Saturday, January 09, 2010

C, Epilphany 1 - Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 "Good Enough for Jesus, Good Enough for Me!"

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As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 ESV)
If it's good enough for Jesus then surely it's good enough for me. If it's good enough for Jesus then it's good enough for you! And if it's good enough for Jesus then it's good enough for the church gathered in the name of the living God.
What's this about? None other than Jesus' baptism, and baptism which saves sinners from eternal death!
But the question must be asked, "Why did Jesus have to be baptised?" After all, he is the holy Son of the God. John was baptising in the Jordan; a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus was holy, he wasn't a sinner and yet he was baptised. Why? We'll come back to this in a moment!
During Jesus' ministry the word of God reports Jesus baptised how many people? None! (John 4:2) Yet he points us towards baptism many times during his ministry. In fact, his ministry was immersed in the very essence of baptism. He was being baptised with the Holy Spirit and with fire, from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
As we walk with Jesus through the Epiphany season we continue having Jesus revealed to us as we did during the Christmas season. Epiphany literally means to be made known, to be shown, exposed, or to be made manifest. During Christmas he was shown to us as the son of Mary, a human baby, born to a Jewess at Bethlehem in time, and laid in a manger.
In Epiphany what is hidden is also revealed. Jesus is exposed as God; made manifest as God the Son from eternity, hidden in human flesh. He was hidden until the day of his baptism, when heaven opened and God spoke publicly and openly for the first time in hundreds of years.
Jesus' ministry begins with his baptism and the announcement by God the Father that Jesus is his Son, and the crowd witness the embodiment of the Holy Spirit coming down as a dove and resting on Jesus.
Notice how much power Jesus had in beginning his ministry! None! He had no power to enter the world by himself! But he entered the world by the power of God's Word through the Holy Spirit spoken by Gabriel. Likewise, he was pushed into the world through the birth canal of a virgin. Similarly, he was baptised by John and did not baptise himself.
John was baptising the people with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. When Jesus approaches John, Matthews Gospel reports that John hesitates in baptising Jesus. Yet, Jesus needed baptism to "fulfil all righteousness" and so John baptises him. (Matthew 3:15)
Jesus needed to be the passive recipient of baptism, just as he was passively placed in Mary and born into the world. Just as he was passively arrested, crucified, raised, and seen by witnesses after his resurrection. So he receives his baptism in the same passive way, not for the forgiveness of his active sin, but he was passively baptised into death to fulfil all righteousness.
Unlike the people of John the Baptist's day who came as sinners to the Jordan and left forgiven, Jesus entered the Jordan clean and holy but left carrying the burden of people's sin to the cross. This is Jesus' ministry. And on leaving the Jordan the devil immediately sets to work on him, tempting his human nature to sin, but without success.
John's baptism of the people was also an extraordinary event amongst the people. His baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins was a baptism of preparation for the unveiling of Jesus as the Christ. Through John's baptism the Jews were prepared for their Saviour, by having their sins revealed. And as John baptised the people they wondered if it was he who was to be the Christ, the Messiah, or literally the Anointed One!
But it wasn't John; it was Jesus who was revealed as the Christ - the Anointed One. Not only was he the Son of God, he was sent by God to be the Messiah. John had to baptise him; his baptism was his anointing and it fulfilled all righteous requirements. Jesus was anointed into his ministry of the cross to save God's people.
But the people of Israel were looking for a messiah like David who was anointed by Samuel. The days of David were remembered as the glory days of Israel when this anointed shepherd boy became king of Israel and was raised to be the most powerful leader in the history of Israel.
Jesus was anointed too! But to fulfil all righteousness he was baptised into a ministry that would see him seemingly walk in weakness, to the cross. He walked the way of death to fulfil all righteousness. Jesus was revealed and anointed as the King of creation so sinners might be freed. Anointed as the Christ in baptism, God the Son gave up all his power as our Heavenly Father's one and only Son.
Jesus' ministry continued but John's baptising came to a sudden end, with his arrest and beheading. Now that Jesus was revealed as the Christ; now that the Anointed One had come to save us; Christ Jesus revealed as both God and man, his ministry of baptism continued. It continued during his earthly life without him baptising anyone!
His baptism was not just a marker of the beginning of his ministry. Rather his baptism brought a complete baptismal ministry in his baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. His ministry was immersed into servant-hood washing me, you, and all who have accept they fall short and need the forgiveness of sins.
Although Jesus did not baptise anyone during his ministry he spoke to Nicodemus about baptism (John 3) and he also said to his disciples, James and John, "Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" And they said to him, "We are able." And Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized (Mark 10:38-39 ESV)
And again Jesus says of the ministry into which he has been baptised, "I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!" (Luke 12:49-50 NIV)
This fire is ultimately the baptism of fire which John speaks about at Jesus' baptism. This baptism of fire is the burning of sin, the destruction of death on the cross. The fire is the baptism of death Jesus bore on the cross for us. And the fire of life we receive when the Holy Spirit descends on us in baptism as it did on those at Pentecost ten days after Jesus' ascension.
So if baptism is good enough for Jesus' ministry, where his death kindles your life, then surely your baptism is good enough to trust for your salvation. Baptism is the complete essence of Jesus' ministry, and so too, it's the perfect and complete essence of your salvation. Baptism fulfils all righteousness!
You had no control over the birth of your being. That privilege belonged to your parents and ultimately to God! In the same way you had no control over your rebirth into the being of Christ, this is solely to the glory of God! But why do so many of us doubt this being we've inherited and still try to earn our salvation through what we do?
Just as we automatically exist each day without consciously thinking to breathe or pump blood through our system; our sanctified being also exists by remaining in the things that give us our Christ-like being.
When we doubt God and try to do his will by our own effort, it's like trying to live without breathing, or like trying to live after we have pulled our own hearts from our bodies. This sounds silly but that's what we as Christians fall temptation to when we take our eyes off Jesus and focus on what we think we "must do".
Our "doing" is a matter of passively being and believing in our baptism, just as Jesus was passive in his ministry and now has been raised to actively work in us who remain passively focused on him, trusting his power to work in our weakness. Are we not told in Ephesians two, "For we are God's workmanship (not our own), created (baptised) in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10; emphasis mine)
Just as Jesus' ministry was one immersed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire, so too is ours! Jesus not only came to give us an example of his passive trusting life under the Father's authority, he now walks with you who have been baptised into his death and resurrection.
You have received the Holy Spirit in baptism. Just as Jesus told the disciples, James and John, they too would be baptised with the baptism he was to receive, we also drink the cup Jesus drank, and receive the baptism Jesus received. This is the baptism of death!
Therefore, like Christ we will be raised again to life. Jesus has won victory over death through his innocent suffering and death on the cross. Now that he is raised we too know that we will be raised. You are living with Christ; he is walking with you from your baptism to your death. And beyond into the glorious realm of heaven!
Hear again what Isaiah prophesied concerning Israel's deliverance and your deliverance through the Anointed Saviour, Christ Jesus…
"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour" (Isaiah 43:1b-3a NIV)
You have passed through the waters; the fiery trials you face will not consume you! They are only sent to purify you to the glory of God!
Know that in Jesus' baptism into death, his baptism is our baptism into life. You are a child of God, whom he loves! He loves you, he calls you by name, you are his, and he is your Saviour!
So if baptism is 100% effective for Jesus' ministry, his commission to baptise (and be baptised) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is 100% effective for your salvation too!
Your baptism into the living risen Son of God fulfils all righteousness! You better believe it! Amen.