The Baptism of Our Lord (1/13/2008)

Who Is Jesus?

Lessons:      Isaiah 421:1-9      Psalm 29      Acts 10:34-43      St. Matthew 3:13-17

Prayer of the Day:      O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling to be your daughters and sons, and empower us all with your Spirit, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

3.13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" 15 But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." [2]

St. Matthew 3:13-17, New Revised Version Bible (C) 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Who is Jesus? Many people have offered answers to that question over the years. Some believe Jesus to be the solution to all their failures and disappointments. Some believe Jesus to be the escape from all worldly concerns. Some believe that Jesus is the source of transformation for the world. Some even believe Jesus has no influence at all on the world: There are many different answers, these days, to the question, "Who is Jesus?"

Few of them are new answers. They are answers that people have debated for centuries. In every century since Jesus of Nazareth was born, believers and non-believers alike have debated who he is, and what that means for those who believe in him. The Gospel writers are no exception to that rule. Each of them sought, in their own way, to answer the question, "Who is Jesus?"

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each began the story of Jesus' life in different ways But this story - the account of Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan river - is the first time that these three Gospel writers converge and bring us the same story. Each of them remembers that John was out baptizing in the wilderness. Great crowds were following him: listening to his message, being convinced of their sin, being baptized as a sign of their new intentions to live as God would have them live. While John was preaching to these crowds, Jesus came to be baptized by him. John at first refused, believing that Jesus was greater than he, and that he was not worthy to baptize Jesus. But Jesus insisted, and was baptized. The spirit descended upon him, and the voice of God thundered out of the clouds. It is a remarkable account - one that each of the three Gospel writers considered important enough to include it in their version of his life's story.

With this account, St. Matthew begins to offer his answer to the question, "Who is Jesus?" First: we learn that Jesus, just like us, was baptized. Second: we learn that in baptism, Jesus is declared to be God's Son. And third: we find that in this baptism God's stamp of approval is placed on Jesus and his ministry. As we consider the Baptism of our Lord, we begin to see more clearly who Jesus is - and know more surely the power of our own Baptism. It is because we are baptized in the name of this One who lived and ministered and died and was raised among us, that we can trust the promises that come to us through our own baptism.

As Paul says:Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

May the Baptism of our Lord, and our baptism into his death and resurrection, be our source of hope and strength.

David J. Risendal, Pastor  (January 8, 2008)

Exploring This Week's Gospel:

  1. Why do you suppose this account of Jesus' baptism was so important to early believers?
  2. Why was John, at first, reluctant to baptize Jesus?
  3. What did it mean for Jesus' ministry that he was anointed by God's Spirit at baptism?

Connecting with This Week's Gospel:

  1. How does my baptism give me hope that God's promises have been given to me?
  2. Does the belief that in baptism I am also anointed for ministry change the way I approach life?
  3. What ministry is God currently calling me to?