Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
Jan. 8, 2023
We’re going to look at Jesus’ baptism this morning. By the way, it’s “Jesus’ baptism” not “Jesus’s” “Jesus’ baptism” is grammatically correct and it just sounds better.
When we study stories in the Bible we usually ask, what’s the moral of the story? what’s the importance of the event? When it comes to this story, people first often ask – Why? Why did it happen? Why was Jesus’ baptized? We have writings from the Second Century where Christian leaders are wondering why Jesus was baptized and then offering various theories.
Let’s take a look: Matthew 3:13-17
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 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. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Why was Jesus baptized?
The question becomes more intriguing when you consider the context, the setting – he’s baptized by John the Baptist. John had been out in the wilderness for some time preaching and baptizing folks. An unpresidented spiritual renewal was taking place in Israel and John was in the center of it all, he was the catalyst for the moment. In fact, the commentaries say that this spiritual revival was so significant that Jews were doing something that they never did – there were being baptized. Jews did practice baptism – but it was reserved for Gentiles, non-Jews, converting to Judaism. Gentiles made a new start by being baptized. It signified their commitment to God and to Judaism. But here, Jews by birth, members of God’s Chosen people, are making new starts by being submerged in the Jordan River.
John was very clear about what he was doing – he preached “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3, Mark 1:4). People were going to John to make a fresh start with God, by confessing their sins and being washed clean by baptism. But, Jesus didn’t need to make a fresh start with God. The traditional Christian view has always been that Jesus was sinless, so he had no need for confession and being washed clean of his sins. Jesus going to confession? I don’t think so.
So why was Jesus baptized?
Here are three contributing factors.
- One was, it was his time.
He was 30 years old. He had stayed home in Nazareth, taking care of his mother and his younger siblings, likely following the death of Joseph. His siblings would have been old enough now to care for themselves and Mary, so he was free to fulfill his calling. It was his time–but not just because of the homefront. It was his time because of the spiritual revival taking place in Israel. People are flocking to John the Baptist to seek God and make a new start with God. That was his signal that the time was now. The fields were ready for the harvest.
Timing is everything, we say, and it’s true. Great endeavors have to begin at just the right time. Illustration. I’ve been gently pushing for a capital campaign for years. I thought we were waiting too long. But the quick success of this campaign shows that I was completely . . . wr . . . wr . . . wro . . .wrong!
Timing is everything!
Galatians 4:4 says, At just the right time – in “the fullness of time” – God sent us Jesus.
Jesus knew it was his time to enter into his public ministry of preaching and teaching and healing and training disciples in the ways of God’s Kingdom.
- Secondly, by being baptized Jesus was entering into this spiritual revival.
He’s joining the revival! He’s becoming one with those seeking God. He would offer them the ultimate fresh start with God through his love and his grace. But first, he affirms their desire to seek God!
- I think the biggest reason Jesus was baptized was that he was offering his life to his heavenly Father, his Abba.
He was accepting his mission, his calling, his destiny. He knelt to accept his assignment. It was his ordination.
So hopefully that helps answer the question of why Jesus was baptized. It was his time. He was joining the revival, and he was accepting his calling.
But let’s spend a few moments to consider what it means and what it says to us as baptized believers.
Jesus’ baptism is a model for us for how to live the Christian life.
- We live it yielded to God.
We live it by constantly praying the prayer he gave us, “Thy will be done.” Help me be about that task, O God, to do Thy Will, to strive bring about your Kingdom here in big and little ways, so that Your Will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
“I accept my assignment. – just like Jesus did.
“I accept that this is my calling.
“I yield my will to your will, to your purposes.
Illustration. Years ago I was at an event in Philadelphia where Reggie White was the speaker. Reggie White was a hall of fame defensive tackle for the Eagles and a devoted Christian. He walks up to the podium, which looked childlike in size compared to Reggie, and the first thing he said was, “Please pray with me, and please pray for me,” and he bowed his head in prayer, and so did every head in the place. And he confessed his need for God’s help, and he asked that God would use him, that he could be a vessel for God’s message and love. And when he finished I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was impressed with his humility and his offering his life in service to God. I think that’s what John the Baptist felt that day in the Jordan, only many times over.
Jesus’ baptism is a model for us to regularly offer our lives to God, to strive to live yielded to God’s will, God’s promptings – to live lives filled with “Thy Will be done” through me.
I once heard a prayer that went like this: “Good morning, God. What are you up to today? Can I be a part?”
One last thing . . .
A. At his baptism Jesus was empowered for his ministry through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit descended upon him in the form of a Dove Jesus accepted his assignment, and God said, “I’m gonna give you the Power!” When Jesus ascended from the water, the Spirit descended from the heavens. When Jesus surrendered, the Spirit empowered. When Jesus accepted his destiny, the Spirit anointed him with Power.
The same is true for us!
Whom God calls, God empowers.
The Power is given, not to the high & mighty, but to the humble and surrendered.
“Humble yourselves before the Lord and God will lift you up.” And God will lift you up with power, the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let me close by giving you this analogy for the Holy Spirit.
The Pantheon, dedicated in 128 AD
Illustration. I read an interesting article this week on why buildings built by the Romans 2000 years ago are still standing. – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the aqueducts, and more. Pantheon (128 AD) largest unsupported dome in world. How has it lasted this long?
The secret was in the concrete.
The Romans had this unique method for making concrete that scientists at MIT and Harvard just figured out (and it only took them 2000 years!).
The secret ingredient was quicklime. Adding quicklime to the mix created a super-hot chemical reaction that left calcium deposits peppered throughout the concrete. If water seeps into a crack, the calcium deposits instantly recrystallize and fill in the gaps, so the integrity of the structure is never compromised. That’s why these structures have remained so solid and intact for 2000 years. They’re self-healing. These scientists expect to be able to use quicklime to improve the quality of the concrete used today.
The Holy Spirit is like quicklime!
The Spirit produces a reaction inside our souls and leaves its mark throughout our being, like those calcium deposits – so our connection to God is never broken! You might sometimes feel disconnected from God, but the Spirit fills in the gap, so your faith is one for the ages. It will stand the test of time.
Well, I hope you’ve found this helpful as to why Jesus was baptized, but more importantly, what it teaches us about the Christian life.
Jesus accepted his assignment, and God empowered him for it.
The same is true for us.
Think about it.
Let’s pray about it.
Come, Holy Spirit, Come. We accept our assignments, our calling, to live and love as your people, your ambassadors. Thank you for your promise to empower us always, to fill in the cracks, so that we may stand strong for you. Holy Spirit, you came to Jesus in the form of a dove. Come to us now through the sacred meal of Holy Communion. In Christ’s precious name. Amen.