Sunday 13 January 2013

Bible Book:

"Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.'" (vv. 21-22)

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 Sunday 13 January 2013


Today the Church celebrates the Baptism of Jesus. Jesus'Baptism, as reported in the Gospel narratives, gives an initialsense of who Jesus is and what kind of ministry he might be aboutto embark on. It also forms the basis of the rite of Baptism forChristians today, whether practised as full immersion (riveroptional) or a gentle sprinkling.

And yet (forgive me) Luke's narrative of the event seemsslightly ... underwhelming. When someone is baptised in churchtoday, chances are there will be a certain degree of specialceremony, a sense of real occasion (and certainly a bit of a partyafterwards). But here the act of Baptism is confined to a simplesentence and it's clear that he wasn't the only one to get dunkedthat day (verse 21).

There seems to be a common misconception that Baptism wassomehow invented by the Church, whereas in fact it was reallynothing new for first-century Jews like Jesus. Rituals ofself-immersion and washing were common in Jewish practice at thetime and symbolised a desire to be right with God and to cleanseoneself from impurity.

Most Christians understand 'impurity' to imply some form of sinfrom which one needs to repent, especially in the context ofbaptism. But if Jesus truly was God's son, and therefore sinless,why would such an act be necessary?

It's important to remember that, in Jesus' day, "impurity" couldmean many things, including, but not restricted to sin. It mightalso simply be the consequences of life's circumstances (such asgiving birth or having to touch something that had died).

At the start of his new ministry (and what would be a fairlyshort road to calvary) Jesus wants to be right with God, and Godresponds by affirming Jesus as God's son - a particularly specialperson among a host of baptismal candidates.

To Ponder

  • Have you been baptised? If so, what did your baptism mean toyou?
  • What 'impurities' or things might there be in your daily lifethat can get in the way of your relationship with God, even thoughothers may not consider them 'sinful' in themselves? 
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