Baptism of the Lord (January 10, 2016)
- First reading
- Isaiah 43:1-7
- Psalm 29
- Second reading
- Acts 8:14-17
- Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Acts 8:14-17 | New Living Translation
14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. 15 As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. 16 The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.
This Sunday is the first Sunday after Epiphany. In the readings for today, we find the baptism of Jesus. In many ways, the baptism of Jesus is the beginning of his earthly ministry.
Today’s New Testament reading brings us to the account of the Samaritan believers. Philip (one of the seven original deacons – the other famous one being Steven) has branched out and is now an evangelist for “The Way.” He takes the message of the Gospel to Samaria. Which is one of the places that Jesus mentions that will receive the Gospel. As you may recall, Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along very well together. The story of the woman at the well in John 4 reminds us that the Jews worshiped in Jerusalem and Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. So what would happen when the Samaritans received the gospel? Would the split continue?
We find out in our passage today that the Samaritan believers received Jesus and were baptized, but did not receive the Holy Spirit. Why would have God worked this way? Some believe that it was important for Peter and John (the Apostles who originally received Jesus command to go to the whole world and preach the gospel and baptize) to go and lay hands on the Samaritans to promote the unity of the body that Christ desires (John 17.) This really was the beginning of the gospel going out to all – the Samaritans were half-Jews – the first step toward going toward the Gentiles and the rest of the world or the uttermost parts of the world. Perhaps if the Holy Spirit would have been occupied them, the unity to go the next step would not have occured. Thus Paul writes in Ephesians 4:
3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. — Ephesians 4
Today I want to encourage you to be united in the Spirit – and binding ourselves together with peace. There is only one God, one Jesus, one Holy Spirit – God, One yet Three. Each one who is a believer has been baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – so we have one baptism. He lives in us and works in us through his Holy Spirit. When Jesus was baptized the Father declared, “This is my Son, who brings me great joy.”
Today – we are the followers of Jesus. We are called to be like him in all ways. He has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can walk in His ways. Let’s go out to a world that desperately needs us to show the light of Christ. Let’s give the Father great joy as when Jesus was baptized.