1st Sunday after Epiphany 8am
St Barbara’s; 09.1.22
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Back in the summer as a family we were able to have a special holiday away in the North Yorkshire Moors and the Yorkshire Dales. We had a great holiday with many memorable moments, and when we talk about it and tell others about it we remember and tell different parts of the holiday – maybe the busyness of the shops in Whitby or our 3 day walk along the Cleveland Way coastal path, or a great meal out at a restaurant. But there is one part of the holiday that all of us always include, because it was so fun and at times hair-raising – when we did a day of adventure activities, including two hours of caving, followed by rock climbing, abseiling and canyoning – jumping over rocks and swimming along mountain streams.
I wonder whether there have been times for you, whether with family or friends, that when an event is recalled and spoken about, different experiences may be shared, people may recount different things, but there is one thing that no-one forgets to mention – it was just too special, too significant.
Well, the story of Jesus’ life is recorded by four separate people – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They don’t always include the same stories, but one story they all include is the baptism of Jesus.
The story of Jesus’ baptism is the first we hear of Jesus as an adult in both Matthew and Luke’s Gospels. And in Mark and John’s accounts, the event stands out all the more visibly – it is the event that starts off their gospels.
That immediately tells us that Jesus’ baptism was seen as important. No-one misses this event out of the re-telling of Jesus’ life.
But why is it so important?
Firstly, it shows us that Jesus identifies with us; he experiences our life.
As we will be thinking about in our all age service later, imagine being back at school as a child and a teacher sets a really difficult and long piece of homework. Its easy to feel, “Have they no idea how difficult this is? how long it will take?” But imagine if the teacher then says, “I know its difficult. I’m going to sit down and do it with you.” That makes a big difference.
Or imagine a sick patient trying to explain their symptoms to their doctor, but no matter how hard they try it just seems difficult to get anyone to understand what its like. And then imagine that the doctor says: “There’s only one thing for it. I’m going to infect myself with the same sickness so that I can understand you better.” It may seem a little crazy, but we would know they were taking us seriously, that they were wanting to understand.
Or imagine one of the world’s richest people who lives in luxury, but who then gives it all away to live as a homeless person so that they can better understand and relate to the poorest in their city.
When Jesus got baptised he was saying: “I want to understand. I want to experience your life. I want to share in your life.” Jesus didn’t need to get baptised – after all baptism was about asking God to forgive us for the wrong things we had done, and Jesus had done no wrong. But he wanted to understand us.
That is the message of Christmas – that God came to dwell among us, to share our life, to show us his love, and to show that he cares and understands. And that is the message of Jesus’ baptism too. The message we celebrate at the beginning of his life is also the message we celebrate at the beginning of his adult ministry. It is part of Christ’s DNA.
Sometimes it may feel like no-one understands us, that no-one understands how hard it is to live our life. But Jesus does. He understands us.
Take a moment to pause and bring before God anything that you may be finding difficult or worrying about at the moment. Bring it before God – he understands.
The second reason why Jesus’ baptism is so important is that it reminds us at the beginning of his work, his ministry, that he is God’s Son. His baptism shows us not only that he understands us; but that he is the one who can make a difference.
When I am getting things ready for a church service, I have to be honest, I always need a lot of help from others.
For example, I’m not very good at remembering to check the oil in the candles or remembering to have the right liturgical colours on the communion table. Having John’s help makes all the difference. The same goes for Cyril and Liz with the banners.
Or at our later service, being able to play a video, or ensure people at home can watch the service, is way beyond my limited technological abilities. I need Simon, Chris and Alex to help. I need people who not only understand my situation but can make a difference.
Or when I notice that something is broken and needs fixing around the church, I know that Keith and Elaine will be able to fix it or know who to call. I know that their help will make the difference.
Having people that we know we can turn to for help, people who we know can do the things we can’t do, can make such a huge difference. And at Jesus’ baptism, God gives us a very clear message: “this is my son whom I love – listen to him.”
It is almost as if God is recommending him to us, telling us that this is someone we can trust, rely on, turn to when we are facing challenging times.
Jesus is the one who will make all the difference; Jesus is the one who will transform this world and will transform our lives.
Not only does he understand us. He is able to make the difference. To bring life, joy, peace, hope, comfort, into our lives, because He is the Son of God.
Maybe like me you find it easier to know this in your head, but harder to live it out in practice. We can be slow to turn to God when we need his help for ourselves or for others. We may try to sort out everything ourselves and make a bit of a mess of it or just despair and give up. We sometimes forget or find it difficult to ask for God’s help.
Well, a third thing that Jesus’ baptism teaches us this morning is that we need the filling of God’s Holy Spirit. Even Jesus, God’s own Son, at the beginning of his adult ministry, receives the Holy Spirit, descending upon him like a dove. If that is true of Jesus, how much more is that true for us. We need to be filled with his Spirit that we may have the confidence and hope to trust in him.
And so in our time of prayer we will ask for God’s Spirit to fill us once again.
Jesus understands us; He is the one who can also make the difference in our lives. May God fill us with His Spirit that we may come to place our trust more and more in him.