A sermon given during the 10:30am Sung Eucharist, by The Rt Rev’d Chris McLeod, on the 8th of January 2023.
The Baptism of Jesus – 2023
Text: Matthew 3:13-17
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Each of the 4 Gospels record the Baptism of Jesus at the hands of John. Matthew’s emphasis is on the commissioning of Jesus as the one who would bring in God’s Kingdom on earth.
- The Baptism of Jesus as commissioning
For Matthew the commissioning of Jesus and the descent of the Spirit upon Jesus is what captures the evangelist’s imagination. The Gospel of Matthew wants to make it quite clear that Jesus is the Anointed One. Jesus is the one who is the coming Messiah and judge, and that he is God’s Son. The voice from heaven confirms that Jesus is taking the right steps. This is the ‘fulfilling of all righteousness’, which means doing the right thing by God, including living God’s justice. God’s righteousness also includes judgement upon those who oppress God’s people. Jesus’ is on path to fulfil the Father’s mission. The long-awaited and Messiah has come.
- Connection with John the Baptist.
Importantly, Jesus identified, and agreed, with the message and ministry of John the Baptist. John was announcing the coming reign of God in opposition to the current reign of Rome. The true King and the true Kingdom were being re-established. Jesus was affirming John’s message while fulfilling it in himself. Jesus continues the message of John the Baptist with the Kingdom of God now inaugurated in his own ministry and mission. People would have to make a choice: Rome or God’s Kingdom and God’s King.
Salvation/Liberation – Like Jesus, and before him, John the Baptist, our role is to invite others into this experience of salvation. God’s righteousness and salvation are closely connected. Most people equate salvation with ‘when we die, we go to heaven’, and righteousness with personal and individual acts of piety. However, this is a very limited view of what salvation and righteousness mean. Another word for salvation could be liberation. Salvation within the Biblical context is deeply connected to the great act of salvation – the Exodus from Egypt. That is God’s paradigmatic act of salvation. God’s acts of salvation are meant for this world as well as for the world to come. God’s righteousness and salvation are to: to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. (Isaiah 42: 7)
Like the people of the time of John and Jesus, we are called to make a choice. We live in this world, but we are called to embrace the values of another – the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom is about setting people free – liberation. We are set free to be what God calls us to be, our true selves, and to be set free from the oppression of others. God’s Kingdom is true freedom!
To learn from the Baptism of Jesus is to live as people who have been set free and to help set others free.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.