Sermon: The Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus
Luke 3:15-17; 21-22
RUMC 10 Jan 2016

               All of us have the need for some kind of approval.  When we receive a personal touch or we are told we have done a good job, that all makes a positive difference.  Even in the spiritual realm, when we know God is pleased, it helps motivate us to love him even more or serve in a more complete manner.  Jesus received divine approval when he was baptized at the River Jordan.  What I would like to do this morning is talk about Jesus’ baptism, remember our own, and keep them alive.  And when we do that, God is pleased when we walk in his ways.

My text is Luke 3: 15-17; 21-22.

15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”]

The Bible tells us that when Jesus was 30 years old, he went to his cousin John to be baptized at the Jordan River.  Though this was a baptism of repentance and our Lord was sinless, he did it as a means of identification for all of us.  This particular baptism was special; when Jesus came out of the water a dove, which is the symbol of the Holy Spirit, descended on his shoulder.  A voice from heaven which demonstrated his divine approval said, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.”

So in this one event, we have the presence of the Trinity: the voice of the Father, Jesus who was baptized, and the dove of the Holy Spirit. .  Tri=3.  Unity=one.  Three persons with same essence where they are equally and eternally full God.   Though this is difficult to comprehend, it was here at the baptism where we see all three at once.

One way to explain the purpose of Jesus’ baptism is demonstrated,  I believe, in the book and subsequent film The Hiding Place.  Dutch author, Corrie Ten Boom wrote how her father, Casper Ten Boom had a heart and love for the Jewish people and performed numerous acts of kindness in order to reach them with the gospel.  During World War II in Amsterdam, Holland, Casper did the unthinkable: he volunteered to wear the yellow cloth Star of David on his clothes.  Jews were forced to wear the star as a form of separation; Casper wore his as a means to identify with the people he loved.  As a result of that, Casper lost his watch repair business, was arrested, and died in a concentration camp.  You cannot but think that the Lord must have been pleased with Caspar, because he wanted to identify with the Jews.

It is the same with the Lord Jesus who received divine approval when he became a man and was baptized.

The water in baptism signifies birth into the Christian faith.  It is symbolic of the cleansing of sin and the purification of our souls.  As rain waters the crops in the field, so baptism starts the life long process of growth towards God.  At our baptism, Jesus joins us on our pilgrimage and when we stay close to God after our baptism, our faith is kept alive through personal devotions, worship and service.

Another way we can look at Baptism is like a gigantic oil painting where all of us are part of the landscape.  Once there was an artist who stood along the Seine River in France and painted a picture of the scenery.  A group of French children came by and watched as the artist caught the beauty of the clouds, the river and the trees with his brushes.  Finally, one of the girls in the group could not contain her enthusiasm and asked, “Mister, can you get us into that picture.”

That is what baptism does.  It brings us into God’s picture of salvation.

When we worship and walk in the ways of the Lord to include service, he is pleased.  Although our Heavenly Father loves all of his children, baptized or not, he is especially pleased when His children’s behavior when it mirrors that of his only begotten son.

Pleasing God often comes down to attitude.  For example, Samuel Houston in his early Texas days was a rough, tough, frontier and military hero.  He later became governor and senator.  His wife on the other hand was a devout Christian who prayed that her husband would someday make a profession of faith and join the church.  Finally this senior statesman of the new Texas republic surrendered his life to God and to complete the salvation process, he met with the congregation at the river for baptism.

Just before the baptism was to take place, the minister said to Sam Houston and said, “General, I suggest you take off that watch and chain.  You’ll ruin it if you get it wet.”  General Sam Houston said, “Thank you, I will” and handed the watch to a friend.  The minister then said, “General, perhaps you had better hand him your wallet too.”  The general said, “No, I believe not pastor, I’m afraid it needs baptizing too.”

You see with that type of attitude, we will please God.  Baptism identifies who we are.  It points back to the work of God and forward to the life of faith.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther knew the importance of baptism.  He had an inscription placed on his desk that read, “Remember you have been baptized” and would often touch his forehead and remind himself, “Martin you have been baptized.”

Many of us cannot remember our baptism, because we were infants and it was our parents/sponsors who brought us before the church and made a promise that they would nurture us in the Christian faith.  When we got older, we did accept God’s grace for ourselves and make that profession of faith.

Others were baptized later in life where it became a public profession of faith–of an inward change in life.  And when those of you who went into the water, you declared that you were now a life time follower of Jesus Christ.

If you have never been baptized and wish to be baptized, I can assist you in that.  For those who are older, I would wait until the weather is nicer to go down to Crystal Lake or Bolton Pond to do this.  If there are any younger children that you want to baptize and dedicate to the Lord, we can do that in the sanctuary.

In life we often remember important events.  We have celebrations for birthdays and anniversaries.  There are renewals that we have to go through.  Driver’s licenses every 6-8 years, continuing education for certain professions.  And even in our religious faith: on the second Sunday in January we celebrate the baptism of the Lord.

This is also the time that churches all over the world, provide the people with the opportunity to renew their baptismal vows.

In baptism we often focus on the moment.  For a child, there are godparents, photographs, relatives who are present in the church, and then there is often a party or reception at the house.  For an older person who went down to the lake or river , a crowd of people watched as the minister plunged you in the water.  But the real work takes place after the water has dried.

It is here that we remember our baptism.  It is like a renewal for us to continue in the faith, not to ease up, not to wind down, but to continue our faith in devotion.  Unfortunately, too many people when it comes to their faith go into an early retirement.  Instead of running towards the finish line, they limp across.  We want to go in a blaze of glory.

Here is a bowl of water and I have an evergreen branch.  The water is symbolic of baptism and the evergreen branch is symbolic of life.  What I will do is sprinkle you with water and say “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”

Prayer:  Gracious God, we thank you for breath and clay, for wind and prayer, for spirit and body.  Pour out your Holy Spirit upon us, upon and within our bodies.  Help us to live in faithfulness to you, long after the water has dried.