Today’s Gospel reading introduces us, once again, to the “larger-than-life character” of John the Baptist. He was accustomed to “wilderness living” – eating locust and wild honey; dressing in scratchy camel-hair clothing; living in the desert, away from the “hustle and bustle of big city living” in the nearby capital of Jerusalem. Large crowds from Jerusalem, Judea and the region of the Jordan came to listen and to be baptized by him. (Luke 3:1-14. See also all of Matthew, Chapter 3 and Mark 1:1-13)
As the crowds were watching and listening to John, “The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ.” (Luke 3: 15) Somehow, John knew what they were thinking (perhaps being prompted by the Holy Spirit) and he told them clearly that he was not the Christ, the promised Messiah, whose coming they were anticipating and eagerly awaiting. He explained to them that while he baptized with water, Jesus would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The Holy Spirit would bring many to faith in Christ who would take them safely to heaven; while the rest of those who did not believe in Him, would be cast into unquenchable fire. John said, “One more powerful than I will come… His winnowing fork is in His hand to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:16-17)
John had an “eschatological view;” that is, a view to the future, and especially to the end of the world. He knew and clearly testified that Jesus, the Christ, would finally and ultimately be recognized by ALL people on Judgment Day. But so that we, and the whole world, too, could see and believe in Jesus before the Last Day, God the Father has also graciously revealed Him to us through “Five Highlights” we celebrate during the Church Season which we call “Epiphany.” God manifests Himself in the person and work of Jesus 1) through the appearance of the star over the place where Jesus was, 2) by revealing Himself to the Gentiles (the “non-Jewish” magi or wise men), 3) through His first great miracle of changing water into wine, 4) at the Transfiguration (see Luke 9:28ff) and here 5) as we see Jesus baptized.
When Jesus was baptized and was praying, “Heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.’” (Luke 3:21-22)
The Heavenly Father was pleased with Jesus’ Obedience to the Father’s will and Law; with Jesus’ Sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins; and for His divine Substitution which guarantees us life everlasting with Him in Heaven. Because the Father is pleased with Jesus, He is also pleased with us – when Jesus lives within us by faith. Wonder of wonders – Jesus places upon us the robe of His righteousness!
We, too, are baptized with “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Luke 3:3) And in the waters of our baptism, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)
Baptism does not save us “by itself!” Rather, it connects us to Jesus who forgives our sins and safely delivers us to heaven! In our baptism, we are connected to Jesus and to one another, as brothers and sisters in Christ with whom He is “well pleased!”
See you in church this next weekend!
Blessings in Christ,