BAPTISM OF THE LORD (January 13, 2019)

Jesus is full of surprises. Here we see one at the kickoff of his public ministry. Jesus’ cousin, john the baptizer, has just said that his [John’s] baptism with water will be followed by one mightier than he whose sandals he is not worthy to untie. Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. This scene is followed immediately by Jesus’ coming to john and asking for john’s baptism by water. Interesting.

Why does Jesus get baptized with john’s baptism of repentance? Jesus, who committed no sin, was in no need of repentance, but he got baptized nonetheless. As we saw a few weeks ago, baptismal water symbolizes a dying / drowning experience. In john’s gospel we learn that baptism is like re-entering the water in our mother’s womb and emerging from that womb-water with a new life in Christ. Why does he do it? Although he was like us in all things but sin, Jesus humbled himself and chose to do what his fellow Jews who were sinners were doing. Jesus had john baptize him in order to identify completely with us. What an awesome example of humility!

Jesus seems to take John’s baptizing as a sign from his father to begin his own public ministry. Do you notice that Jesus uses real-life-experiences as indicators of his father’s will? Today, it is the action of cousin John that initiates his action. Jesus seeks to do his father’s will every moment. When he finds himself in the garden of Gethsemane near the end of his time with us, he prays that what was apparently going to happen would not happen. Yet, he concludes: “Father, not my will, but yours be done.” But we are getting ahead of today’s gospel.

On this day, Jesus did what he later counseled his apostles to do. He will instruct them not to “lord it over” others. He did not lord it over anyone who sinned. He identified himself with us all who are sinners and experienced the baptism of repentance with John. He provided good example as a leader from his first act. He led by example.

He is a world-leader without equal; he did what leaders seldom do. So many leaders act in a superior fashion with those they lead. Jesus would later chastise the Pharisees for “lording it over” others, self-importantly taking the first seats in synagogues. From his first day of ministry, he did not lord it over others, sinners. He identified with those he came to be with. He associated with all; he ate with all, unlike the religious establishment of his time who shunned those Jews whom they deemed “unclean” as well as the gentiles. It was a hallmark of Jesus’ life that he would be present to anyone who sought his presence. Is this not a lesson for religious leaders of our time? Is this not a lesson for all of us who have a share in Jesus’ power?

How will we use that power today?