Summary: Jesus is baptized, called in to mission and ministry and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our baptisms mirror Jesus'
Matthew 3:1-17 “Called and Equipped”
Time has passed quickly in the gospel story. Last Sunday our story focused on Jesus’ flight to Egypt with his mother and father. Jesus was about two years-old. Today the gospel reading is Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism. Jesus is now somewhere around thirty years-old.
Jesus’ baptism is the most significant event in his life—besides his crucifixion. It is recorded in all of the gospels. Because of God’s actions in Jesus’ baptism, baptism is at the center life lived in the Church and life lived as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Understanding the reasons why it was such a seminal event in Jesus’ life will enable us to realize its importance in our lives today.
Jesus comes out of the water and the heavens are opened. He hears the voice of God saying, “This is my son, the beloved.” These words were music to Jesus’ ears.
Jesus had been born out-of-wedlock and even though Mary said that she was a virgin and her pregnancy was caused by the Holy Spirit few people believed her. Jesus always had the stigma of being illegitimate. He was always known as Mary’s son and never Joseph’s son. This was a reference to his birth and a slap in the face. Jesus, of course, did have Joseph as his father, but he was never Jesus’ “real” father.
At his baptism, his Father claimed Jesus as his son. God legitimized Jesus and suddenly there was the father/son relationship.
The same thing happens at our baptism. God calls us his children and assures us of God’s love for us. We are part of a family that is larger than our biological family, and we are children of a God who wants to be more than a distant supernatural entity. God wants to be our father—or if you will, our parent.
Not only did God claim Jesus as his son, whom God loved, God also stated that God was well pleased with Jesus. How we all long to hear those words.
The words that we hear throughout the day are often not words that tell us that people are well pleased with us. We might not have done well on a test. Our boss may be on our tail because of a project that isn’t meeting his or her expectations. It seems that we often are not meeting other people’s expectations of us, and sometimes we don’t even meet our own expectations. In addition to the comments made by others, we often are harsh and critical in the conversations that we carry on with ourselves.
It is vital for our wellbeing to hear words of praise. We need to know that we are of value to other people and to be reminded that God doesn’t make junk—only finely crafted people.
THE HOLY SPIRIT
The Holy Spirit wasn’t something new. There had been accounts of the Spirit’s presence in the Old Testament. Occasionally the Spirit would descend on the prophets, but the Spirit always left them. With Jesus, the Spirit stayed, as the Spirit does with the followers of Jesus.
Jesus was fully man. As a man, Jesus could not heal the sick, cast out demons, feed the multitude, still the storms or raise the dead. It was only when Jesus had received the Holy Spirit that he was equipped to carry out his ministry. It was the Spirit that accomplished the miracles. This same Spirit lives within each of us.
As Jesus was sent out after his baptism, we are too. The Spirit moves in us and through us to accomplish God’s will.
The knowledge that God is well pleased with us, has adopted us into God’s family and has filled us with the Holy Spirit is not something that we are to take lightly. Such overwhelming grace and steadfast love inspires us to respond by loving God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
In the midst of difficult times, our baptism is a reminder of who we are and what God has done in our lives. When Martin Luther was faced with some of the difficult struggles with which he dealt, he would often cling to the truth that he had been baptized. Remembering what that mean and what God had done gave him the ability to persevere and to conquer. It can do the same thing in our lives today.