Wednesday scripture Luke 3:21-22 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.”
This week we are pondering and praying epiphany stories. Epiphanies are moments when God's presence is powerfully experienced. Moments like liberation from Egypt and Jesus's resurrection appearances. The baptism of Jesus is today's incredible moment. The Holy Spirit is apparently visible, in the form of a dove and God's voice is heard named Jesus 'Beloved.' This is a powerful moment, not only for Jesus but for those observing and for the newly formed Christian community. But first, let's look at the context in which this happens.
Luke tells us that Jesus comes to John the Baptist who is baptizing people in the Jordan. This itself, is a ritualized remembrance of an epiphany. Most likely a few epiphanies are all remembered in this baptism. Likely remembered is God making a way for Israel to cross the Red Sea with Pharaoh's army bearing down to slaughter them. God rescues them in a powerful and miraculous way. Also, Israel's crossing into the promised land after 40 years of sojourn in the desert is likely remembered. The crossing of the Red Sea reminds Israel of God's powerful presence guiding and saving them from harm. The crossing into the promised land reminds them that God fulfills God's promises. And then both work together to remind Israel of the special relationship with the Divine that they experienced in their 40 years sojourn. The prophet Hosea made special reference to this when he said, 'But now I am going to woo her [Israel] - I will bring her out to the desert and I will speak to her heart.' And in this instance, God is reaching out to an Israel that has become unfaithful, with the promise of reconciliation and renewal, if they will come back to God again. John in inviting the people of Israel to come back to God as he baptizes them in the Jordan. Their baptism is a powerful remembering of God's covenantal love, liberating, guarding, providing for and never giving up on them.
But, you might be thinking, Jesus did not need to repent, the word that is the shorthand way of saying wandering into unfaithfulness and needing mercy, forgiveness,
and a new start. And you would be right. Jesus isn't baptized because he NEEDS to be cleansed. Jesus is baptized to show his solidarity with Israel and with humanity. Jesus wishes to be one of us. This is the way that we are rescued. Because God has come to be with us. And ALL of this is remembered and re-enacted when there is a baptism. And not just that one moment in our lives when we are baptized. Baptists only do baptisms in worship, with community present, because it is that moment when we all recall and re-enact God's solidarity with us in Christ. We all pledge to guard and guide one another, to protect and serve, to forgive and love and never give up on one another. In this moment when we celebrate Baptism, we re-enact God's voice calling 'Beloved,' believing that in that call and its ongoing echo, we find life and hope and healing.