Good morning everyone! Before we start looking at today’s passage,
let’s pause for a moment to pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the opportunity to explore your word, and we thank you that you continue to speak to us today. I ask Holy Spirit that you speak through me this morning and inspire the hearts of all who are listening, wherever they are. Turn our eyes to you. In Jesus name.
It is such a privilege to be able to speak this morning. In a world where the parameters change extremely often, to be here, speaking is an extra joy and if you are watching live, or a recorded version, I thank God for that. What a blessing technology can be! Amen.
Set The Scene. Today’s passage is likely to be very familiar to some of you, others may not have heard it before. Some might have even seen paintings or artwork of this particular story. If I asked you to close your eyes and picture the scene, I wonder if you have the same sort of Hollywood movie effect that I do. I cannot help but picture fresh faced Jesus, beaming even before he is baptised, walking up to John, in slow motion probably, as the crowds part perfectly to give me a spectacular view. The sun in the sky looks glorious, the SON looks glorious, and as the Holy Spirit descends there is a bright light and warmth that fills the scene. There may even be sentimental background music. You know I love to get lost in wonder. But I also love to get real. Because God meets us in reality.
New Mop So I’d like to tell you a bit about my new mop. I got a new mop this week. Very exciting! What can I say, it is January, and I have two children now doing homeschool and a dog. A big dog. A big fluffy dog. And did I mention it is winter? This mop is really brilliant, because it has this clever bucket that separates the clean water from the dirty water, allowing me to get things cleaner more effectively. You see, there are lots of things I love about winter, but having a big fluffy dog at this time of year makes for quite a muddy experience. Every day I walk Bruce 2-3 miles at least through the woods, so that he can run freely off the lead and explore. I have no choice but to wear wellies and old clothes. I have now even taken to putting a little coat on Bruce to try and keep him clean. But he will still insist on drinking those filthy murky puddles. I rinse his paws when we get home, remove his soggy muddy coat, try and soak up his paws with a towel, and yet he will still go inside and make a mess – shaking little specks of mud into unfathomable places. And so, every day I wash, and wipe and clean.
My husband and I have spent considerable time this week googling special gadgets to help keep paws clean, keep the dirt away, including the latest addition: my new mop! I don’t like mud and I don’t like dirt. I do everything in my power to reduce and remove it. I protect my nice clean things (only old things allowed on dog walks) and I try and keep Bruce away from the clean furniture – to minimise housework later.
Now baptism is essentially about making things clean. When we have baptisms today, especially so with infant baptisms, we think of fresh babies in crisp clean white clothes, as they are sprinkled with pure holy water. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He was calling for people to leave their lives of sin, and be forgiven. The Jews were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah, and there would have been a sense that would come with God’s purifying judgment; when promises would be fulfilled like the one in Ezekiel, ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness’. John was saying, ‘quick, get clean, the Messiah is coming! A new age is coming. And after this nothing will be the same again.’ He was telling people that they were dirty and needed to be cleaned.
Jesus with dirty feet The truth is, that baptism in that river Jordan would have been a muddy affair. We take clear running water for granted in our part of the world today, but in the Jordan 2000 years ago, that water would have been muddy. Brown. Gross. Like the kind I tell my dog not to drink, like the kind my new mop separates from the clean water. So, if we are picturing the Saviour of the world, the one who is going to make things clean, make things right, make us pure, restore our relationship with God – the beautiful holy King Jesus – the one who is without SIN – the one who is pure. We have to question, why is he going in the muddy water? Why does Jesus get dirty? He doesn’t NEED to be baptised, does he? Jesus mission is to bring about in a new creation. In order to do that, he had to get baptised too. The river Jordan had special meaning to the Jewish people, it was part of their history. It was the place where the waters parted to let the ark of the covenant lead the nation to the promised land. Elijah crossed the river for God’s final call. It was the last border between being lost and home. As Jesus stood in that mud, he was getting the soil of the people’s history on his clothes and body. Jesus chose to take this on. He chose to get into the grit of life. We need to stop seeing him as a pristine shiny figure (preaching to myself here) and recognise the very real human that he was. While Jesus had the dirt of this world seeping between his toes, the glory of heaven was poured out over his shoulders. This is the beauty of Jesus. He was not afraid for a second to get dirty, and I don’t just mean the mud. He took on our sin, our filth, our mistakes, our shame, – Israel’s, ours, the world’s. He began his ministry plunged into the mud, and affirmed by the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is about what God gives to us not what we offer in return. It is not about us trying desperately to keep things clean so we can present a flawless image to God. Baptism is about accepting the reality that that is not possible. Even my super mop cannot fully separate dirty water from clean, there will always be a tiny spec of muck that slips through the mechanisms. Oh how we want things to be clean, but only God can clean us. We are all immersed in a faith greater than we can imagine. We are gifted grace beyond our wildest dreams. When we were baptised, we got wet with water that carries the history of the church, God’s people. Like Jesus we are named children of God at our baptism. And like Jesus we are then set apart to serve this beautiful and broken world. Just as the Holy Spirit was there at the beginning of creation. We read today, hovering over the waters, and the Spirit is with us now. Before there was anything at all, there was God – the Spirit was there – hovering. As Jesus began his ministry – the Spirit was there. After this baptism, all baptisms are changed forever John baptised with water and a baptism of repentance
But Jesus baptised with the Holy Spirit There is no going back to the old way, and that is a good thing. This reminds me now of when I hear people saying – there will be no going back to the way things were before Covid. I never really know if that mean that in a good or bad way. I suppose they might mean it negatively by fearing that things will never improve. Or perhaps they mean it positively that we will changed into better people by the experiences we have shared and the storms we have weathered across the globe. I believe we will hug each other again. I believe we will be back worshipping together, singing at the top of our lungs. In Jesus’ baptism we are so clearly shown God’s power, with the public declaration of Jesus being God’s beloved son. And at the same time we are shown the humanity of Jesus. The one who literally and metaphorically immersed himself in the dirt of this earth, for one reason only. And that reason is you. Humanity. He did this for us.
But let’s not get so caught up in wonder that we forget we have been commissioned to continue the work of Jesus. We could say that we have been commissioned to immerse ourselves into the dirt of this earth. We are not called to steer clear of the unclean, the difficult parts, the tough parts. God himself was to be found among sinners, outcasts, the overlooked and forgotten. If we want to find God today, that is where we must go. And if you are feeling like you are a sinner, an outcast, someone who is overlooked or forgotten, then be assured that Jesus is right there with you. God meets us in reality. It is hard to remember the days of having a quick 5 minute tidy up before someone comes round. But we still want to make ourselves presentable to others. And sometimes we can avoid God because we are aware that we are not very presentable. Let today’s passage encourage you, that we do not need to be clean before we come to God, but that we come to God to get clean. God is calling his beloved children today to draw close. Let’s pray.
At the river Jordan God, you revealed Jesus to be your son. May we recognise him to be our Lord. And know ourselves to be your beloved children. Amen