15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-25033a" data-link="[a]”>[a] 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-25034b" data-link="[b]”>[b] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
18 So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. 19 But Herod the ruler,<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-25037c" data-link="[c]”>[c] who had been rebuked by him because of Herodias, his brother’s wife, and because of all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added to them all by shutting up John in prison.
21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 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;<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-25040d" data-link="[d]”>[d] with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:15-22 NRSV)
It was spring. The snow of a long winter had finally melted. It was time to get outside; time to clean up the yard and make those minor repairs to the house. I was sixteen: awkward, shy. Trying to figure out who I was. Trying to figure out what I would do after high school.
I had spent the day helping my dad scrape and paint the window frames. Then we decided, unbeknownst to my mother, that the white porch railing needed to be black. We scraped and painted for several hours.
We were cleaning up our mess when my Dad turned to me and said, “I like you.”
“Thank you,” I responded, not quite knowing where that had come from.
“You know,” he continued. “We love our children. Sometimes they aren’t easy to like. I like you.”
Wow. I treasured those words in my heart. I was likable. Maybe I’d make it in this world after all.
Luke doesn’t spend much time on Jesus’ baptism. Matthew gives a better description. Luke mentions it almost in passing. So, let’s look at it that way. Let’s not look at the baptism of Jesus, but what happened after.
Jesus was praying. After he was baptized, he prayed. Was it immediately after or did he go to a secluded place to pray?
This moment in the baptismal waters were important. He entered them not because he was sinful or had anything to repent. He entered into the waters with you and me and the rest of the world. He came out of the waters a man ready to begin his ministry.
While he was praying, the heavens opened. The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And then we hear God’s voice, “I claim you as my own. I’m proud of you.”
When was the last time someone has said those words to you? “I’m proud of you.”
Was it recently in a conversation with a friend? Or has it been so many years that you can’t remember?
I’m proud of you.
What’s there to be proud of? I mean Jesus was worthy of being claimed. He was the Son of God. He wasn’t sinful. Of course God was proud of him. That’s the easy part.
But, what about us? Oh, sure, we begin the day with good intentions. We’ll smile more, notice people around us with greater interest, speak peace-filled words. Then we get out of bed.
We make our way through our day judging others; arguing our point without listening to others; fighting and clawing our way to … what?
Perhaps you remember the day you were baptized. Perhaps you were baptized as an infant. Perhaps you haven’t been baptized, yet. Remember it anyway.
Think about that baptismal font filled with water made holy by God. Think about the water in that font as the Psalmist describes it.
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. (Psalm 29:3-4 NRSV)
God is Lord of the waters. Lord of the waters in that baptismal font; Lord of the waters of creation. God is over all and in all. When you remember your baptism, you might think of fresh, clear water that can’t hurt you. This Psalm reminds us that God isn’t a puddle of water; God is all powerful. To choose baptism is to choose to enter into the dangerous water and give yourself fully and completely to God.
And while Jesus entered his baptismal waters, Herod was locking up John the Baptizer for speaking truth to evil power.
Your baptism isn’t sweet; it’s powerful. In those waters you are marked with the invisible sign that you belong to God. And God is proud of you.
Still not sure? Let’s see what the prophet Isaiah has to say:
43 But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1-2 NRSV)
Don’t fear. Why? Because God calls you by your name; you belong to God. Don’t fear. Why? Because when you pass through the waters and the rivers overwhelm you (which they will) God is with you. When the fires of hell are scorching your feet (and they will) God is with you.
Yes, we’re a pretty messed humanity. We often get it wrong. We misunderstand; we take our anger out on those who may not deserve it; we point fingers; we judge. Don’t fear.
Don’t fear because God knew you before you were born. God gifted you with spiritual gifts to share with others. God is with you. God knows you’re trying. And God is proud of you.
So gaze into those dangerous baptismal waters. Consider your life and how much it means to be God’s beloved child.
Then hear God’s voice: “I’m proud of you!”
All glory and honor be to God.