In Last week’s message we pondered What is an Epiphany answering that a Biblical Epiphany was seeing God. Following the Star is not just about a mental change or even a change of habit, but it is about meeting God. The question then becomes how does this happen? The texts of the season answer that for us. This message ponder’s Luke’s unique portrayal of the baptism of Jesus which is one that cares little about the actual baptism but instead pairs it down to the simplest presentation- The Word of the Father and the Presence of the Spirit. How do we see God? In the Inspired Word.
On the Christian calendar, this 1st Sunday after Epiphany is given over the Baptism of Jesus by John. We are reading from the Gospel of Luke this year, and Luke’s account is unique. First, the actual baptism is short, just two verses. Second, what captures the attention and imagination is John the Baptist’s phrase – “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”. It seems pretty clear from the text that John was thinking of fire in terms of judgment. And that is a valid scriptural use or allusion of fire. But, there is a second use as well, that of the refiner’s fire. (Mal 3:2) And given Luke’s use of the Spirit and fire in Acts at Pentecost (Acts 2:3), it is that second usage that Jesus’ baptism points toward – a purification that does not consume.
Jesus, standing in those Jordan waters, stood with us and for us. He underwent the baptism of the Spirit and fire in the first sense. On the cross Christ received the fire of the wrath at sin for us. As a consequence, when we receive His baptism, we are not consumed but purified. The Spirit is placed within us which then kindles our hearts with faith and reforms our wills to follow the will of God best expressed in His law. Jesus’ baptism, Christian baptism, is full of power.
Now our adversary will try his best to deny that and get us to think it not so, but this is the thing about baptism. It is a promise of God – Father, Son and Spirit – all present at Jesus’ baptism where he set out on this course of standing for us. God’s promises are true. We just need to grab them with faith. The same faith that is kindled by the Spirit. It might not be an exciting emotional experience. We might not even remember it. But baptism is God’s promise. Our faith rests not our anything in us, but on what God is pleased with. God is please with His son, who underwent and commanded baptism.