First Sunday after the Epiphany, Baptism of the Lord
January 9, 2011: Isaiah 42:1-9; Psalm 29; Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 3:13-17
Isaiah 42:1-9: Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
5 Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people upon it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,
I have taken you by the hand and kept you;
I have given you as a covenant to the people,
a light to the nations,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord, that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to idols.
9 See, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth,
I tell you of them.
Matthew 3:13-17: Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ 15 But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
First Sunday after Epiphany Comment: My denominational affiliation is Baptist and it administers Baptism to those old enough to profess their faith in Jesus Christ. So, I have a vivid memory of my Baptism experience. I was keenly aware that when I stepped into the Baptismal waters, I was making a public declaration that God had done something wonderful in my life. I understood the message of John the Baptizer in Matt. 3:1, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. I learned by asking God’s forgiveness for all the wrongs I had done that the kingdom was as close to me as my next breath. For, instantly God’s cleansing power poured over my soul and I was filled with a peace that promised I was God’s child, eternally.
Christian doctrine teaches that Jesus, God incarnate, could not sin and there was nothing to repent of. This begs the question, what else can Baptism signify? I propose that Baptism is also a statement of mission and commission.
The Scriptures are silent about the growing up years of Jesus except when he was 12 years old. Jesus was left behind when his family left Jerusalem to return home from a sacred festival. After his parents found Jesus the Scriptures record, And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. Luke 2:52. The prophet spoke of Jesus Messiah, He will not cry or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. It took 30 years for Jesus to grow into that person and to understand his mission. So all that remained was a confirmation, which God bestowed with the words, This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
I also propose, with Jesus as our example that Baptism is also a sign of commission. After Jesus’ Baptism, Matthew records Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of Satan. Fortified with the character described by the prophet and secure in the knowledge that God was pleased with him, Jesus remained true to the will of God. Baptism signifies that the baptized one is equipped to face life’s temptations to forget God’s pleasure toward us. Baptism leaves an indelible impression in our memories. There we remember the joy we felt when we understood God’s pleasure towards us. There we are reminded that God offers eternal strength to become our best that is reflections of Jesus.
O God, during this season of Epiphany, fill our minds with fuller revelations of the gift of Baptism. AMEN
©January, 6, 2011