Sermons and Talks

“The Baptized King”: A Sermon for the Baptism of the Lord – Sunday, January 9, 2022

The Baptized King:  A Sermon for the Baptism of the Lord.  Preached online at All Saints, King City, Anglican Diocese of Toronto, 9 January, 2022.

Texts for this Sunday:  Isa 43.1-7; Ps 29; Acts 8:14-17; Luke 3.15-17, 21-22.

“I baptize you with water, but one who is more powerful than I is coming” (Luke 3.16)
All through Advent we’ve heard in scripture the wonderful promises to a people that sorely need good news. We’ve heard God tell his people that the bad times aren’t going to last. A saviour will come to lead us out of the darkness and back to the light of God. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, Isaiah says, and for us this Christmas, as always, that light was a star that led us to the manger in Bethlehem. We saw the baby lying there, and perhaps we wondered, as the shepherds and the Magi wondered, what sort of king will this little one become? What kingdom will he inherit? What deeds of power will he do?Today we get our first real glimpse of him since this last Christmas.  He’s over there, on the muddy bank of the Jordan, the humble carpenter from Galilee, patiently waiting his turn to be baptized, while others go into the water before him.  As is always the case in the gospels, it’s usually hard to see how Jesus is any sort of king.

Why is the king waiting to be baptized?  Have you ever wondered why Jesus needed to be baptized? John the Baptist was out there in the desert, telling the people to confess their sins, repent, and get baptized. John was even telling the proud and holy Pharisees to repent, even though they were the expert keepers of God’s law. He warned them to straighten up and fly right, because the one coming on his heels came from God himself. The one coming was bringing the fire and the winnowing fork. He was going to sort the good from the bad, and woe to you if you were one of the bad!

I think after that preaching, the crowds were expecting someone impressive.  Luke tells us that the crowds were “full of expectation” (Lk 3.15).  I’m sure John was as well.   In Matthew’s gospel, the Baptist is scandalized when Jesus comes down into the muddy brown water of the Jordan, where all the others have stood before him (Mt 3.14).  

Why did our Lord and Saviour, the Alpha and the Omega, need to receive a baptism from John just like any other sinner? Did he need a baptism for the forgiveness of his sins? All the gospels agree that Jesus was a blameless person, a person without sin. Jesus had nothing to repent of, which makes sense, because why would the Saviour need to be saved himself? So there’s got to be another reason, and I think the reason has to do with you and me.

How did Jesus get into that muddy crick to stand before John? He would have to climbed down the bank like everyone else, literally stepping in the footprints of all the sinners who had gone before him. He didn’t have to do that. Jesus could have stayed up there on the riverside in a blaze of glory and said, “That’s right, folks, I’m the guy he was talking about”. He could have said to John “Good work, John, I’ll take it from here.” For that matter, Jesus could have stayed with the Father in heaven. But he doesn’t.

I think the whole point of Jesus’ baptism is to say, this is the moment when God announces his purpose, to send his son to stand in the mud and water with us rather than to lord it over us. This is when God unveils the servant who will save us, the healer who will heal us, the light who will lead us and bring us back to God.

When the voice from heaven says “You are my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” (Lk 3.22), we hear the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the Saviour would not be a king as the world understood kings, but a servant.   Isaiah wrote: “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (Isa 42:1).

Jesus’ baptism is God’s announcement that Jesus is the servant who will do all the wonderful things that Isaiah prophesied. Jesus will go to the bruised, to those whose hopes are faintly burning, to those imprisoned by illness and by social stigma, he will teach and he will heal. His mission is to bring God’s justice, God’s kingdom, to the earth, even if it has to lay down his life in shame and pain to do it. As the preacher Barabara Taylor Brown puts it so well, he serves us by coming to us, “where we are, over and over again, when he could save himself the grief, the pain, the death, by insisting that we come to him where he is” (Barbara Brown Taylor. “Sacramental Mud”. Mixed Blessings Cambridge, Mass: Cowley Publications, p. 59).

He comes to us because he loves us, as the Father loves him. Each of us first experiences this love at the moment of our baptism, when God names us and sets his spirit on us. From then on, as we move life we have the reassurance of knowing that we too are beloved children in whom God’s soul delights. We can find strength for whatever crappy, muddy place we find ourselves in, Jesus is standing there with us. When we find ourselves in darkness, when the way forward seems unclear to us, Jesus is the light, he’s the guide that takes us by the hand. When you feel down, or lost, or just not worth much, say to yourself, “I am God’s beloved child”. If you doubt it, if you don’t think you’re worthy of saying that, just remember that you were worth dying on a cross for.

As we face this new year, with all its doubts and fears, how will you live in the knowledge that you too are God’s beloved child?   As you imagine All Saints post-Covid, with your new priest, how will you love and serve others so they may see that they too are loved and called by God?