Epiphany 1C/The Baptism of Christ C

by Matthew Harper

January 10th, 2016

Isaiah 43:1 –7
Psalm 29
Acts 8:14–17
Luke 3:15–17, 21 –22

Christ’s baptism is a defining moment in the redemption story. This event is a significant declaration to the world about who He is, and the beginning of Christ’s incarnate ministry. The baptism says a lot about Jesus, but perhaps it says even more about God, and about us.

Isaiah, in one of my favorite passages that we read today, shows us the radical initiative of God’s love. God, the creator and sustainer of the heavens and earth, is declaring a deeply personal love for each of us. God has “called us by name,” (v.1) we are “precious and honored,” (v.4) and we will be ‘ransomed’ (v.4-6). God’s redeeming love is a revelation.

But how will God ransom us? And from whom or what will be be ransomed? And, perhaps most importantly, why?

Luke shows us the beginning of the fulfillment of these promises. We are so loved that God’s only begotten Son, God incarnate, has come to ransom us. Jesus comes with both power and judgment. He has the power to see us as we are; He has the authority to judge; and He has the power to set things right.

In introducing us to the person and mission of Jesus Luke has recorded the words of John the Baptizer. John shows us a truth about ourselves, something we already know but never want to face. The power we are enslaved to, and need ransoming from, is, quite simply, us.

Christ offers us acceptance and forgiveness, but will demand repentance. We are imprisoned by our own sin, and the only way out is through repentance and faith in Christ; only through Him can things be set right.

Which brings us to the most important question for our purposes today: why? The baptism of Jesus is the beginning of His incarnate ministry, the anointing by God into Jesus’ earthly work. The same is true for us. Linked to Christ through faith, adopted into the very Body of Christ, our baptism was not only part of our rebirth it is also the beginning of our ministry.

Knowing we are enslaved by sin isn’t new knowledge to anyone in prison, but facing it is difficult. Bad things and bad people have happened to too many of us, and it is easy to point fingers; but the ultimate blame must always lie with us. It is our enslavement to pride, lust, anger and addiction—our own sin—that has left us destitute and distant from God. Only Christ can ransom us and set us free.

But why would He? Why would Christ bother with one such as me?

Love.

The words of God through Isaiah are a revelation. They are a life-giving breath of fresh air, a light in the darkness. The simple truth is that God loves us that much, not because of who we are, but because of who God is. We belong to God.

God does not ransom us only for our salvation, but also for our sending. Redemption isn’t the last word, there is also mission. What we have received we must share, what has been accomplished must be celebrated and proclaimed.

Being sent is scary. It will take us way outside of our comfort zone, and force us to question ourselves and our purpose. It will mean loving others, even those who are hard to love. We will have to talk, teach, and share our testimony. It will mean caring, and making ourselves vulnerable. But we begin our mission with those other powerful words from today’s reading in Isaiah: “fear not… for I am with you,” (v.1-2).

We are loved,
We are ransomed,
And we have work to do.

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