Epiphany has three primary themes historically: the visit of the Magi, the baptism of Jesus in the river Jordan, and the miracle of Jesus changing the water to wine at the wedding in Cana. Having focused on the visit of the Magi this past Epiphany Thursday, we’ll explore the baptism of Jesus this Sunday, the wedding miracle next Sunday, and additional Epiphany themes the remaining Sundays leading up to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season on March 2nd. So you will receive an Epiphany devotional each of the next seven Sundays. There will be nothing during the week and then beginning Ash Wednesday you will receive daily devotionals through Pentecost on June 5th.
© Daniel Sharp 2022
Sunday, January 9, 2022 The Baptism of Jesus
Reader: “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,”
Response: “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”
Scripture: John 1:29-34
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”
Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”
We just passed Epiphany a couple of days ago. Of the three themes that are associated with this day, our attention today is on the baptism of Jesus, which is normally celebrated the first Sunday after Epiphany. You may have wondered, “Since Jesus was perfect, why did he need to be baptized?” That is a perfectly logical question. John’s baptism was for the repentance of sin, yet Jesus was sinless, so why did Jesus insist on being baptized?
In answer to the question we read in the book of Matthew the straight forward words, “God requires it” (Mt. 3:15). But why? Jesus’ relationship with the Father was always one of submission to his Father’s will. This situation was no different. That submissive servant’s heart was further evidenced by his actions. In subjecting himself to baptism, Jesus openly identified with the sin of all humanity. In submitting to John’s baptism, he showed solidarity with a fallen human race in becoming our Redeemer Priest.
Jesus’ baptism was also an affirmation of the validity of John’s baptism ministry. Jesus’ baptism demonstrated to his Father in heaven his embracing of the mission he came to do, a task that would involve his own great suffering and death. It is Luke who tells us that as Jesus was being baptized, he was praying and communing with his Father, and the heavens opened and a dove descended from heaven and rested on him, a further affirmation from the Father. In the Scriptures, a dove symbolizes purity, innocence, and loveliness (dove’s role in Noah and the Ark Gen.8:9-12). In fact, throughout the Bible, God on different occasions revealed his presence in various visible ways to humans. (This is not to say God came in the form of a dove.) For example, there is the Cloud of God’s presence in the desert, the glorious light hovering over the Ark of the Covenant, or the tongues of fire at Pentecost. An additional word here may be helpful.
That the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descending upon Jesus, did not mean that the Lord Jesus was not previously filled with the Holy Spirit. He was conceived and filled by the Holy Spirit as a human from the moment of conception. The baptism was a public declaration of his Messiahship. This event marked the beginning of his public ministry. Remember his baptism occured right before his temptation by the devil in Matthew’s and Mark’s accounts. God the Father declared a wonderful affirmation, “Thou art my beloved Son in thee I am well pleased.” On two other occasions the Father spoke words of encouragement in relation to Jesus’ mission on earth. One was at the Transfiguration when Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah about his upcoming “exodus” from this world (Luke 9:28-35) and the other one was when Jesus was talking to a crowd during Holy Week about his upcoming sacrifice and God thundered from heaven (John 12:28-29).
Baptism by immersion, as in Jesus’ case, is also symbolic of dying to self with the old self being buried―put to death. In a way, Jesus was embracing what was to come in the sacrifice of himself for the reconciliation of the world. He was laying aside his privilege and prerogatives as the Son of God. When we talk about “living into our baptism” it is another way of saying we are to die daily to ourselves and embrace the grace of God giving us new life in Christ. We take up that cross again today in living out our baptism.
To me these affirmations from God reflect the relational intimacy between the Father and the Son during Jesus’ time on earth. The Father’s words of encouragement also underscore the humanity of Jesus. Humans need to be affirmed and encouraged in their earthly ministry. Think about it, Jesus’ mission was understood by no one on earth, not even the disciples! How lonely would that be? It was only after the resurrection did people begin to get it and even then, many people still rejected Christ’s work of salvation, even as they do today. Now you can begin to see how crucial was John’s baptism of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. It opened the door into a new redeemed world.
Music: “Baptized in Water” Jubilate
Dearest Lord Jesus, when we begin to try to comprehend what it must have been like to leave the glories of heaven where you had been for all eternity, and willingly humbled yourself to become a human being, we must confess, we have no idea what that was like―even that is an understatement. We wonder about the under-the-breath remarks and the snide comments behind their backs made to Mary and Joseph about your “miraculous birth.” What must it have been like being the big brother among your brothers and sisters? Even at twelve you were about your Father’s business and no one understood, not even your earthly mom and dad. Virtually your whole life here, people were mostly confused as to what you had come to do. When you died there was but a single convert and he also died on the cross within minutes of confessing you. Your life and mission seemed a complete defeat and yet . . . you defeated death, the devil, evil, and paid with your life blood for the sins of the entire world. We say the words, believe the words, trust the words, and try to grasp the wonder of what you have done. We simply fall to our knees with heads bowed low in deepest gratitude for your sacrifice. We love you, Lord. Our language doesn’t have the words to express our hearts. You are our singular hope of eternal life in your presence. Glory to you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. ―Daniel Sharp