Baptism of Jesus

the-Baptism-of-JesusThe word “epiphany” has two meanings. One meaning is to “show forth” or “manifest.” The visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus’ cradle was an epiphany because they saw the star in the east and traveled all that way to give their witness that even foreigners from a distant land recognized God’s royalty. When they knelt down to pay the newborn homage, they demonstrated their faith.
But the word “epiphany” has a second meaning. An “epiphany” can also be a sudden realization or significant insight; a “moment of truth,” if you will.
According to both Mark and Matthew, when Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John, the moment he came up out of the water, Jesus saw the Holy Spirit come down from heaven and alight upon him. Then he heard a voice from heaven, which said, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew clearly wants to communicate that this was an epiphany also. It was a sudden realization or deep insight, a moment of truth, for Jesus. Maybe Mary and Joseph knew, from the moment that Jesus was conceived, that he was God’s son. Maybe they knew he was the one whom God had sent to save the people of Israel. Maybe this was in the backs of their minds the whole time, and maybe they even brought Jesus up in the knowledge of his purpose and special relationship to God.
But as Matthew sees it, it was not until the moment of his baptism that Jesus realized the magnitude of it all.
We, who are baptized into Christ, become God’s beloved daughters and sons and God is well pleased with us too.
Baptism inaugurates us into Christ’s way of life. The dying and rising is the stuff of our Christian living. What enables us to say yes is that we know the dying always leads to rising: when we die to selfishness and rise to the needs of others; when we die to judgments and labeling others and rise to seeing all people as beloved of God; when we offer kind words instead of tearing down another- then our baptism is ongoing.

Behold the Lamb of God

When members of my family introduce someone, they always give that person an automatic promotion. If she’s a doctor, they will exaggerate, introducing her as a brilliant surgeon. A teacher’s aide becomes a full professor. I am told that I do the same thing. I still turn an ordinary singer into a brilliant musician, a plain-looking person into a great beauty. When I’m talking about a dog, a mutt becomes a golden retriever who can juggle.

In my family, we see life as a series of grand stories that simply must be populated with larger-than-life characters. The problem is that we can get it wrong, and lose the essence of who a person is. For instance, when a labor union organizer is introduced as the head of a corporation’s labor relations department, he has switched sides. If someone is called the perfect mother, she loses the right to tear her hair out when the baby throws raspberry yogurt across the room. In our grand descriptions, however generously offered, we may strip our characters of the right to be who they really are.

We are told that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Talk about a grand introduction! What could Jesus have felt in that moment? Did he want to say, “Stop. I’m not all that”? Or was he comfortable with the introduction?

What John recognized about Jesus was surely something exciting and new. This One is the Lamb of God and the Son of God who will take away sin and baptize with the Holy Spirit. We can recognize him if we actively watch for him.

We are able to see Jesus when we put on the mind of Christ. Our active watching is really living as Jesus did: when we see the face of Jesus in the poor and needy; when we reach out a helping hand to those overburdened, when we encourage the discouraged. This is how we remain faithful to the mission God gave us. All this is possible because the Spirit descends upon us too.