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Baptized

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  Matthew 3:17 NRSV

I always wondered why Jesus presented himself to John to be baptized.  We often think of baptism as something associated with forgiveness of sin, washing away the old sinful nature and taking on the new life in Christ.  Well, Jesus was not someone who might fit that criteria!

Over the years and through seminary, I have heard and read about this, and, thanks to many commentators and a number of interesting theological discussions, I have a much better understanding about why Jesus was baptized.

  1.  There is a link throughout the New Testament between Jesus and Moses, as well as Israel.  In some ways his baptism, being immersed in water and named and claimed by God seems like a way to usher in the new covenant.  Even as the Israelite slaves passed through the water to freedom, Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection brings us all into new life and freedom.
  2. More than that, it symbolizes a new beginning for Jesus – the beginning of his very public ministry.
  3. It was an experience where God named and claimed him as God’s own Son, and in some ways, it “humanized” God – touchable and tangible.  Jesus said that to see him was to see God because God was in him.
  4. Another thought is that it was also Jesus’ way of connecting with us in our humanity. Although he may not have needed forgiveness of sins, his mission was to identify with us, with our lives, with our experiences, with our journeys.

This passage is about Jesus, and yet, we can also see it as a reminder to us that, in Christ, we, too, are commissioned and sent forth as the extension of Christ – the Body of Christ – into the world to bring the love of God to others.  Since Jesus is no longer with us physically, we become the physical presence of the Body and are sent forth to ministry in Jesus’ name.

So, the words that God spoke to Jesus, “This is my Beloved” are also spoken to us in our baptism.  When we are baptized, it isn’t just a ritual that the church does, but it is God working in us to claim us as God’s beloved child.  We are loved beyond anything we could ever understand.  God names and claims us as part of God’s family, as God’s own child.  What a gift that is!

Baptism gives us an identity – tells us who we are and Whose we are.  Baptism informs how we live our lives.  Every day, we live as God’s baptized and beloved children because we have put on Christ through water and the Spirit.  Whether we claim it or not, we are baptized, called, and commissioned to live our baptism in the world.

How will you live your baptism?

How will you share God’s love with others?

How will you help the family of God to be real to others?

Tempted – again!

“. . . [Jesus] was tempted for forty days by the devil.”  Luke 4:2a (CEB)

I’m actually relieved that Jesus was tempted.  Being tempted is part of life, and I give in to temptation WAY more than I should.  Reading the story of Jesus’ temptation from the gospel of Luke reminds me that he was also human.  He could be and WAS tempted.  Of course the BIG difference is that he was able to stand firmly in his identity as the Son of God and not let the devil goad him into giving in.

Yes, I DO wish I could do the same thing, and there are times when I can resist temptation, but there are many other times I give in.  Of course, the majority of those days when I give in to temptation have to do with eating.  Underneath the desire to eat a large bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and walnuts is something else that is crying for attention.

That’s the big difference between Jesus and us.  Jesus knew himself, knew who he was, knew Whose he was, and was confident in his identity.  We may be confident in a lot of things, but there are still things that draw us away from being baptized children of God.

Baptism is the start of our identity.  This is where we are named and claimed by God as God’s Beloved child.  It is the beginning of our journey with Christ.  Baptism is a way of life, not just a ritual from a church worship service.  This is where we are enfolded into God’s family and loved with a love beyond all understanding.

So, as God’s baptized people, our calling is to grow in faith and share that faith with others in the way we live our lives.  Jesus had just been baptized, and he was led into the wilderness by the Spirit where he encountered the devil.  He was there for a long time; the Bible says forty days and nights – a long time.  He didn’t eat, and he was subjected to the devil’s tantalizing offers of food, power, and safety.  Yet, Jesus didn’t give in.

How I wish we could do that!  I have learned over the years that we can’t even deal with what causes us to overeat, have addictions, misbehave, or whatever we do until we can name what it is inside that is bugging us.  After years and years of attending Weight Watchers meetings, some of what I have learned sinks in sometimes, and I ignore it other times.

Maybe it’s because I just don’t want to deal with it.  Yet, once I have eaten the ice cream (a huge bowl!), I don’t really feel better!  Instead, I feel guilty.  Temptation is a lie.  It offer the idea that something else is far better than what God has to offer us.  Maybe we can learn a little from Jesus about sticking close to God and trusting that the Spirit won’t abandon us when the times get tough.  Maybe we just need to name our issues and turn them over to God, trusting that we will be shown the way to deal with them other than giving into temptation.  Maybe.

In what ways are you able to resist temptation?

How do you trust that God is with you during those times?

 

Remember Who We Are

“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.'”  Matthew 3:17 (NRSV)

Jesus’ baptism is rather interesting.  Why would the Son of God need to be baptized?  We believe that he is the incarnation of God, and John the Baptizer called for the baptism of repentance.  But, really, what would Jesus have to repent about?  There are a number of ideas about the “why’s” of Jesus’ baptism. 

There is one idea that it “kicks off” his ministry.  He comes from a little Podunk town called Nazareth, a place that didn’t have a great reputation for bringing forth prophets and rabbis, and he approaches John (who according to Luke is his cousin) asking to be baptized.  John recognized that this was rather strange, and in Matthew 3:13-17 we have a pretty clear idea that John resisted doing it.  However, Jesus insisted, so maybe it is also a symbol of his change in his life’s work – a sort of ordination into mission and ministry.

Another thought about why Jesus was baptized is that it is God’s way of claiming Jesus’ and identifying him for all to know that he is God’s beloved Son.  In verse 17 (see above), the voice from heaven (we presume to be God’s) names and claims Jesus as God’s own and adds “with whom I am well pleased.”  Maybe the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry needed to start with his identity being declared for all those around to hear.

Maybe Jesus also was baptized as a way of identifying with us.  There are stories about kings who left their throne and dressed in peasant garb so they could find out what life was like as one of their subjects.  God, in Jesus, entered into our lives as human beings and through Jesus also understands our joys and sorrows, hurts and pains, celebrations and worries.

When we are baptized, we are welcomed into the family of God, named and claimed as God’s own child, and given the identity “Christian.”  That means that we have been given the gift of a whole community of faith that, ideally, sets and example for us and helps us to live in this world in the way that Jesus invites us to live.  We are God’s beloved children.

Would God say, “. . . in whom I am well pleased”?  I would hope so.  We all have challenges, and none of us is perfect.  God certainly knows that, or there would never have been a need for Jesus to die on the cross so that we would have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.  Maybe remembering our baptism every day is a way of trying to follow in Jesus’ footsteps more faithfully, and when we don’t get there, repenting, asking for forgiveness, and trusting that God’s love and grace are big enough so that we can move forward once again.  That is my hope and prayer for myself as well as everyone else.  May it be so.

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