our children; indeed, we love all children.

Mickey Angel shared a quotation with me Sunday night from Golda Maier, former Prime Minister of Israel. Following a particularly grim terroristic attack she said through tears, "We can forgive you for killing our children, but we cannot forgive you for making us kill your children." Any parent can feel her pain.

Jesus understood his baptism as a fulfillment of the prophetic vision of the Messiah, one who would bring salvation to the Jews, and to all people everywhere. However, in His cousin John's initial resistance to baptizing Him it may be implied that John was unclear about the nature of the Messiah. Yet, John fulfilled his role, as a forerunner who preached salvation to the Jews in order to make their hearts palatable to hear Jesus' further message, not fully understanding at the time exactly what his own part in the scheme of things was.

Many times we might play an unintentional role in the life of someone else. A few months ago a young woman from a former church surprised me by saying that I had changed her life. I initially assumed it was some insight from one of my thousands of sermons, but not so. She said, "Don't you recall running into me and my boyfriend at K-Mart and how I told you that college was a drag and I was planning to quit and how you said that sometimes stuff like that was a drag but that we have to drag on until it's over and then we look back and see how worthwhile it was." I did not recall saying that but I am glad I did. Similarly, in verse fourteen of our text we see John being used unwittingly in a mighty way.

Jesus' baptism was also a kind of ordination, or the first public announcement and beginning of His public ministry. It was the first public proclamation that He was the Son of God. The imagery of the Spirit descending in the form of a pure dove and alighting on Jesus was an open affirmation to everyone of His Sonship. The voice from heaven also affirmed Jesus as God's Son. Obviously, the people gathered at the river also saw the dove and heard God's voice because the voice was speaking to them when it said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (v.17, NASV).

And the people believed what they heard and many began to follow Jesus in His traveling ministry. Thousands became His Disciples because they understood what God had said about His Son. Their lives were changed as a result of being a part of Jesus' baptism.

These brand new believers soon realized that in a spiritual sense they too had become adopted sons and daughters of God, and brothers and sisters of Jesus the Christ. They felt wrapped in the family of God. Some Native Americans still follow a ritual of "The Blanket Ceremony" in which they wrap newly baptized Christians tightly in a blanket as a symbol of their being received into the tightly knit Family of God. Christian Disciples become a part of a family. We are kindred spirits through Christ who is the tie that binds. We are one also in faith and doctrine. The authors of the New Testament believed what they wrote, and so can we.

Jesus confronts us as the only person of history to claim to be God. We are confronted with the decision as to what we are to make of Him. There is no halfway house and there is no parallel in any other religion. In addressing nominally religious persons who wanted to make Jesus into only a good moral teacher, or just another prophet, C. S. Lewis repeatedly said that this is out of the question. "In my opinion, a person who says that he is God is either a lunatic, a liar or he is who he says he is." Josh McDowell coined the term "Trilemma," in reference to Lewis' confrontive statement. McDowell took it a step further and said that we must decide if Jesus was a "Lunatic, Liar or Lord." In our text God Himself says to all the people gathered at the river, "This is my Son." Why would the authors of the New Testament have said such a bold thing if they did not believe it themselves? We too must decide: There is no watered-down approach to Jesus.

Indeed, the whole point of the Creation, the Christ Event, and our assembly here today is that we might have the assurance in our hearts that we belong. God created us for fellowship but Adam and Eve rebelled and each of us have rebelled too: Some quietly and secretly, others violently and publicly; but we have all sinned and need to find a road back home to God. As many found their way back to God's fold as a result of witnessing Jesus' baptism, we too are made aware of that same pathway by the leading of the Spirit. My hope is that every one of us still hears that voice from heaven.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

1/13/02, Baptism of the Lord