You can listen to this Sermon HERE .
As the Old Testament Reading we used a personal paraphrase of Isaiah 43:1-7. It reads as follows:
Isaiah 43:1-7 – a personal paraphrase
Hear his good news all of you, God’s people.
This is what God says to you: “I formed you. I created you. I have redeemed you by name. You are Mine.
Yes, you may pass through deep waters of troubles and trials, but I will always be there with you.
You may pass through raging rivers of overwhelming sadness and stress, but they will never sweep right over your head and destroy you, because I will be there with you.
You may find yourself in the fire of affliction, suffering and pain, but they will not destroy you, they cannot destroy you because I will be there with you.
I am the Lord your God!
You are precious and highly valuable to Me; and I love you. Do you hear Me? I love you. I would give My life for you. I DID give My life for you.
I created you for My glory. I designed and fashioned you, My masterpiece – the crown of My Creation. I called you by name.
Do not be afraid. I love you. I am with you.
As mentioned in the Bulletin, today is the Sunday on which we engage in an annual remembrance of the baptism of Jesus. Having been:
- born in Bethlehem,
- dedicated at the Temple in Jerusalem,
- worshiped by Magi from the East,
- taken to Egypt by his parents as a refugee from the evil king Herod for a few years,
- returning to be raised in Nazareth, and
- undergoing bar mitzvah and his first journey to Passover in Jerusalem
… this is the next event which any of the Gospel writers record from the first 30 years of Jesus.
Between age 12 and age 30 Jesus seems to have been living in Nazareth in obscurity. Reading between the lines, Jesus has probably been:
- following in Joseph’s footsteps as a carpenter
- Caring for his mother and younger siblings after Joseph’s death
- worshiping God and learning at the synagogue in Nazareth like any other man of his age.
But now, at age 30, John the Baptist has been carrying on a remarkable ministry of preaching and baptising in the wilderness, and Luke says that “when all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too.” (3:21)
Now, although this is not what I feel God wants us to focus on today, I would like to just touch on the obvious question: Baptism (then and now) signifies the cleansing of sins; and yet the Bible assures us that Jesus had no sin. So, why did Jesus insist on being baptised?
In insisting on being baptised along with everyone else, Jesus was sending the powerful message that as God in the flesh:
- He did not have to, be He chose to identify with us completely and share in our humanity fully. He never stands aloof from our human experience as if He’s above it.
- He climbs right into our world of sinfulness and suffering with us.
- Had no sin … so if the water of baptism was symbolic of the washing away of the sins of those who were being baptised with Him … then maybe the symbolism for Jesus was of getting Himself dirty with the sins of others … our sins … the same ones He would one day carry to the Cross.
But … baptism also signifies a new beginning. It is a dying to the old and a rising to the new. For the others whom John was baptising, they were making a firm decision to die to a life of sin … then signifying that in the baptism … and then rising to a new determination not to sin.
But for Jesus it seems as though this moment signified a different kind of change … a different kind of dying and rising.
Until this point, from a young age, Jesus has been living in Nazareth. His life has been settled, secure, safe … He has a strongly established social network, He has been serving God at His local synagogue and supporting His younger siblings and His mother.
Now, it seems, the call of God has come to Jesus and it is time to move on. Jesus has sensed in His heart the call of the Father to a mission of teaching, mentoring and healing … that will take Him away from His human comfort zone and out onto the highways and byways of Galilee, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. It will not only be a life of self-sacrificial service but it might even lead Him into the face of grave danger. For a season He will not have a home to call His own … He will travel rough … He may suffer hunger and thirst… and while some will accept His teaching with joy … as is always the case some will reject and even oppose it violently. I mean just look at His cousin John the Baptist and the danger he faced from King Herod. I believe Jesus knew fully that He faced great risks if He followed through on His decision to follow God’s call.
And so it was that at this watershed moment in Jesus’ life … this moment of dying to His old life in obscurity in Nazareth and His taking up of the responsibilities of His public ministry. Jesus chose to mark the decision … to mark the moment by being baptised.
No wonder God the Father also chose to mark this moment in a most remarkable way!
Luke 3:21 says: “Jesus was baptised too. And as He was praying, heaven was opened…”
In that watershed moment for Jesus, God the Father chose to perform two incredible acts of ministry … to give two incredible gifts to Jesus:
- The presence and power of the Holy Spirit
- The word of Love
1. The Presence and Power of the Holy Spirit
Had the Holy Spirit not been with Jesus until now. Yes, of course He had. Jesus had been conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and as He grew in wisdom and stature, there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit was at work in Him.
In that stage of Jesus’ life, the Spirit had been at work to grow and mature Jesus. This moment of baptism, however, marked a gear-change in the life of Jesus … and therefore also a gear-change in the type of ministry the Spirit would be doing in His life. Luke 4 (which sketches the start of the next phase of Jesus’ life) makes it clear that the Spirit “filled” Jesus and “led” Jesus (4:1), and that Jesus returned to Galilee “in the power of the Holy Spirit” (4:14).
Jesus had realised that the ministry God was calling Him to was going to be totally life-changing. But in the moment of His baptism God showed Him that He was not going to have to do any of it in His own power.
The Holy Spirit is the invisible presence of God. Most of us have never seen the Spirit in bodily form. But God the Father wanted Jesus to be left in no doubt that none of this ministry was going to have to be done in His own strength … so He gave this clearly visible sign … the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in bodily form like a dove … What was God saying? … Jesus, right now, I am giving You a fresh measure of the Holy Spirit. Nothing will ever be the same again!
In our Old Testament reading from Isaiah 43, God makes a beautiful promise to the Israelites … I believe that in giving the Spirit with the manifestation of a bodily form to Jesus, God was leaving Jesus in no doubt that this promise was true for Him: “When you pass through the waters I will be with You (v.2) … do not be afraid, for I am with you (v.5).”
The presence and power of God Himself was now on Jesus.
You know, this is what God did for us too when we were born from above?! When you and I committed our lives to Christ, God may not have given a physical manifestation like a dove … but God put His Holy Spirit within us. We were born again spiritually by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit with in us.
In Ephesians 1:13 Paul put it this way: “When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.”
And in Romans 8:9-10 Paul explains that anyone who is in Christ has the Holy Spirit living in them and that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is therefore at work in us. How awesome is that!!
At the moment of His baptism … His moment of decision to follow the call of the Father … Jesus is filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
At the moment of our decision to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour and therefore to entrust our lives completely to Him by faith … we are filled with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Halellujah!!
2. The Word of Love
Had Jesus known that God loved Him until now? I’m sure He must have.
But Jesus was about to embark on a journey of ministry and life that was going to be incredibly difficult … and you and I know full well what it’s like for us when life gets tough and painful. We find the question rising in our hearts: “Does God really love me? Is God angry with me for something?”
God the Father wants to leave this matter utterly established and settled in Jesus’ heart: “You are My Beloved Son; with You I am well-pleased.”
Throughout the next three years of Jesus’ life and ministry, He was going to be faced with moments when the crowds loved Him … and moments when the crowds hated Him. He was going to go through seasons of great popularity when everyone was well-pleased with Him … but also moments of such deep rejection when the crowds were heading back home, disappointed that Jesus would not do miracles at their demand … that He would turn to His 12 closest followers and ask them: “What about you? Are you also going to leave? (John 6:67)”
Yet, throughout this up-and-down journey of love and hate … popularity and rejection … the Father wanted a bedrock foundation established in Jesus’ life: “You are My Beloved Son; with You I am well-pleased.”
Even for Jesus … God incarnate … life could only be faithfully and fully lived from a foundation of knowing that He was utterly loved by God the Father … and that it mattered not a bit that any human being was displeased … as long as God the Father was pleased!
Once again, this was not a new revelation. To the Israelites God had said in Isaiah 43: “You are Mine (v.1) … You are precious and honoured in My sight … and I love you (v.4)”
This is also, once again something that you and I can share in too. Just as we share with Jesus the experience of the indwelling Holy Spirit … so we also share in the wondrous witness of the Holy Spirit that we too are the beloved children of God.
John 3:16 testifies that it was because of His love for us that God sent His only Son into the world to save the world. 1 John 4:9 says that “this is how God showed His love among us … He sent His only Son into the world that we might live through Him.”
Romans 8:9 says that by the Holy Spirit we are brought into a father-child relationship with God where we cry out to God “Abba, Father”.
We are loved by God! And while God’s word of love to us might not be audible … His word of love is planted in our hearts by the Holy Spirit: “God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit”, says Romans 5:5.
What do we take with us?
Maybe this all sounds foreign to you. Maybe you feel that you have never experienced God in this way.
Then today is the day to come to Jesus … today is the day to entrust your life to Him in its entirety … to surrender completely to His Lordship and to trust in His mercy and love … to hand the rest of your life over to Him the way Jesus was handing the rest of His life over to God the Father.
For in the moment we do that we are saved from sin and death … our past is forgiven and our future is secured … and we receive from Jesus the promised gift of the Holy Spirit, Who brings to us the reality of God’s presence, God’s power and God’s love.
Equally however, you may say …well I know that I am a Christian … I have been born again by faith in Christ … but I have begun to doubt the presence and the power and the love of God at work in my life … I feel as though I need a fresh encounter with Christ … and a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit.
Wonderful! You’re in good company. In Luke 9 Jesus came to that point too, it would seem .. .and the Father called Him up a mountain and again spoke this word over Him: “This is My Son whom I love.”
When we read the book of Acts we see how the early apostles were, from time to time, filled with the Holy Spirit … as though for new challenges they needed new impartations.
It is not that the love or the Spirit of God ever left Jesus, the disciples or us … but that we need the re-affirmation in our hearts and experience that we are loved and that the Spirt dwells within us as the presence and power of God.
So what do we do? DO we get re-baptised? NO.
Jesus certainly didn’t and neither did the apostles. What did they do?
Matthew and Mark’s Gospels tell us it was just as Jesus was coming up out of the water that God the Father made His move. But Luke adds a few little words you may never have noticed before. Allow me to read Luke 3:21 again: “Jesus was baptised too. And as He was praying, heaven opened …”
And this, friends is the simple answer staring at us in plain sight. When Jesus went up the mount of transfiguration and heard God’s voice of love again … what was He doing up there? Luke 9:29 says that Jesus “went up onto a mountain to pray!”
In Acts 4, when the apostles and early Christians were in dire need of a fresh impartation of the Spirit, we read that “they raised their voices in prayer (v.24) … and (v.31) after they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
Are you in need of a fresh word of God’s love or a fresh impartation of the Holy Spirit? PRAY! Just come to God … admit your need … surrender yourself to Him (Lord I can’t do this without You! I need You! I need Your Spirit! Forgive me for having gone so long trusting my own strength and ability) … and by faith receive from Him!