Psalm 27:1-14, Matthew 3:13-17
January 10, 2016
For those of you who weren’t here last week, we were talking about Epiphany. And I reminded you that Epiphany is “a sudden and striking realization” of something. It is, what we might call, an “Aha!” moment. In the Christian context, it was the “sudden realization” that the message of the “good news of great joy” was indeed “to all people!” And that was seen in the visit of the Gentile kings who came to worship the Christ child.
I said last week, that Epiphany also included the “sudden revelation” to the world that Jesus was the “son of God.” That’s the story we remember today, as we celebrate the “Baptism of Our Lord.”
I also said last week, that these are things we often take for granted. They’re just “part of the picture” of our faith. We don’t think anything of them. “Sure! Jesus is the Son of God!” That’s just a “given.” So once again, I encourage you to think about what it was like for these people to be hearing this for the first time. “Hey, what are these Gentiles doing here visiting Jesus?!” “Hey, what’s going on with this Jesus as an adult?” “Who does he think he is?” “Hey, I thought John was the big prophet around here!”
Actually, that last part was true! If you remember last week, I gave you a “teaser” about this week. And I said that the exchange between John and Jesus was not as important as the dove and the voice of God. But I don’t want us to miss that exchange. Because it’s part of this picture we need to be re-examining.
It was hard for people – in those days – to understand that Jesus was more important than John. That’s hard for us to think. But they hadn’t had an actual prophet in their midst for hundreds of years, and many believed John to be one! So it was hard for some to switch, and to see Jesus as more important! There are a number of places in the New Testament where that was emphasized. And this is one of them. In this story, Jesus came to John and John said, “What? You came to be baptized by me? I should be baptized by you!” Matthew’s readers needed to hear that!
But there’s more. Because John had just been telling the people that “one is coming who is “mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry!” In the Gospel of John, people came to John the Baptist, saying that Jesus was starting to take make more disciples than him. And John said, “He must increase, and I must decrease.” (John 3:30) People needed to hear that. They needed to know Jesus was the important one. John even says a word about this in the great prologue of his Gospel. “In the beginning was the word…” he wrote. “The true light was coming into the world…” But then he said, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light.” Do you remember that?
So the people were learning that Jesus was the important one. Again, that’s just a “given” for us. But they needed to understand it. So, in our story for today, John “relented” and baptized Jesus, and then these two wonderful, “sudden, and striking” revelations took place. The Spirit of God descended and rested on Jesus in a visible way – in the form of a dove. And the actual voice of God was heard. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Can you imagine seeing and hearing that for the first time? Remember, those people were not out there to see Jesus. They were there to see John! They had been coming to him for some time now, not just to be baptized, but also to hear his fiery message of repentance and the Kingdom of God. Many did believe he was a prophet! Then in the middle of his “ministering unto the people,” as my brother would say, Jesus steps out from the crowd and this sudden revelation takes place.
Again, this story is part of Epiphany. It is a “striking realization” that Jesus was and is the Son of God. And I asked you then to think about your own“Personal Epiphany.” What does this story mean to you? I asked you to think about the time in your life (if you had one) when you had a “sudden realization” of who Jesus was. I told you about mine. I had been raised in the Church, but then at one point it all made sense.
As we think about “rededication” this morning, think about what that “Revelation of Jesus” meant to you. Was it a strong feeling? Was it a joyful feeling? Was it a hesitant feeling? Did you know that something was important about this guy, but you weren’t sure what? And what do you think about Jesus now?
Here we are at the start of a new year. It’s “The Year of Our Lord 2016.” Think about making it – for yourself – “The Year of Our Lord.” Last week I asked if you had made any New Year’s Resolution. And your response was like crickets chirping! Well, I’m asking you to make one today! I’m asking you to “resolve” to follow Jesus in 2016. I’m asking you to renew your commitment to God through him.
Or maybe you need to think in terms of making a first commitment. I don’t want to make any “spiritual assumptions” here. Years ago I thought being a Christian simply meant you go to church. Later I learned that’s not true. It’s good to be in a church building, don’t get me wrong. But what makes us a follower of Christ, is making a commitment to follow Christ. And if that’s appropriate for you, for the first time, I invite you to do that – or if you’re not sure, to ask about it. And it you do that, I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand or anything like that. But I do ask you to tell someone about it. Tell me. Tell someone else. Whatever is comfortable for you.
So then, here we go. Let’s take a few moments in silent prayer. Then I’ll ask you to renew the Baptismal Vows. And then I will “re-introduce” you to the waters of Baptism. And that will all lead to the time we will celebrate our “other” sacrament – the sacrament of Holy Communion.
Eternal God, send your Holy Spirit upon us, that we will know Jesus is your Son. And in knowing, we will seek to follow him. For we pray in his name, Amen.