Suddenly following on from Epiphany we hit the Baptism of Christ as an adult! Jesus seems to grow up very quickly in the way the Sunday readings move through the lectionary. In my sermon yesterday. I likened John the Baptist to a door man, ushering us into glories unseen outside. It was an image a colleague shared with me a while ago but one that I think works well:
I was chatting with a colleague in Advent as we walked from Old St.Paul’s to Jenner’s recently. As we walked he mentioned a sermon he was working on about John-the-Baptist, whom he liked to the doorman at that department store on Princes Street. He explained that like the Jenner’s employee, John-the-Baptist ushers us in and through to greater glories, than were first perceived from the outside. I was, as you may guess, rather taken by this image of The Baptist as a doorman and I think it has relevance for today’s festival as well.
Jesus comes to John for Baptism in the River Jordan. John, knowing who Jesus is at first refuses and says that Jesus should baptise him, rather than the other way round. Jesus declines for he realises that God is prompting him to receive Baptism for a reason. That reason becomes apparent once Jesus is Baptised, God announces to the world who Jesus is and what his relationship to himself is:
“And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
In Baptising Jesus John enables God to make this proclamation, by ushering Jesus into the waters of the Jordan, he ritually cleanses him and ‘makes’ him a new creation, washed not only by water but by the Holy Spirit as well. Jesus did not proclaim himself, God did but God used John to set the scene. John once again stood at the threshold of the Kingdom of God and as such the image of the doorman is appropriate.
It is by his Baptism that Jesus is proclaimed to the world as God's Son and it sees the start of his ministry. A ministry that would challenge the people of his time and one that still challenges us to be hearers and doers of God's Word today.
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