Summary: Year C. The Baptism of Our Lord January 7, 2001

Year C. The Baptism of Our Lord

Luke 3: 15-16, 21-22

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Title; “God’s Beloved”

Heavenly Father we do not fear, for You have redeemed us; You have called us by name, we are yours, we belong to you, we are your beloved children. Amen.

John the Baptist makes it clear that he is not the Messiah. After Jesus is baptized and is at prayer the Holy Spirit descends upon him and the Heavenly Father declares him to be his Son as well as Servant.

John compares his baptism to that of Jesus in verses 15 and 16 and declares Jesus to be mightier than he in verses 17 and 18. John is put in prison in verses 19 and 20 and Jesus is baptized in verses 21 and 22. Strictly speaking this is not a narrative about baptism. Instead we have a divine manifestation, the opening of heaven, descent of the Holy Spirit, and a heavenly voice, occurring after baptism during prayer.

In verse 15 whether John might be the Messiah: John knows who he is and who he is not. The difference between him and Jesus is like water and fire. John’s message and popularity raised the question whether he was the expected Messiah; the inaugurator of the New Age, which he preached, was imminent. He answered that there was no comparison between him and his water baptism and the Messiah and his Spirit and fire baptism. He was preparing them to meet him. A renewed life of repentance was the best way to come out of the ordeal spiritually on fire but “unharmed by fire.”

In verses 16, “I am not worthy:” In comparing what he was doing with what the Messiah would do John states that his baptism is merely of water, meaning that people can repent, but that is as far as it goes. To have the Spirit of God requires something from God’s side that no human can do. The Messiah can give that; John cannot. Now, Christian Baptism will involve water, but much more. It will have the effect of fire, which purifies, separating the alloys from the real metal. It will have the effect of Spirit, empowering not just good works but great ones. The term “Holy Spirit” was known in the Old Testament and in Jewish thought. So was the association of Spirit with fire to indicate both judgment and refinement, condemnation for the unrepentant and refinement for the repentant. It could go either way depending on the person. John himself claims a personal unworthiness to perform even the task of slave when it came to the Messiah. He himself was that repentant. No popular excessive flattery was going to confuse him as to where he stood in relation to the Messiah.

In verse 17 his winnowing fan: Using a metaphor from harvesting where a fork-like shovel tosses grain into the wind so that the light chaff would blow away, leaving the heavier kernels to fall to the ground and be gathered, John says the Messiah will separate the good from the bad. The bad will be burnt bad. He uses the metaphor of a big fire, perhaps, the one on the outskirts of town – the garbage dump, called “Gehenna,” which burned incessantly, to make his point.

In verse 21 after... Jesus also had been baptized: The text does not say that John actually baptized Jesus. Clearly he has done so, but his role is now over and Jesus moves to the forefront. Because John’s baptism was for the forgiveness of sins and Jesus was sinless; it was difficult for the early church to reconcile Jesus being baptized by John. So, the picture is that John is now “out of the picture.” In fact, verse 20 tells us that John is in prison! His baptism is over. Jesus is the last to receive his baptism but the only one to receive the Holy Spirit because he is, in fact, unique as God’s Son.

“And was praying:” The attention is now focused on the post-baptismal experience of Jesus at prayer. It is then, especially during prayer, that Jesus realizes his unique relationship with God. Luke intends to teach Christians what happens to them after Baptism as a result of prayer, that is, heightened awareness. The implication of this great historical event, the day we were baptized, unfolds over time as awareness grows under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

“Heaven was opened:” Baptism opens communication with heaven, that is, with God. Being earthbound is no longer a barrier.

In verse 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him: The “Holy Spirit” is God’s power, energy, love and drive. Of course, strictly speaking, Jesus already had the Holy Spirit. He is the Holy Spirit. Luke is teaching a confirmation lesson. He is describing what happens to Christians at their Baptism. This, then, is not a divine “begetting of” Jesus, let alone an adoption, but rather an equipping of him for a task, his mission.

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