Matthew 3:13-17 KJV

William S. Epps, Senior Pastor
Sunday, January 8, 2023
13Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.  14But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? 15And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. 16And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom
I am well pleased.  Matthew 3:13-17 KJV
All of the synoptic gospels include the baptism of Jesus, and each of them connects Jesus' baptism with John the Baptist and also labors to show Jesus' superiority to John (presumably as a result of some challenge from disciples of John). Mark is content to have John assert his inferiority to the one who will follow him (Mark 1:7-8). Matthew takes the matter a bit further, having John say, "I need to be baptized
by you," and Jesus telling him to suffer it to be so to fulfill all righteousness.
Luke takes matters yet a step further, placing the notice of John's arrest and imprisonment just before Jesus' baptism (Luke 3:18-20) and announcing Jesus' baptism with no reference whatsoever to the name of the one who baptized him. Placing Jesus' baptism in the context of John's ministry suggests that Jesus is baptized as part of that ministry. The gospel of John does not include a story of Jesus' baptism by John, although John functions as a powerful witness to Jesus, saying, “behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
The baptism practiced by John and the early Christian communities was derived from Jewish water rites. The Jewish miqveh was a cleansing bath (Leviticus 11:36). Judaism immersed Gentiles for conversion. 
John's baptism communicated forgiveness of sin and set people apart as a community for the new world. After Jesus is immersed, He prayed. Prayer is the opening of self or community to God. When Jesus was in prayer, God opened the heavens. For Luke, this opening connects this event with heaven's opening and bespeaks divine blessing and guidance. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus "in bodily form like a dove." While commentators debate the origin of the symbolic use of the dove, the meaning is clear: the dove represents the Spirit. The reference to bodily form confirms that the Spirit actually enters Jesus. Jesus can thus later give the Spirit as he promised since he is filled with it. (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:7; 2:1-21; 10:34-44) 
God speaks to interpret the significance of the event. Jews in antiquity valued hearing more than engaging the other senses.  Because God speaks here, the community recognizes 3:22b as unambiguously defining the meaning of the baptism (Exodus 19:3; 20:22; Deuteronomy 4:12, 36). God draws from Psalm 2:7, "You are my son." This psalm was sung in Israel on the day a monarch was enthroned. God adopts the ruler by speaking these words so that the monarch is then viewed as God's son, that is, heir and representative. These words spoken over Jesus indicate that from the baptism onward, Jesus is invested with the power to rule as God's representative. 
Consider what it means that Jesus’ baptism confirms him
as God’s representative to be embraced and followed. 
Monday, January 9, 2023
The words "my beloved in whom I am well pleased" allude to Isaiah 42:1, which describes the servant of Israel witnessing to God's faithfulness and justice.  
The baptism of Jesus is a paradigm for the baptism of believers.  God assures them of forgiveness of sin. Although heaven does not open over every one who is baptized, God welcomes them into the community anticipating the age to come. Baptism calls the community to witness to God's restoring work and promises that all who are baptized receive the SpiritAt the same time, the baptized life is sometimes one that suffers in its witness to the divine will to restore the world.  But baptism promises that even in suffering, the community remembers that God is working through them even as God worked through Jesus.   
Jesus comes from Nazareth in Galilee. Galilee has a diverse population. It is home to both Jewish and Gentile peoples. It is a place where people are exposed to differences of opinion concerning sacred matters more so than Jerusalem.  Jesus begins his ministry there. He will also appear there after the resurrection.  
Consider what it means that the baptism of Jesus is an example,
model or pattern for our baptism. 
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Jesus came to be baptized of John in the Jordan River. Jesus presented himself. 
He came of his own free will and accord. He took the initiative to leave where he was and go to where he could do what he wanted. 
Jesus' baptism signifies the meaning of baptism for us all. The divine presence that came upon Jesus that day in the Jordan comes upon Jesus' followers. Baptism is an acknowledgement of one's belonging to God. The voice from heaven at Jesus' baptism declares him to be God's own Son. It is the similar claim made about Israel in the oracle of Isaiah, when the Lord says, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine" (43:1).  The voice from heaven in ascribing to Jesus titles such as "Son" and "Beloved" commissions him for a special vocation. He is the servant, the agent of God's reign. His followers in baptism are also commissioned to be subjects of God's rule and empowered agents of reconciliation

This passage brings home - in a striking way - the significance of the baptism of Jesus for the church today. 

Consider what it means that baptism enlist you to
be a part of the ministry and life of Jesus.
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
Firstly, baptism acknowledges our dependence. We are dependent on the customs of our faith tradition to heighten our awareness about the meaning of our practices. What we do has meaning rooted in the past with implications for the present to direct us to the future.  

We acknowledge our dependence on others in subjecting ourselves to baptism. We resist the temptation to reduce the faith to mere inwardness, subjective piety, personal, intellectual ruminations and the like.   

We recognize the indispensability of the church in the work of God.   
While God uses individuals, it is always in the context of contact in community with others. Jesus also offered people fellowship. Jesus knew that goodness and salvation were social. He said, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32) Jesus taught people how to live together so that out of their experiences the spirit of the kingdom might emerge.  
The world has been a long time learning the necessity of those redeeming relationships without which, as Jesus well knew, the kingdom of God's grace will not be realized on earth. We have caught a glimpse of the reality in that most beautiful of human achievements, the genuinely Christ-like relationships. We have heard that reality preached and to some degree have experienced it in the fellowship of the church. 
Jesus demonstrated that the Lord builds by the grace of God through the lives of those who are willing to live, work and suffer for the purposes of God. We are always being tempted by hasty hopes. Men have supposed in their religious life that some great revival will make things new and that the church will be permanently better afterwards; but often the hoped for result does not come. There are those who think that some whirlwind of reform in political conditions will accomplish the desired results. Throw out the rascals, defeat the corrupted persons, send a few notorious evildoers to prison, and all will be well. But all is not well. The evil spirit, if he is merely driven out by some spasmodic effort, will be back again in a little while with seven other spirits worse than himself. (John 1:29)
The process of redemption always must be patient and gradual. It must be wrought out through men and women who do not suppose that a single stroke will decide the battles which are waged on the arena of this world's right and wrong. The way of the coming kingdom of God may involve many disappointments, many victories, which may be only partial, and temporary defeats which must be endured. And it will require a kind of consecration which is willing, as Jesus was, to face crosses and go past crosses to the life that lies before.  
Consider what it means that we are dependent on one
another as one body in Christ to face life’s crosses and
get beyond them to the life that is before us.
Thursday, January 12, 2023
We are dependent on one another. We are dependent on the church. 
We are dependent on God through the power of the Holy Spirit. 
We are told that, The heavens split open, and the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove on him, and a voice was heard saying, “you are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

The Holy Spirit confirms our identity. The Holy Spirit sanctions our activity. The Holy Spirit equips us for productivityBaptism is a way of telling the world that we cannot make it on our own. We look to God to work through the practices of people using the materials/stuff of our reality. Our faith is a materialistic faith. God works in, with, and through what we can see and feel. We are plunged in a real and tangible world. It is there that we discover the Lord at work in our lives.  
Consider what it means that baptism is our way of telling the world
that what God provides in Christ is what we need to make
of our lives what God intended.  
Friday, January 13, 2023
Secondly, baptism affirms our basic need. Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee to be baptized of John in the Jordan River. Jesus subjected himself to what He did not need for the benefit of what others needed. 
The Jordan River is a significant symbol. Fresh water in a semi-arid land, the Jordan makes fertility possible and represents vitality and life. You may remember that the Israelites crossed the Jordan as they entered the promised-land. The Jordan signifies crossing from one way of life (wandering in the wilderness) to another way of life (settled in a place). Jesus’ ministry leads the community from the old world to the realm of God with its eternal vitality.   
The symbolism of water is quite exhilarating. Water is a necessary ingredient for life. We cannot live without it. Baptism speaks to the basic need of each of us. We have a basic need for what water does. We are told that, "water does a body good." Water hydrates, purifies, and refreshes and rinses. We need to be filled with what keeps us alive. We need to be cleansed from what pollutes us. We need to be refreshed from life's demanding/grueling rounds. We need what water gives to live. We have a need to be cleansed and purified. There is so much pollution in the world. Our minds, souls, spirits get polluted and need to be cleansed. 
Your body is made up of mostly water. Approximately 85% of your brain, 80% of your blood and 70% of your muscle is water. Every cell in your body needs water to live. You can see how important water is to you. Water helps remove the dangerous toxins that your body takes in from the air you breathe, the food you eat and the chemicals used in the various products you use on your skin and hair. Other things water does for your body is to cushion your joints. Water carries oxygen and nutrients into all your cells. Water also helps regulate your body temperature.
You need water to keep your metabolism working properly. In order for this to happen, there is a certain level of water in each of our bodies that we need to maintain. If we don’t keep that amount, our bodies will start to dehydrate. 

Religious rituals use water to symbolize the cleansing and purification that results from confession and repentance. Baptism suggests that there is a need to confess and repent. Baptism provides an invitation that spurs one to self-examination, to confession and the genuine, ongoing reorientation of our lives. Baptism acknowledges our need to be purified of the toxicity that pervades our world. 
Consider what it means that baptism acknowledges our basic need
to be purified of the toxicity that permeates our lives and world.  
Saturday, January 14, 2023
Thirdly, baptism accepts the gift that God offers of being in union with God. Baptism mediates the presence of the Holy Spirit. It leads to immersion in the Holy Spirit, so that we are indwelled by God and participate in the very life of God. The Spirit comes to convict us of our need, to make us aware of our sin, to reveal to us the beauty of the Savior, to give us new birth, to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, to empower us for service in the kingdom and in the church. The crowning climax of this process is to be totally immersed in God, to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 
Participation in the life of the Holy Spirit is the hidden secret of the church’s life. Bestowed through the Son by the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit brings a gentle power into the world that redeems it from within, beginning with the creation of the children of God. Through the Spirit we participate in the same Spirit which came upon Jesus in baptism. Through the Holy Spirit we become subject to the rule of God that has come among us in the life of the Son, Jesus Christ.  
The gift of the Holy Spirit is an inner-transformation, a power of cleansing and energizing of the heart and will; the life of God in the soul of a person. The Christian faith is a gift. It does not say first “do this” or “go there.” Rather, it says, "Here is the gift of God in Christ." Its first words are not "do and go," but "come and receive."
It empowers a life to meet whatever life demands. It equips us with an example to become more like the Lord as expressed in Christ, so that we can become more like Christ in life.  
Baptism is becoming a part of, and identifying where God is at work in the world, redeeming, reconciling, renewing life to the fullness of abundance for which Christ came. Remember that Jesus came so that we might have life and life abundantly in His name. Our efforts fail so often. The Lord gave us the example of what it means to belong to the Lord, to live for the Lord and fulfill the expectations the Lord has for
our lives. 
Count on me / The Lord has need of workers, to till His field today,
So kindly He has led me to walk in wisdom’s way;
I pray for grace to help me with all my heart to say,
O blessed Savior, count on me.
(Refrain) Count on me, count on me, / For loving-hearted service glad and free;
Yes count on me, count on me, / O blessed Savior count on me. 
I count on Thee, dear Master, for cleansing in Thy blood,
For constant streams of blessing, a never-failing flood;
To ever new fruition I see Thy mercies bud,
O Blessed Savior, count on me. 
Now gird me for the battle when evil powers oppose,
And give me faith and courage to conquer over Thy foes;
I pledge Thee my allegiance, my soul no other knows,
O blessed Savior, count on me.  
I’ll bear another’s burden along a lonely way,
teach that burden-bearer with confidence to pray;
In service ever loyal, at home or far away,
O blessed Savior, count on me. 
Consider what it means to be part of what God is doing
in the world to reconcile, redeem and renew every part of it. 
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