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The Baptism of Jesus

Similar to the Apostle Paul’s description of Jesus’ resurrection as the first fruits of those raised from the dead, Jesus was the first to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the first fruits of many to follow.

Unbeknownst to most laypeople, January introduces to the liturgical calendar what is known as “Ordinary Time,” a term that perhaps brings thoughts of just an ordinary day.  The reality is nothing flashy: The term “Ordinary” comes from the ordinal numerals by which the weeks are counted. It begins on the 1st week in January and ends on the 34th week toward the end of November. Interspersed in the calendar during Ordinary Time are the seasons of Epiphany, Lent, and Eastertide. My practice in preaching has been to hit the central Christian holidays, but to focus on other important topics as they pertain to the Christian faith. This past month I made a rare exception.

On the first Sunday of Ordinary Time comes the celebration of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. The Angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, John’s father, while serving in the temple (Luke 1:14-17). Gabriel revealed many amazing facts about John to Zechariah during his appearance: John will be a joy and delight to his parents. Many will realize his significance and rejoice at his birth. Among men, there are none greater in the sight of the Lord. He will practice the Nazarite Vow and never take wine or other fermented drinks. Unlike those of us who receive the Holy Spirit when we become believers, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit before birth. He will be successful in bringing back many to God. And although he wasn’t known for performing miracles, he will go in the spirit and power of Elijah. He will turn the hearts of the disobedient to God and make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

In the last of these accomplishments, preparing a way for the Lord, his ministry was compared to building a highway by the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 40:3-4 states:

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and was indeed a voice of one calling in the desert. Similar to building a road, he would figuratively build a straight highway in the desert, and when encountering mountains, he would raise up valleys, lower the mountains, and level off rough places. One only needs to drive through the Smokey Mountains or the Rocky Mountains to visualize the words of the prophet.

John had a simple message, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is near” (Matthew 3:2). In short, the way to prepare oneself to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior and receive His forgiveness is to repent or turn away from sin. That same message is true for today. For us to receive Jesus as our Savior, we must also accept Him as the Lord of our lives.

When Jesus appeared to John, to be baptized by him, John responded, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus responded, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:13-15). Jesus came to model a sinless life, and He declined any shortcuts due to His status as the Son of God.

What is amazing about the baptism of Jesus is what happened immediately following. We read in Mark 1:10-11:

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

Similar to the Apostle Paul’s description of Jesus’ resurrection as the first fruits of those raised from the dead, Jesus was the first to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the first fruits of many to follow.

The story of the baptism of Jesus by John emphasizes two important truths: To receive the forgiveness that comes through the work of Jesus on the cross, we must first repent, and turn from our sins. And everyone who is baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus, like Jesus, receives the Holy Spirit, who produces in us His fruits and His gifts as He sees fit.

In service to Christ,

Mark Eastway

Pastor, Burket Bible Church

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