Summary: Epiphany 1 - the Baptism of Our Lord: God is truly praised when He empowers the life of the believer through the forgiveness that Christ won.
Praise is important. Praise generally makes us feel appreciated and it gives us a sense that people care about us. Today we had the privilege of praising our brother Robert for the time, effort, hard work and investment of his heart for the sake of the congregation. And it was good.
Praise received is only one side of a coin. The other side of that coin is praise given. How do we praise our God in a way that truly honors Him? How does praise given look like? Is it a matter of singing a certain style of song - a praise song. Is it a matter of words or prayers that we speak?
The Gospel Lesson today offers us one of the most beautiful examples of praise. We read that after Jesus was Baptized by John the Baptist, God said, “You are my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with you.” Wow! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear this kind of praise from our God? Wouldn’t it be absolutely awesome to know that God loves us and is pleased with us the same way as He was with Jesus at his Baptism?
What can we learn from the Gospel Lesson today regarding praise given and received? What did Jesus do so that God spoke those wonderful words of affirmation to Him? How can we receive God’s praise? Today we will use the word ‘Praise’ – P – R – A – I – S – E – to learn about how to honor God with our praise and also to receive praise from Him. Each letter will help us to remember something from the Gospel Lesson and what it means to us in our life.
The first letter of praise is ‘P’ and it stands for, “Present.” – Jesus presented Himself to be Baptized. Last week we studied that Jesus was God – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1) Jesus could have rightly said that He didn’t need to be baptized. Jesus was holy and sinless and therefore didn’t need the forgiveness that we receive in Baptism. Nevertheless, He allowed John to Baptize Him.
Now John knew that in Baptizing Jesus, he would be ministering to very God of very God. It’s clear John was aware of this. That’s why John says: “The one who comes after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to bend down and untie his sandal straps. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8) He knew that by allowing himself to be Baptized by John, Jesus was humbling Himself. And that’s the way it happened. Jesus, willingly and deliberately presented Himself to be Baptized and in so doing, identifies Himself with the fallen Creation.
There’s a story about a woman who had lived a very sinful life. When she recognized how much God cared about her and how much she needed God’s forgiveness, she presented herself before Jesus. She sat at his feet. With her tears she washed his feet. Her simple act of humility is a wonderful act of praise to our Lord. By presenting herself for forgiveness at the feet of Jesus, she showed her need and love for God. Jesus pointed out her humility and love to the proud religious teachers and praised her and forgave her sins. (Luke 7:36-50)
We can learn from that too. In order to praise God there is a need to present ourselves before our God. We need to bring our sinfulness and brokenness before the Lord. By doing this we, we show that we need Him. We demonstrate that He is important to us.
Praise, ‘P’ – ‘R’: ‘R’ stands for Receive. By humbling Himself, Jesus received Baptism from John. Verse 9 of our Gospel Lesson says: “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan River.” (Mark 1:9) Jesus came and allowed Himself to receive the blessings that the Father offered. God could have caused his blessing to come forth in many different ways. But He has ordained certain specific ways for us to receive his blessings. Jesus knew this and so He presented Himself to receive the blessing of God by coming to be Baptized by John.
God has offered ways for us to receive his blessing too. He has given us a place to gather to receive from Him. He has given us his Baptism to receive faith and forgiveness. He has offered us a place to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. He has offered us a way to receive power for living through his Word in Bible Studies and worship services.
You see, to truly praise God, we need to first receive from God. John the Apostle writes: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:11-12) If we don’t receive what God offers – Jesus Christ and Him crucified – we cannot truly praise Him. But if we receive Jesus, we also receive the power to be children of God. To praise God we present ourselves and receive from Him.