Summary: Jesus identifies with us in baptism

NR 09-01-05

The Baptism of Jesus

Story: Many of us are still shocked by the Tsunami that struck in the early hours of Boxing Day 2004.

It was caused by the Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates in the earth’s crust moved violently against each other.

The resulting earthquake was so intense that it caused the Earth to wobble on its axis and may have permanently accelerated its rotation according to a geophysicist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.

The waves that swept across the Indian Ocean from the quake epicentre near Indonesia moved at speeds of up to 500 miles an hour. That’s about the speed of a jet aircraft

Wherever the waves met land, they leapt high into the air and swept the margins of the land with a ferocious destructiveness that has so far taken close on 200,000 lives – and the body count continues to grow.

Millions of people are homeless – at least five million may have had their livelihoods taken away from them.

Secular commentators have asked the question: “How can you believe in God if he allows such a disaster?”

It is the same question that is asked when something “unfair” happens.

It was the question that was asked after the carnage of two world wars.

It was the same question that Voltaire asked following the massive earthquake that struck Lisbon in Portugal on Nov. 1, 1755 - in which 60,000 people died.

Why did God allow the Tsunami?

I don’t know the answer to that question.

But I can no more deny the existence of the God that I know - than I can deny the existence of my own wife, Maddy.

God doesn’t cease to exist because a disaster strikes.

1. What can we learn from this?

But I think a more useful question to ask is “What can we learn form all this?”

Has God got something to say to us?

Can we learn something more about loving our neighbour and caring for his needs?

You might be wondering what the subject of our Gospel reading today - the baptism of Jesus has to do with the Tsunami

At Christmas we recounted the story of God coming to earth as a little child born in a stable in Bethlehem.

The great message of Christmas is that God in Jesus came to live among us. He wasn’t a detached God with no feeling for mankind.

He came and lived among us

Jesus’ mission on earth was not to condemn but to be the answer for a suffering humanity. To bring us back to God

And the great message of His baptism is that it reminds us that Jesus identifies with us in our sin and suffering.

Let me explain: What is baptism all about?

It is a sign of turning from sin and following God’s ways. In other words – in baptism we say that we wish to change from living a life of sin and turn back to a life of full commitment to him.

Jesus didn’t have to change at this baptism because he was fully attuned to God’s will. He went through baptism to identify with us.

As Michael Green, speaking of Jesus’ baptism put it:

Jesus acknowledged God’s claim on him - as on others- for total consecration of life and holiness of character (The Message of Matthew Michael Green p. 80)

He is our example and - as his followers, we are called to follow His Example.

2. Identification with the needy

One of the good things to come out of this tragedy has been that many people in Europe and the USA have identified with the needs of victims of Tsunami disaster by giving generously. And especially in the UK people have been incredibly generous.

But let’s not let it end there

We are called to love our neighbours as ourselves – and that means also to identify with them.

Jesus baptism was the beginning of his ministry to save a lost and fallen world.

The Tsunami devastation he dealt with was our sin. It was seismic and cost Him his life on the Cross

We are called to take the Good News of Jesus Christ to a needy world – to show this in the way that we care not only for the physical needs around us but also for their spiritual needs.

Christians have always been in the forefront of relief and development programmes.

But we haven’t always been as strong in the area of living a consistent life that is honouring to Christ. It is costly – it costs us time in prayer, in spending time with God and studying His word.

END of 8.00 Sermon

Story: There are a few men with such a commitment. One such man was Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941)

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