Jesus Is Baptized
- Sense that Jesus is God's Son, our Savior.
- Tell how Jesus' baptism shows he is God's Son.
- Tell others why Jesus' coming is good news for us.
As we continue in Luke's gospel, he again lets us know that this story is anchored in a precise historical time and place---he mentions who's on the throne in Rome, who's in charge of Judea, and who the high priests are. Then the focus shifts abruptly away to a strange itinerant preacher in the Judean hills around the Jordan River. Whatever human actions are taking place in the cities, God is making things happen in the wilderness.
The gospels identify John the Baptist with an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah. He is the "voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord.'" How does John prepare the way? By calling people to repentance and to a new life.
How's this for an opening sermon line? "You brood of vipers!" Still, for what seems such a gloomy message, John attracts quite a crowd. Everyone comes out to see what's going on, and lots of them stay to get baptized.
What is this baptism, anyway? Christian baptism has its roots in John's baptism, which has its roots in the Jewish religious practices of Jesus' time. While you won't find any mention of it in the Old Testament, Jewish converts or "proselytes" were baptized as part of their entrance into the Jewish community of faith. John's baptism seems to be a variation of that for Jews who wanted to renew their commitment.
The Baptist's "sermons" were evidently very practical, and Luke includes some specific advice to those who would be considered outsiders by Jewish society: tax collectors and soldiers. But John's most important message had to do with the Messiah. I am not the Messiah, John makes clear. I'm not even worthy to serve him in the most menial task, untying the thongs of his sandals. But he's surely coming, and he will baptize "with the Holy Spirit and fire." The Messiah will possess the power of the Holy Spirit and the fire of judgment.
Then one day Jesus stepped out of the crowd. Note the way Luke puts it, "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too." How can Jesus, the sinless one, participate in a baptism "of repentance for the forgiveness of sins"? This act shows how fully Jesus assumed our lot as human beings---even assuming our sinfulness, our need to be cleansed.
So Jesus enters the river, and on being baptized he prays. And then something very special happens that is reported in three of the gospels. Heaven was opened (clouds parting?), the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice came from heaven.
At the moment Jesus publicly takes his place with and among all the people, the moment he begins bearing the full weight of fallen humanity, God affirms him. What powerful and precious words! "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Thus Jesus' public ministry begins with the blessing of heaven, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the affirmation of his Father's love. The good news of Jesus' baptism extends to us. When we are baptized, the grace of heaven opens on us, the gift of the Holy Spirit is promised to us, and our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, says, "You are now my son, my daughter, and I love you!"
Do you sense a contrast between the message of John the Baptist and Jesus? If so, how would you describe it?
How did John feel about baptizing Jesus?
Have you ever thought of your baptism in relationship to Jesus’ baptism? How might linking them make your own baptism more important to you?
John the Baptist doesn’t seem like a very attractive person here. Help kids understand the need for words that point to our sin sometimes so that we can repent and turn around. Remind them that as unattractive as he might seem, crowds flocked to see and hear John the Baptist in the wilderness.
Kids will appreciate the contrast between John’s exalted description of the “Messiah” and the humble way that Jesus is baptized with “all the people.”
It’s amazing, really. Jesus is both human like us and the Son of God. Today you’ll tell the story of God affirming that Jesus is his Son, the Messiah. God speaks and sends the dove as a sign. Share with your kids your joy in God’s unfolding plan.
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