"Jesus Walks into the Water," First Sunday after Epiphany, Baptism of our Lord

"Jesus Walks into the Water," First Sunday after Epiphany, Baptism of our Lord

    Jan 08, 2017

    Passage:Matthew 3:13-17

    Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Jill Walters

    Series: Epiphany

    Category: Epiphany

    Keywords: baptism, epiphany, mercy, salvation


    NO AUDIO TODAY DUE TO TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES. The Baptism of Jesus by John signifies that Jesus takes on human form and is always with us. God's love is with us everyday.


    May the Words of my mouth and the meditations of each heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer.  Amen

    Please be seated.


    We’ve just come through a glorious time of waiting for and celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus.  A ritual that we experience each year in new and different ways, depending upon our own circumstances and what’s happening in the world around us.  Even though we go through the same liturgical calendar and read the same words each year, they continually have new meaning for us. 

    But now that we’re settling into the season after Epiphany, life is returning to “normal.”  The festive lights and music are gone.  The hope for a holiday that will somehow restore our lives and our relationships is past.  The reality that those calories we consumed at Christmas really do count!   We return to the daily tasks of going to work and school, keeping house, tending to the needs of those we care for.  We return to the relationships that anchor us, the ones that challenge us, and the ones that make us want to lose our minds!       

    Whether the holidays are a time we look forward to or dread, the transition back to the “real world” has begun.  And the Gospel of Matthew quickly moves us into that transition.  We move from Jesus’ young life straight to his adulthood.  Jesus’ work and ministry are about to take on a full, new meaning. 

    As Jesus approaches John for baptism, John is taken aback.  John’s looking for a Messiah who will “take care of business,” conquer the Romans, and free the Jews.  He’s looking for a great military and political leader who’ll be so powerful that there will peace in all of the world. 

    But God, being God, surprises John...surprises us!  Jesus doesn’t come in “guns a blazin’.”  Jesus walks out into the water to be baptized just like everyone else.  Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized.  But we need Jesus to be baptized.  We need him to be with us, to walk into the water with us, to share our realities. 

    We’re big Star Wars fans at our house.  So, over the holiday, we had to see the new Star Wars movie Rogue One at the theater.  Then after the death of Carrie Fisher, we watched the original movie, A New Hope, at home.  The storyline of this series continues to draw me in each time.  Good and evil are clear in these movies.  There’s the dark side of the Force and there’s the light side of the Force.  And as fascinating as the “evil” figures like Darth Vader are, I always find myself cheering on the “good” ones—the Jedi Knights and the Rebellion.  I get caught up in the battles and the destruction of evil.  This is justice—great justice!!  This is what we need to make this world right!

    But today’s gospel reading stops me in my tracks in my desire for a “Jedi Knight” kind of justice.  John the Baptist knew that he was paving the way for the Messiah.  But John the Baptist was also looking for a “Jedi Knight” kind of Messiah.  He thought that God was sending someone who would destroy the Romans and ascend the throne to mete out punishment to those who were evil.  This Messiah would usher in a new era of political and military peace that the Jews had been waiting for.  But God, being God, doesn’t send the kind of Messiah we expect.  God sends us a savior who defies our expectations.  It’s as if God is shouting—“Look!  This is what I’m talking about.  You don’t need a warrior, you need Jesus.  Surely you can relate to this Jesus!”

    The Gospel of Matthew is not describing a Jesus who sees himself as above humanity.  Jesus is walking with us as one of us.  He walks into the water to be baptized by John the Baptist like everyone else.  Jesus isn’t concerned about where he stands in the hierarchy compared to John the Baptist.  He chooses to be baptized by John. 

    Then we hear that Jesus rises out of the water and the heavens open up to him.  The Spirit of God descends upon him.  He hears God’s voice saying “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”  How must Jesus have felt at that moment?!  What peace and security he must have experienced—if even for a brief moment!  Jesus not only shares in our human experience of pain and suffering, but our moments of joy as well. 

    This isn’t the picture of a “Jedi Knight” kind of Messiah.  This is a Messiah who chooses to experience what the human part of Creation is like.  If we haven’t already gotten it during Advent, God is reminding us that the salvation we’re looking for is sometimes found in surprising ways.  This salvation comes to us in the form of a baby, born of a woman, who grows into the man, Jesus.  Jesus lives among us as one of us.  He enters the water with us and walks with us in mercy and compassion.

    Just as Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of his ministry, it marks our own recommitment to live up to our partnership with Him in bringing peace to the world.  Doing this work in the midst of our daily lives without the momentum of Christmas can be hard.  But we know that God works through us in the everyday, not just the “Christmas” moments. 

    As the Body of Christ, we look for ways to be a part of God’s work in the world.  We find moments of gratitude in our daily chores.  We listen and look at things from another person’s perspective.  We acknowledge the value of someone with whom we disagree.  We give one another a break now and then for making mistakes.  We reach out to someone who is hurting.  We speak up for someone who is being hurt.  There are countless ways we walk into the water with Jesus every day.

    This is the GOOD NEWS:  As we go into the world loving one another, remember that this is not a story from long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.  It’s not really even just a story about Jesus being baptized on the banks of the Jordan River 2000 years ago.  It’s a story in which Jesus’ baptism shows us how to be the people God created us to be, right here and now.  Amen.