Jesus’ Baptism is one of those few episodes in Jesus’ life that are so important that all four gospel writers include it.
Pulling details from all four gospels, we know that
· John was Jesus’ cousin, Elizabeth’s son.
· He was an untamed young man. He was one of those
· characters that you would never forget.
o Ratty hair,
o wild beard,
o strange clothes,
o and all that bizarre talk! I am sure that some said he was crazy. Many, however, were drawn to him. They were lured in by this feral preacher and his radical teaching.
He was rebuking crowds by the Jordan River, baptizing any who would come. Then one day, Jesus appeared among the crowd. John said, “I don’t need to baptize you, YOU need to baptize me.” But Jesus insisted, “in order to fulfill all righteousness.”
When Jesus rose from the water of baptism, a dove descended on him and a voice split the heavens. We are not quite sure who heard the voice. In Matthew, it is in the third person, indicating that the crowd heard it. In Mark and Luke, it is a private message in the first person, “You are my beloved son.” Either way, the affirmation is clear. Jesus is the son of God, come to take away the sins of the world.”
Why was Jesus baptized? He wasn’t a sinner. He didn’t need cleansing. Why would the son of God need baptism?
Remember, Jesus wasn’t just the divine son of God. Remember that he was 100% divine and 100% human. Don’t ask me how that works. This is theology, not algebra.
At some level, then, it seems, it was important for Jesus, being 100% human, to stand up and commit himself to following God’s will for his life. I think that is what Jesus means when he says that he must be baptized in order that “all righteousness would be fulfilled.” Righteousness is to be right with God and faithful to God’s will. In his baptism, Jesus is saying to God, to the crowds, and to us that from this moment on he set his life, all 200% of it, toward fulfilling God’s will. This was Jesus’ offering of himself to God.
Then, a second thing happened. The dove came down and the voice spoke. Matthew says that the heavens were “opened up.” Literally, they were “cracked open” like an egg. I’m not sure what that looks like, but there was no doubt to any who saw and heard this, that this truly was God’s son!
These are the two sides of Jesus’ baptism, then;
· Jesus offering of himself to God’s will, and
· God’s announcing and affirming his call on Jesus’ life. I think our baptisms are not all that different.
I like to think of baptism as an offering. First, it is God’s offering for us, and second it is our offering to God.
First, baptism is like getting out of the car and seeing grandma and grandpa standing on the porch with their arms stretched wide open, ready to give the best hug ever. No matter how old I got, I knew I could go over to grandmas and get a chocolate chip cookie and a hug. I knew that I could go to grandma’s to be unconditionally accepted and embraced. I didn’t have to do anything to earn that love. I didn’t have to be anything different to deserve that love. It was grandma’s gif to me
Baptism is God’s gift of unconditional acceptance and embrace for us.
Baptism is God wrapping his big loving arms around you and saying, “You are my beloved child. I’m happy you are here.” No, the heavens don’t crack open. No, there is no audible voice, but that is what is happening. In Baptism God claims you and names you as his beloved child- nothing more, nothing less- just his child.
Baptism is God’s offering himself to you.
· Just as he gave himself to the world in the incarnation of Jesus,
· just as he gave himself to the world in the baby in the manger,
· just as he gave himself to the world in the teachings and miracles of Jesus.
· Just as God gave himself to the world on the cross and in the tomb.
· Just as God gave himself to the world when he rose victorious over death and the grave. In baptism, God gives himself to YOU. Do you hear that? God gives himself to YOU so that you can do life together with God, and God can teach you how to be his child.
The second offering in baptism, is our offering the very essence of who we are to God.
· Dogs are created with certain “essence” that makes them what they are. Their job is to live their lives faithful to that “doggishness” being the best dogs they can be. They don’t try to do anything else.
· Camels are created with a certain essence that makes them what they are. Their job is to live their lives faithful to that “camelishness” being the best camels they can be. They don’t try to do anything else.
· Chairs are made with a certain essence or certain qualities that make them what they are. The material from which they are made, the shape of the wood, the way the pieces join together, the finish all come together to make them a chair. Their job is to be a chair. Try as they might to be a couch, they can’t. Try as they might to be a dog or camel, they can’t. Their job is to be the best chair they can be.
· You were created in the image of God, with God’s essence in your DNA. Yet you spend your whole life seeking after happiness, or fame, or fortune, or success, or respect, or expensive toys. You dedicate your lives to family, or career, or a sport, or even a religion. You work to be the best father, or accountant, or linebacker, or Methodist you can be.
Sometimes I think, however, that you are so busy being the best you can be, that you forget what you are. You lose sight of the fact that you were created in the image of God.
You were created, first and foremost, to love and serve God. Your job is not to reinvent yourself, but to live your life faithful to that God-image in which you were created, being the best God lovers you can be. Your job, quite simply, is to be as much like God as you can; showing love and forgiveness, and compassion, and grace, and joy, and hope, and as much godliness as you can in this life. Your job is to give your lives back to the one who gave you life.
Just as Baptism is God’s offering himself to you, baptism is also your offering of yourself to God.
Whether our parents that bring us forward, or if we are older; baptism is an acknowledgement of God’s power over our lives, and an offering of our lives, or our children’s lives, completely to him.
… We offer our lives back to the one who gave us life.
… We offer our lives back to the one in whose image we were created.
… We offer our lives to being as much like God as we can for the rest of our lives.
… We offer our lives to God.
So baptism is first an offering of God to us, and second, an offering of our lives to God.
The two sides of baptism. Both God’s offering to us, and our offering to God.
· Both God’s dedication to us, and our dedication to God.
· AND God’s love for us, and our love for God.
Picture yourself in a swollen, rushing, muddy river. Unlike the alcoholic from the beginning of the sermon, you are not looking for Jesus. Jesus is looking for you.
· Just as they looked for the lost sheep,
· the lost coin or
· the lost son.
You slip under that dirty water and cannot fight the current for long. Your head goes under once, then twice, and both times, you come up sputtering after swallowing some of the filth. A third dunking might kill you. Suddenly, a life preserver is front of you.
It would probably be fair to assume that most everyone here has grabbed onto Jesus’ life preserver, but the river continues to rage, and the current is strong. Over and over again, we need to get a better grip on Jesus, which is the one thing that keeps us from being swept into the dark abyss of life in this world without God.
But today is different. In here, we are protected from the current. In worship, we can actually
· get our feet planted firmly on the ground. In this sanctuary, we
· pause to take a deep breath and get a better grip on that life preserver. That’s what we do today in baptism renewal.
· We pause for just a moment to get a better grip on Jesus, our life preserver.
· We pause to be reminded of our dependence on God’s unconditional offer of saving love in our lives.
· We pause to reaffirm our commitment to place our lives in his hands.
In this time of baptism renewal, imagine that life’s current lets up just enough that you have a chance to get your feet underneath you, and to take a deep breath. Imagine that the current lets up just long enough that you can give thanks for God’s saving love and to get a better grip on the life preserver. Because when you leave this place, you’ll need it.
So pause right now.
· Feel the pressure easing.
· Feel life’s current slowing.
· Take a deep breath.
· And another.
When you come for baptism renewal,
· feel the refreshing water on your forehead...
· Take the opportunity to get a good strong grip on God’s love for you.
· And as you return to your seat, commit yourself anew today, to your life of living and loving for God.