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Baptism of Christ (Epiphany
1), 10.01.10. Yr C
Isaiah 43.1-7: fear not, O Israel....I will be with you when you pass through the waters
Ps 29: The voice of the Lord is upon the waters
Acts 8.14-17: baptized Samaritans receive Spirit through hands laid by Peter and John
Lk 3.15-17, 21-22: Jesus’ baptism (1042)
at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son:
may we recognize him as our Lord
and know ourselves to be your beloved children;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
(As in the baptism, Luke emphasizes Jesus as depending on the Father through prayer.)
celebrate the baptism of Christ, and all four of our readings concern either
water or baptism or both. The
reading from Isaiah alludes to the crossing of the
You may wonder
why was Jesus baptized? To answer
that let’s look at the Jewish practice of baptism in Jesus’ day.
As you know, there was the customary washing as a ritual cleansing from
impurity, but baptism was also associated with becoming a Jew, the so-called
proselyte baptism. Male converts to
Judaism obviously underwent circumcision. However,
in order to join in the Passover meal all converts, both male and female, had to
undergo baptism before they could enter the
So when John comes preaching a baptism of repentance, he is calling the Jews to admit the need to start over, that is to admit that they have, so to speak, no leg of their own to stand on. Thus when Jesus comes to be baptized by John he is joining in this, he is putting himself wholly in God’s hands. In effect, it is the opposite of the person who proudly boasts that he is a self-made man. To which the reply is that at least he does not blame God for it. Therefore, we might well say that it is only because Jesus submits to John’s baptism that we can call him sinless.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all have the story of Jesus’ baptism at the
hands of John. The Fourth Gospel,
John, omits the story but alludes to it by repeating the Baptist’s witness to
We have heard
Luke’s version this morning, and Luke makes a very significant addition.
He adds that Jesus is ‘praying’ as the Spirit descends ‘in bodily
form’ like a dove. And all
through his Gospel Luke specifies that Jesus prays before every major step, and
this is followed by the Spirit empowering or guiding Jesus in what follows.
We meet Jesus
praying for the first time at his baptism, when God acknowledges him as Son
(3.13). Later he spends the night in
prayer on a mountain (6.12), and then in the morning he calls the disciples and
chooses the 12 whom he calls ‘apostles’. And
again he prays (9.18) before asking the question: ’Whom do people say that I
am?’ Subsequently he takes Peter,
James and John up on a mountain to pray (9,28f.), and it is there that he is
transfigured. He is praying (11.1)
when the disciples ask him to teach them to pray. Just before the beginning of
the passion (22.32) he says to Simon that he has prayed for him that his faith
may not fail, and then he says to the disciples: ‘pray that you may not come
into the time of trial’ (22.40). Furthermore, Luke adds a parable (18.1) on
the need to pray always and not lose heart,
We can see
Luke’s emphasis on Jesus praying, and on Jesus urging the disciples to pray.
As we might expect, Luke continues this emphasis on prayer throughout the
Book of acts as well. But it
is striking that the only times that Luke tells us what Jesus is praying the
first word is always ‘Father’: I
thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, when in the Holy Spirit, he
rejoices in the Father – Son relationship (10. 21); In Gethsemane, it is,
“Father, if it be your will, remove this cup from me” (22.42).
On the cross it is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they
are doing” (23.34). And at the end
it is, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (23.46). And
those who follow him he has called to the same intimacy with God, for when he
teaches the disciples how to pray, he starts out, “Father, hallowed be your
If Luke has
strongly emphasized Jesus’ closeness to the Father, it may seem surprising
that in the whole of the Book of Acts Jesus is only proclaimed to be Son of God
twice, both times by Paul and also significantly both times in synagogue, that
is, by a Jew to fellow Jews, who would understand it in scriptural terms as one
who shows forth the character of the Father through his total submission to
God’s will and way.
This is to be
our way as well as those who have been baptized into Christ.
This is how we will recognize Jesus as our Lord and know ourselves to be,
with him, sons and daughters of God our Father.
years ago I read a small softback book on prayer by Fr Mark Gibbard of the
Cowley Fathers. It was titled Why
Pray? In it he made what to me
was a very convincing case, as to why agnostics should pray, for prayer helps to
sort things out, to get them in perspective, it helps to calm us down so that we
can think straight without distraction, and therefore prayer readies us to take
action, with the desired action seen more clearly.
By placing ourselves, our concerns, our hopes and our fears, and all that
happens to us, in the hands of our loving Father we become ready to do his will
with widened horizons and better vision. Thus
encouraged, equipped and guided by his Holy Spirit we may better serve our
fellow human beings to our Father’s praise and glory in and through his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.