Monday, 9 January 2017

The Baptism of Christ

Isaiah 42: 1-9 (page 602 in our pew Bibles) God here is speaking and he heralds his servant who will have God's Spirit upon him and will bring forth justice to the nations (the whole world). Justice is a way of life based on God's teachings and judgements. Jesus embodies in his person everything that God's servant Israel was supposed to be but failed to do.
Acts 10: 34-43 (page 919 in our pew Bibles) A sermon by Peter that starts by stressing the impartiality of God. It summarises the public ministry of Jesus from his baptism onwards and refers to his crucifixion and resurrection. He is the one about whom Isaiah prophesied.
Matthew 3: 13- 17 (page 808 in our pew Bibles) Jesus is baptised by John and the Spirit of God descends on him and the words "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased". Note that Matthew has changed "You are my Son" (Mark's gospel) to "This is my Son" a much more public pronouncement than a private experience as expressed in Mark. According to John's gospel (1:12) these are the words that each of us should hear in our hearts when we become believers!  

Epiphany is my favourite season in the liturgical year. At Christmas we celebrated the birth of a baby but in Epiphany we answer the question “Who is he? And in that process of having revealed to us not only who he is - we find out who we are!
The main Biblical story attached to Epiphany in the West used to be the arrival of the Magi, BUT the main story attached in the East has always been the Baptism of Christ.
But Why would one be preferred to the other? From my perspective I can offer only this;
The visit of the Magi spoke in “symbols”  - the gifts of Gold, Frankincense and myrrh representing Kingship, priesthood and the significance of his death but Jesus’ baptism speaks in much more “personal” terms of his relationship with God – Father and Son.
The greatest revelation of the nature and being of Christ and the beginning of his public ministry was his Baptism  when the Holy Spirit descended upon him and the Father declared “You are my Son” or the much more public announcement “This is my son” as recorded in Matthew’s gospel.
The Bible makes clear that this relationship was eternal. Jesus was always the Son of God and was there at the beginning of creation, begotten, not created.
“In him was life and the life was the light of all men” as John said.(1:4)
In his baptism Jesus found out who he was and the people who were open to the truth also found out who he was.
Coming alive in our new identity is also the aim of baptism today. As Christians our identity is found in Christ. All of us who are baptised have a new identity.
Jesus has revealed who he is and we have revealed who we are.
So who are we? We all find our identity in terms of relationship. In our normal lives We are all someone’s Mother or Father, son or daughter, husband or wife, brother or sister, friend, enemy, nationality.
The core of Christianity is that through believing in Jesus, we have another identity that tells us who we are. At our baptism we have the right to all become adoptive children of God.
Ever stopped to think what an honour and privilege it is to address God, the Alpha and the Omega, the Father of lights, the ancient of days as Dad?
That’s what we say every time we say “Our Father” and we say so because that’s what His Son Jesus told us to say. Jesus often used the term “Abba” which is Aramaic for Daddy.
When we become Christians we become adopted sons and daughters of the Father and adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus.
It is my greatest desire that we all know our own true identity and ours is that we are a child of God when we come to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Jesus’ baptism is our baptism – His Father is our Father.
In Jesus’ revelation of who he is we also find out who we are. We are born again and discover an identity that is for ever and is the most important of the many relationships through which we build our identity.
The reason Jesus says that we won’t see the kingdom of God unless we are born again is that fact needs to move from mere intellectual assent to being felt in the heart though the Spirit.
To feel it in our hearts the words spoken to us by our Father, exactly the same words spoken to us as to Jesus and allowed to change us-
So God says to me
Martin, you are my child, the beloved. With you I am well pleased.
All Christians need to hear that they too are beloved children.

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