January 12, 2020 Baptism of Jesus

January 12, 2020  

Baptism of Jesus 2020

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Matthew 3:13-17

I read through my file of sermons preached on the subject of the baptism of Jesus, surprising myself for the number of times I asked and answered the question: why did Jesus need to be baptized?

Here we go again:

Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

We baptize for two reasons.

Because humans are sinful and unclean. We are cleansed in the waters of baptism; we receive the promise of forgiveness.

Because we as the Church want to claim the baptized as a child of God. We want the baptized person to become a member of the family of God, a member of the Church of Christ, with us as a beloved sibling.Here’s a fact:And…  “…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. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matt. 3:16-17).

Typically, my answer has rested in the Spirit’s descent upon Jesus and in the words spoken by God as Jesus “came up from the water” (Matt. 3:16).

Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

Jesus was and is the Son of God, already a member of the family. In fact, as one element of the trinity Jesus was and is with God, one God.

Jesus was never sinful. Jesus did not need to be cleansed. Jesus did not need to receive the promise of forgiveness.

The descent of the Spirit and God’s words feel and sound like an anointing. God is saying to the world words God hadn’t yet spoken: This is my Son. This is my Beloved. He pleases me.

This moment of baptism is a curious moment in the life of Jesus, at least in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew wrote about the birth of Jesus and he wrote about the family fleeing to Egypt. Matthew wrote about the family’s return to Nazareth some time later, after the death of Herod.

Matthew tells us nothing more of the life of Jesus until his baptism. We know nothing about his childhood, we know nothing about his teenage years, we know nothing about early adulthood until he was baptized. And yet, at that moment, at the moment of baptism, God had seen the life of Jesus and God had said “With him I am well pleased.”

I’m curious. I want to know what Jesus did. In another gospel we hear about his journey with his family to the Temple in Jerusalem and his conversations with the teachers there. In his gospel, Matthew didn’t tell that story. He told us nothing about most of Jesus’ life.

The gap in time fascinates me. What did Jesus do? What did Jesus see? What did Jesus learn? What did Jesus think? How did Jesus feel? What about his life gave God such pleasure? Or was God pleased in the simple reality OF Jesus. That Jesus was in the world.

We as a congregation have been working with a homeless couple since a week before Christmas. They were sleeping “under the bridge” when “the city” came and cleared everybody out. They had nowhere to go because they both had jobs working hours that don’t partner with the Warming Center’s hours, nor the Salvation Army’s.

How did they become homeless? A car accident. The car was totaled. Because they lost their car they couldn’t get to work and so they lost their jobs. Because they lost their jobs they couldn’t pay rent so they lost their apartment. Because they lost their apartment they lost their kids to the kids’ other parents. They came to this area to find work. They found work but couldn’t yet afford housing.

With their stuff thrown in the dumpster by the city, they had only what they were carrying on their backs. So we have been helping them. In another week, they will move out of town to a farm where they found work and a place to live. Hopefully, their lives turn around. Hopefully, they will get their kids back…

That’s the world we live in. That’s the world Jesus came to save. And we are his servants.

Before his baptism, I wonder if Jesus saw the world as I do. There is so much need. So many people are hungry. So many people need homes. So many people need jobs that pay enough for them to have transportation and housing and medical care… So many people find themselves in a cycle of awfulness and the cycle spins them downward, around and around into worse and worse circumstances.

What did Jesus see that taught him that the hungry needed to be fed? What did Jesus see that taught him the blind needed to see? What did Jesus see that taught him lepers needed healing? What did Jesus see that taught him the naked needed to be clothed? What did Jesus see that taught him the world needed peace?

He saw something, because as soon as he was baptized, after 40 days of temptation in the wilderness Jesus began his ministry in Galilee, calling his disciples and ministering to crowds of people, curing diseases and sicknesses.

“With him I am well pleased,” God said. “This is my beloved,” God said.

Why was Jesus baptized?

Jesus was baptized because Jesus was of this world.

We confess: Jesus, Son of God, was “made man” (Nicene Creed).

Jesus was of this world and Jesus saw the world and Jesus saved the world from what it was he saw.

And we are his servants.

Amen.