Summary: Why did Jesus need to be baptised and what does it mean for us?
The Baptism of Jesus
Lk 3: 15-17and 21 and 22
Story: Caspar ten Boon
In her famous book and film, “The Hiding Place” Corrie ten Boom tells the story of a Dutch Christian family, her family, who had a heart for the Jewish people
Her grandfather Wilhelm ten Boon started a weekly prayer group in 1844 in the city of Haarlem, near Amsterdam for the salvation of the Jews. This weekly prayer meeting amazingly continued uninterrupted until 1944 when the ten Boon family were sent to a concentration camp for helping Jews to flee from the Nazi persecution in Holland
Corrie tells an interesting story about her father Caspar ten Boon. When the Jews were forced to wear the “Star of David,” Casper lined up for one. He wore it because he wanted to identify himself with the people for whom he and his family had been praying for all those years.
He was prepared to be so completely identified with the Jews that he was willing to wear a sign of shame and suffer persecution for the sake of the people he loved.
He didn’t have to wear the Star but chose to.
This morning’s Gospel reading in St. Luke’s Gospel is a very short description of Jesus’ baptism.
Going through my computer record – I found that I spoke last year - on 9th March 2003, here in Sharrington on the Baptism of Jesus. I focussed on three reasons why Jesus was baptised:
1. The first reason was a sign of Jesus’ complete dedication to following the will of God.
2. The second reason was that it announced the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry and
3. The third reason was as an example to us.
However, this year I would like to approach the baptism of Jesus from a different angle.
If Jesus is the sinless Son of God - why did he get baptised – because he certainly didn’t need to!!!
I think the key to the answer lies in the fact that He loved us so much that he chose to identify with us. Just as Caspar ten Boon wore the Star of David to identify with the Jews.
And Jesus’ baptism was a prefiguring of the Cross of shame which was to come. The Cross on which Jesus would so identify with the human race that he took the penalty of our sins on himself.
We tend to think of baptism – as rather a nice thing. We like to have our children “christened” or done.
But in Jesus’ day, baptism was shocking to a religious Jew – especially for a Jew to undergo John’ s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4)
The only time baptism was used was when a Gentile became a Jew. And then the proselyte would “baptise himself and all his family”.
But here we read that John the Baptist baptised Jesus as if he were “ a Gentile dog” – to use a first century Jewish expression.
So what is the significance of Jesus identifying with us in His baptism?
What practically does it mean to us today?
Well, I think the answer can be found in the Book of Hebrews:
14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.
16Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebr. 4:14-16)
Jesus has identified so completely with us, that we can approach Him totally confident that He will understand us and that He is interested in all we do in our lives.
Jesus isn’t on the balcony; he has joined us on the road.
What do I mean by that?
Story: When I lived in Switzerland, Maddy and I had a holiday house in Oberegg, which had a balcony overlooking the road between Oberegg and Heiden.
As long as we sat on the balcony and looked down
on people walking along the road, the road was no use to us – other than as a topic of conversation.
The road only became useful to us if we were to leave the balcony and go down onto the road.
Jesus joins us on the road of our pilgrimage through life and he is interested in all aspects of our lives – our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures.
Jesus’ identification with us - at his baptism and more completely on the Cross - gives me permission to approach His Throne of Grace with my fears and anxieties.