This is an exciting time. It is the beginning of a brand new year. Some people like to make New Year’s resolutions or promises to themselves about what they plan to accomplish in the new year. The number one resolution that people make is, “I am going to lose weight.” Even if we don’t make any New Year’s resolutions, this is an exciting time. It is a time that we can forget our past mistakes and look forward to new opportunities that lie ahead of us. It is a time of new beginnings.
At the beginning of Luke 3:15-17, 21-22, the crowds might have sensed a new beginning, especially the people who were baptized. They might have had a sense that John the Baptist was the long-promised Messiah. John did what all good messengers do. He pointed past himself to the one whom he was sent to herald.
John was able to reject the notion that he might be the Messiah for several reasons. The Messiah would be more powerful, worthy of far more reverence, and would have a broader ministry. Also, the Holy Spirit would work differently in the Messiah’s ministry; supplying it with a purifying, judging and saving aspect that John’s did not have.
Jesus experienced times of new beginnings in his life too. One of those times was when He was baptized. He was a carpenter and a faithful son of Mary and Joseph. He was about to begin his role as the Messiah, and He probably asked himself, “Who am I as I begin the greatest work in the universe?” There were a couple of very important things that happened when Jesus was baptized. First of all, the Bible tells us that the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove and landed upon him. The second thing was that God spoke and said, “You are my Son. I love you and I am well-pleased with you.”
There are times in our lives when we need someone to encourage us and reassure us. We need someone to tell us who we are, why we matter, and why they have high hopes for us. Jesus needed reassurance and encouragement at this time when His life would take a new direction. He knew that He would need resources beyond His human abilities and wisdom.
When God said that Jesus was His Son and He was pleased, He was telling us the same thing. If all we ever do in this life is exercise our primary calling-that of being His child-we have fulfilled our primary purpose and God will be pleased with us. Having God’s approval isn’t easy because He demands complete and perfect obedience in everything we do, say and think. We can’t obey God perfectly on our own. We need the power of the Holy Spirit. He teaches us to know God and truth and things hidden from wise people. His touch glows within us and lights a fire within us.
Why did Jesus need to be baptized by John? Baptism was the outward sign of repentance from sin, and Jesus was sinless. His baptism was the assurance that He is like us in every way except for sin. That’s why He submitted to baptism at John’s hands. He is like us and not like us at the same time. His identity came from God, but His role was confirmed by John the Baptist as He began an earthly phase of His life. Although John’s was a baptism of repentance, Jesus did not need to repent. For Him, baptism was a means to identify Himself with sinners in order that they might identify with Him in His life.
In baptism Jesus was initiated into the family of God and claimed by God as His beloved child. In baptism Jesus accepted His ministry, accepted that He is the one John was teaching about, and claimed His identity as the Saviour that the prophets spoke about. He knew that He needed to acknowledge and repent for all of our sins, merely by being human.
Up until this time, He has not performed any miracles, but with God’s stamp of approval and with the spirit of God upon him, Jesus began to perform great miracles. From this new beginning, many people began to understand that Jesus was truly the Son of God and they began to follow him.
Our own baptism represents a new beginning for us as well. When we are baptized, it shows the world that just as Jesus rose from the dead through the glory of God the Father, we also live a new life in him. God may not always be well-pleased with us, but He looks down with an approving smile when He sees us trying to walk with Jesus.
Before He was baptized, Jesus prayed. We might ask ourselves why Jesus prayed if He was so attuned to the will of His Father. He prayed because he wanted to keep in a relationship with the heavenly Father. What is stressed is that Jesus was at prayer, the Spirit came and Jesus’ true identity was proclaimed. We should have the same purpose when we pray. We can pray to Him at any time and in any place. The Holy Spirit is there for us. All we have to do is pray and ask for it.
The events at the baptism of Jesus present one of the Bible’s clearest pictures of the Trinity, with the entire Godhead present. The Son of God stood in the Jordan River, identifying Himself with sinful mankind. The Father spoke from heaven, affirming the Son. The Spirit of God descended from heaven in the form of a dove and anointed the Son for His coming ministry. The dove is a symbol of purity and harmlessness. In this situation, the dove represented the spirit with which Jesus would be endowed-one of purity and innocence.
Just like Christ’s baptism marked the start of His ministry, our baptism is our entrance into the Christian faith. When we gather together publicly in worship, there should be celebration, praise and thanksgiving. God calls us into a deeper relationship with Him through Christ as God declares to us how special we are as God’s children who are prepared and sent to take part in ministry with God. Jesus has given us an example to follow.
The Baptism of the Lord is a call for us to change our attitudes. As we get older and wiser, we move toward Jesus’ message or a reduction of the dignity and worth with which we were created. In other words, we are on the road to eternal life with Christ or a life of eternal damnation. Our baptism, like Jesus’ baptism, is a choice. How have we progressed? How have we given in to the ways of the world? As we begin a new year, we can try again to make the choice about how we can grow in our spiritual lives.
Baptism not only represents our movement away from sin, but it also marks our movement toward something as well. Some people argue that it marks our movement toward purity and holiness as we seek to allow the Holy Spirit to baptize us as well. God gives us opportunities for new beginnings. Let us make the most of them as we live a new life in Christ through the power of his Holy Spirit.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p.1390)
- “New Beginning.” Retrieved from Sermons4Kids.com
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 12 Bible software package.
- Larsen, B. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983; pp. 77-81)
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, Baptism of the Lord, -C-.” Retrieved from preacherexchange.org
- Pete Briscoe, “Experiencing Life Today.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Pastor Ken Klaus, “A New Beginning.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- B. Meyer, “Our Daily Homily.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- David Walle, “Luke 3:15-17,21-22.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- The Rev. AnnaKate Rawles, “Baptism of Our Lord: Worthy of Our Calling.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jason Buckwalter, “Luke 3:15-17,21-22.” Retrieved from http://www.aplainaccount.org/luke-315-17-21-22/
- Christine Hallenback Ask, “Luke 3:15-17,21-22.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Lanie LeBlanc, OP, “First Impressions, Volume 2: Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2019.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Carol and Dennis Keller, “First Impressions, Volume 2: Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2019.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Brian Gleeson, CP, , “First Impressions, Volume 2: Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2019.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org