Baptism begins…
Matthew 3:13-17

We truly have an amazing and powerful God who never ceases to surprise and amaze us at the way he goes about his business.  We aren’t worthy of his love and care, and are even less worthy of being his instruments in the world, and yet time and time again that is exactly what God does.  Through his Son Jesus, God fulfilled the prophecies of old and made us right before him, his power and authority is put into action through a simple human being.

John the Baptist was just an ordinary dude like all of us.  Yes, he was called to prepare the way for the Lord but he didn’t feel worthy, yet he did it anyway.  We see in today’s reading that when Jesus came to him at the Jordan to be baptised by him John was trying to stop it happening.  “Hang on Jesus, you should be baptising me, not the other way around!”  Yet Jesus tells him that this is important, “to fulfil all righteousness.”  It was only then that John consented and followed through with Jesus’ request for baptism.

John didn’t think he had more to offer than Jesus, and funnily enough, on his own he didn’t, but he had a role to play.  It was God and the Holy Spirit that were at work in this scenario.  It wasn’t about him, he was a player in it but anyone could have performed the role, if that had been God’s choice for them, but John had come to prepare the way of the Lord, this was an important act in the preparation.  When Jesus had been baptised by John, in the exact same way that John had baptised countless other people, there was a somewhat different result.  John looked up and saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and then heard the voice of God, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

It was Jesus that God was pleased with, not necessarily John.  Jesus’ baptism happened to fulfil ALL righteousness.  This means that as a result of Jesus being baptised there was one more piece of the puzzle in place to bring about our righteousness.   This was another step on the journey to the cross and had to take place.  This was another important part that John played in preparing the way for the Lord. 

Here at his baptism God revealed to John exactly who Jesus was and that the father was pleased with him.  That had always been the case and always will be, but it needed to be heard by John so that we too could read and hear it.

Is there a single person here who wouldn’t like to hear the words, “This is my son (or daughter), with him/her I am well pleased.”? I don’t reckon any of us would balk at hearing that.  But Jesus already new it, he didn’t need to hear it, this was for the benefit of others.

This event, his baptism, gave Jesus power and authority, it was the bestowing again of the power of the Holy Spirit, preparing him to face the temptations that were about to come, and at the same time connecting him solidly to humanity.  Jesus didn’t need baptism for the forgiveness of sins, but in being baptised by John he gave us the baptism that we have also received, for forgiveness of OUR sins.

Just as Jesus baptism brought about the beginning of his ministry on earth, our baptism brings about the beginning of our new life and ministry through him.

Jesus baptism wasn’t the ultimate fulfilment of all the age old prophecies, and our baptism isn’t the fulfilment of our life journey either, it is a beginning, a new beginning, as children of God.

In Jesus’ Baptism he received the Holy Spirit who descended on him like a dove.  In our baptism we didn’t see the Spirit descending but we received him anyway.  He dwells with us and helps us along the way.  A helper sent for us.  It is only through Jesus and with the help of the Holy Spirit that we are able to face the trials and temptations of our world, of our existence, our time here on this earth, however long or short that may be.

Like John we are not worthy to tie the laces on Jesus’ sandals, but God loved him and loves us too.  He puts us into action to do his work.  No we don’t feel worthy, and over the next few weeks we will again hear about others who didn’t feel worthy to live a life serving God, so we are not alone in that.  But God has given his Holy Spirit to be with us as a helper, to guide us through his Word and lead us along the path of righteousness.

It’s not an easy path this life, there are all sorts of things that come along to tempt us and distract us.  And the numbers keep adding up on us further and further.  We have so many distractions with technology, sport, our affluent lifestyles, money, cars, houses, jobs, prestige.  Then there are the more mundane things that demand our attention like health, mortgages, leisure activities, gardening, you name it, those things can easily distract us from the things of God if we allow them to.

We really can’t make it through without God’s help, on our own we actually aren’t worthy of what God gives to us, but in Christ we are made worthy, in our baptism we were joined with him, and were made right before God.  When God looks at us he looks at us through the lens that is Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, and he says, “This is my son/daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”  Not by our own merit or abilities, but purely through his son Jesus.

That really takes the pressure off a bit doesn’t it, knowing that there’s nothing that you can do to earn your salvation, but God has done it for you already.

Poor old John the Baptist was confused when Jesus came to him to be baptised, he thought it should have happened the other way around, but in this topsy-turvy upside-down kingdom of God, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.  Jesus came to be the servant of all, and that is what he did and achieved.  It could be done by no other.  We are not worthy to receive the marvellous and amazing gift of salvation, yet he gave it to us anyway.  We are not worthy to be used as God’s instruments on earth, but he calls us anyway. 

Will we be like John and realise that Jesus is right and we are wrong and that we should follow God’s will for our lives not our own, or will we be like the stiff necked people of the world of old and head off in our own direction, blindly going where thousands have gone before?  I pray that the Lord our God will lead us in the way we should go and use us to do his will in this world and in his kingdom.

Amen.