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Matthew 3:13-17


“The Baptism of Jesus”


I want to start with something funny that I found on an internet site: After the third dip, the Priest said, “You are now baptized. You are a new creation. The old one is gone; no more drinking alcohol for you. Your new name is Gomes.” Gomes went back home and headed straight for the fridge. He took a Kingfisher Beer, dipped it in water three times, and said, “You are now a new creation; the old one is gone. Your new name is Green Tea!”

I want to talk about baptism today. In summary, John the Baptist invites people to be baptized, saying, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me.” Then, Jesus came to him to receive baptism from him. John the Baptist was surprised that Jesus came to him for baptism and said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus said, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” He baptized Jesus, and when Jesus came out of the water, suddenly, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

It is a short passage, but it implies a lot of meaningful messages. First, baptism washes our sins away. Baptism is proceeded by our confession of sins and vow to commit to God’s community. By baptism, we wash our sins away and become a new person in Jesus Christ, which means we belong to God, not belonging to the world any longer. In other words, we officially become Christians by baptism. It makes us wonder if Jesus ever sinned like us humans. Otherwise, why did he need to be baptized? We find a reference that Jesus had not sinned through a conversation with John the Baptist, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus said, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist because it was a way to fulfill God’s ministry. God can work alone, but God wants to work with his people for the people and His creatures. The baptism is a symbol of entering into God’s community. Through Baptismal Covenant, we vow before God and our congregation to attend church, grow in the church, and commit to the mission of God. Jesus also, after his baptism, started his public ministry.

We also can identify who we are by baptism. We, Christians, are reborn people in Jesus Christ through baptism. Baptism symbolizes a rebirth in that we die with our sins in Christ, and we are born again in Christ as new people. Second Corinthians says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We Christians, who are new creations, live according to the Holy Spirit, not according to the flesh. If we complain or blame people or the world, it can be evidence that the Holy Spirit is not in us. The Holy Spirit keeps us in peace and joy. Suppose we are joyful and harmonious with one another in Christ. We know about the people who complained in the wilderness and who died in the wilderness without seeing the Promised Land. The mindset of gratitude leads us to happier lives and makes us vitalized by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us have a more grateful mindset and express it to one another in 2023.

At Jesus’ baptism, as God identified Him, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you, I am pleased,” God justifies us, the children of God by baptism. We are beloved by God. God is with us always in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can serve people in all circumstances with gratitude. After being baptized, as he began his public ministry, baptism symbolizes that we initiate God’s ministry in the church community’s unity. We learned that Jesus served people. Jesus’ ministry was a servant ministry. Jesus also said himself, “I came to serve people, not be served.” Jesus said, “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He became a friend to the poor, the weak, and the powerless. He fed them, cared for them, and healed them. He served them, even washing their feet. In a society of Israelites, washing others’ feet was the servants’ job. He showed his disciples how they should serve others.

The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our own baptism. Some of you may not remember your baptism because you might have been baptized as an infant. But don’t worry because God still remembers you. Even though we don’t remember, God confirmed that we are God’s children at our baptism. God keeps us in the baptismal covenant, which we may commit to the kingdom of God in our life.

When we were baptized as babies, we couldn’t confess sins and vow to commit to God’s community. However, our parents, godparents, guardians, and congregation confessed our sins and vowed for us. Therefore, baptism is not only a one person or family event, but the whole faith community and God’s kingdom celebrating the event. We were baptized because of the grace of God. The Methodists call it “Prevenient grace,” which means God loves everyone before they have knowledge or believe in Him. God’s prevenient grace leads people to think of God and guides them to believe in God. All people and all creatures are under the prevenient grace. Baptism, perhaps, is just the starting point of God’s epiphany as the triune God. Through the Lord’s baptism, the triune God finally presented the Holy Spirit like a dove and God the Father with a voice upon God the Son Jesus Christ. One of the reasons ministers administrate baptism in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is that we believe that at the baptism, the Triune God is presented as the Baptism of Jesus shown in the scripture.

We all are the debtors of God’s grace and love. Therefore, we cannot judge anyone, but only pray for them and love them as God loves us. Let us pay forward God’s love to one another this year. Let us thank church leaders, community leaders, and government leaders and pray for them. As we have a new year, may we have new hope to love and care for one another, experiencing God’s epiphany in everyday life. Thanks be to God! Amen!