Ash Wednesday

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Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12 • Psalm 51:1-17 • 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 • Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 6:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting. Our gospel reading today reminds us of the importance of prayer and fasting. It’s a reading that reminds us of the humility that is needed in being a Christ-follower. It’s hard not to want to blow our own horn. Jesus reminds us in the first part of today’s reading that humility is needed when giving to others. We don’t need to broadcast it all over the place. Interestingly enough, in chapter 5 which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and in the same way that a lamp shines out its light, we are to let our good deeds shine out for all to see…Wait…that almost sounds like a contradiction of sorts. First, Jesus tells us let our good deeds shine…then he says, “Do your good deeds in private.” What’s going on here?

Part of our answer can be found in verse 21 of Matthew 6: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” What should be the purpose of doing good deeds? So that everybody knows what a great Christian I am? Of course not! We do our good deeds to glorify our heavenly Father…We do our good deeds so that everyone will praise God. There are far too many Christ-followers who do good so they can put the attention on themselves. That is what Jesus is warning us against. We don’t need to get the glory. If we get the glory here on Earth…that will be the only reward we will receive. Again, it’s all about our humility…it’s all about our heart.

What is your heart’s attitude toward God today? Is it about making yourself known – or is it about making God known.

Paul said: For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

The heart cry of Paul, should be the heart cry of all of us as we enter this season of Lent – a time when we remember the price that Jesus paid for us.

Seeing Only Jesus

Transfiguration Sunday | February 23, 2020

Exodus 24:12-18 • Psalm 2 • 2 Peter 1:16-21 • Matthew 17:1-9

17 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

Yesterday, we had a meeting in Buffalo. It is a monthly meeting of pastors from the Western New York District of the Wesleyan Church. It is always a wonderful time of inspiration and yesterday was no exception. On the way home, I got to thinking about today’s post and had Anna look up this week’s texts – thinking that they were some Sunday in Epiphany. Somehow she mentioned the last Sunday before Lent and I said, “Oh, it’s Transfiguration Sunday.” And so it is.

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at the teachings of Jesus. We have been looking at Jesus as the Light of the World. What was the mission of Jesus? In these scriptures over the last few weeks, we have barely scratched the surface and now we being preparing for Lent in the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The creators of the lectionary give us two parallel readings of sorts. The Old Testament reading gives us the account of Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God. The mountain is covered by a cloud indicating the glory of God.

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to a mountain. Jesus face and appearance is transformed – as bright as the sun. Pam and I have been reading a devotional Finding Your Way by Jane Rubieta. It is a devotional that focuses on Adam through Noah. In one of her daily devotionals in the book she talks about Adam and Eve being blinded by the glory of God. She suggests that when Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit – the eyes being opened meant that suddenly their eyes were not blinded by the glory of God and they noticed their sinfulness and their nakedness. Perhaps before the fall, Adam and Eve were surrounded by the glory of God and didn’t even know it.

Moses remained on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights – interestingly enough, this 40 days is the same amount of days that it rained during the flood and the number of days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Peter, James, and John see Jesus transformed – into what way we don’t really know, but it was quite powerful. Peter immediately suggests that they should set up some memorials.

As soon as Peter speaks, the cloud of God descends on the mountain – much like the glory of God on Mount Sinai. Out of the cloud, the voice of God speaks, “This is my dearly loved son. Listen to Him!” Immediately the disciple fall prostrate on the ground and worship – probably out of fear. Jesus comes over and says, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” I can’t even imagine what an experience that must have been. Immediately the image of the law and prophets disappear – perhaps again meaning that Jesus came to fulfill the law and prophets. The disciples see only Jesus.

As I think about this…The disciples saw only Jesus – not the law – not the prophets – but only Jesus. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and begin the season of Lent – a season of preparation that focuses on Jesus. It is my prayer that as we move into this season, we would see Jesus and only Jesus.

Fulfilling the Law

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Sixth Sunday after Epiphany | February 16, 2020

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 • Psalm 119:1-8 • 1 Corinthians 3:1-9 • Matthew 5:21-37

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

31 “You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery.

33 “You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:21-37 | New Living Translation

This morning’s gospel passage continues to have us in Matthew 5. Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. If you recall, last week we heard these words from Jesus, “I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.

Jesus continues his teaching – reminding them that our righteousness must be better than that of the Pharisees…That is a high standard. The Pharisees knew the letter of the law, but really missed it on the Spirit of the Law and Jesus goes on and gives us several examples.

Jesus reminds his followers that the Law tells us not to murder, but if we have anger toward someone, that is worse than murder. Jesus law is higher than the law. When it comes to “practicing” our religion…Jesus reminds us that when we come to worship – we need to come with a clean heart. We should not be holding grudges against another, but more importantly, if someone has something against us – before we worship – we should work on reconciliation.

Each one of these examples holds the believer to a higher law – God’s Law. For too many, we mistakenly believe that we are under grace and not under the law and that gives us license to do what ever we want.

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes:

Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to spiritual people. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in Christ. I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. 

Jesus is telling us to embrace the fullness of Him, much as Paul is encouraging the church to grow up. This morning let’s not just follow the letter of the Law, but the Spirit in which it was given.

Salt and Light

The Fifth Sunday after Epiphany | February 9, 2020

Isaiah 58:1-9a • Psalm 112:1-9 • 1 Corinthians 2:1-12 • Matthew 5:13-20

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.

14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Matthew 5:13-20 New Living Translation (NLT)

I missed last week’s devotional because of the Feast of the Presentation. Last week’s devotion begins several weeks of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The text last week was the Beatitudes, which I am working on a sermon for this Sunday, so I will share that sometime in the next week.

Jesus finishes speaking the Beatitudes – which really speak to a different way of thinking. God’s Kingdom values are different than ours. Jesus finishes the Beatitudes with these words:

11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

Matthew 5:11-12 (NLT)

This is not the way most of us who call ourselves Christ-followers think. When people do the things described in these verses, our immediate reaction is to strike back. This is so hard because it is not the way we were taught. We are taught not to throw the first punch, but if you are attacked, it’s correct for you to defend. Yet, Jesus teaches us something different. We are reminded that the prophets were persecuted. We don’t have a record of prophets defending themselves on their own behalf. Jesus tells us to remember God’s blessing…remember God’s reward in the Kingdom of God.

As we continue into this week’s text, we are called to be salt and light. These thoughts are connected, more than we think at first glance. Jesus tells us that we must be salt and light. We are so tempted to curse the darkness and yet Jesus tells us that we must let our light shine. In this we must follow the example of Jesus.

There are those who like to stir up trouble and then claim they are being persecuted. This is not what Jesus is talking about. The Truth will always make people who don’t follow the Truth uncomfortable. I’ve seen it so many times that when people are under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they are miserable and they strike-out at the messenger and the message. Jesus tells us to be true to the message. Don’t pollute the message. Be salt – not salty. There are too many “salty” Christians out there – don’t be one of them, but be salt – bring the unique flavor of Christ to those who don’t know Him. Be the light of the world – stop cursing the darkness. Cursing the darkness won’t make it go away and it will make us miserable, which is not the condition a Christ-follower should be in – unless they are not following the things of Christ. Shine the light of Christ to those who need it – Be the light – Be the church. Everything that we do should reflect the light of Christ.

At this point, Jesus reminds his followers that He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. Many mistakenly believe that Christ-followers can do anything they please because they are under grace and not under the law. The commandments – especially the two Great Commandments:

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Notice Jesus tells us that the Law and the prophets are completely contained in these two commandments. These are some huge shoes to fill. Jesus tells us that if we ignore the least commandment, we really aren’t much in the Kingdom of Heaven – but we must obey God’s laws. I’ve said this before, but what if every believer 1) Loved God with all their heart, soul, and mind, and 2) loved their neighbor as themselves. What would Christianity look like? I dare say it would look different than it does today.

Jesus had more than his share of run-ins with the Pharisees – the keepers of the Law – they were both judge and jury. Yet as Jesus finishes this section of his sermon, he said that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees if we want to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Make no mistake about it, the Pharisee were about following the letter of the law but not its spirit. They followed the law to perfection. How many of us follow God’s law to perfection? Certainly not me. I am thankful for His grace if I slip and fall. Jesus is calling his followers to be salt and light and to love God with all of their heart and love their neighbor as themselves. Christ came to fulfill the law – perhaps that’s why He boiled it down to these to commandments. If we keep these two commandments, we will be salt and light and we will exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees.


Preaching the Good News of God's Kingdom

Third Sunday after Epiphany | January 26, 2020

Isaiah 9:1-4 • Psalm 27:1, 4-9 • 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 • Matthew 4:12-23

Matthew 4:12-23 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

12 John had been put in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee. 13 Jesus left Nazareth and went to live in the city of Capernaum. It was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14 In that way, what the prophet Isaiah had said came true. He had said,

15 “Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
    Galilee, where Gentiles live!
    Land along the Mediterranean Sea! Territory east of the Jordan River!
16 The people who are now living in darkness
    have seen a great light.
They are now living in a very dark land.
    But a light has shined on them.” (Isaiah 9:1,2)

17 From that time on Jesus began to preach. “Turn away from your sins!” he said. “The kingdom of heaven has come near.”

18 One day Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. There he saw two brothers, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. They were throwing a net into the lake, because they were fishermen. 19 “Come and follow me,” Jesus said. “I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.

21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers. They were James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee. As they were preparing their nets, Jesus called out to them. 22 Right away they left the boat and their father and followed Jesus.

23 Jesus went all over Galilee. There he taught in the synagogues. He preached the good news of God’s kingdom. He healed every illness and sickness the people had.

After a week outside of Matthew, we are back in Matthew and continuing through Matthew’s descriptions of the events in Jesus’ life. Two weeks ago, we heard about how Jesus was baptized…how that Jesus said, “We must carry out all that God requires.”

We skipped over the account of Jesus’ temptation, because we will deal with that on the First Sunday of Lent. After Jesus’ temptation we hear how Jesus’ ministry began. Last week, we said that after the baptism of Jesus, John faded into the woodwork. Part of that reason is that he was arrested and put into prison. John the Baptist was not one to mince words. He was willing to tell it like it is. We learn that Jesus starts his ministry after John has been put into prison. Here the accounts of Matthew and John have different takes on the story.

Jesus starts his ministry…picking up where John the Baptist left off. We learn that Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” John had already been preaching this – preparing the way for the people.

Jesus also knows, that he can’t do all the work, so he starts recruiting disciples. He is walking along the Sea of Galilee. It is here that he sees two fishermen and calls those fishermen to follow him and to help him preach the Gospel of repenting from sin and turning to God.

It doesn’t appear from the text that there was any hesitation. When God called, they immediately left their nets. When God called, they left everything they knew behind and started to follow this unknown teacher. They don’t walk very much further and Jesus calls two more disciples who also follow him and follow Jesus immediately. They leave their nets…all their fishing equipment…and…their family.

Jesus said the cost of doing God’s work is high. It is a sacrifice that is required daily. That’s why he later tells his disciples, “You must take up your cross daily.” Imagine what it felt like to leave everything you know to follow some itinerant preacher.

But that’s what they did. It’s not in our text, but in what follows that Jesus attracted quite a crowd – everywhere He went – people followed. Jesus was preaching the Good News of the Kingdom – preaching repentance, healing the sick, casting out demons…whatever was ailing them. Jesus was changing the world…one person at a time. He showed his disciples what was required – and soon, He would command them to do the same. Even while he was with them…he sent them out…into the highways and hedges to preach the Good News and heal the sick.

Today, God is calling us to do the same…not just the “professional” but God is calling all of his people to preach the Good News…to build the Kingdom of Heaven. Just imagine if each disciple would make a new disciple – what a change would happen in the world.

Preparing the Way

Our call is to prepare the way for Jesus, much like this construction workers.

Second Sunday After Epiphany | January 19, 2020

Isaiah 49:1-7 • Psalm 40:1-11 • 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 • John 1:29-42

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 He is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘A man is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’ 31 I did not recognize him as the Messiah, but I have been baptizing with water so that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John testified, “I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Chosen One of God.”

35 The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” 37 When John’s two disciples heard this, they followed Jesus.

38 Jesus looked around and saw them following. “What do you want?” he asked them.

They replied, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come and see,” he said. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place where he was staying, and they remained with him the rest of the day.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

John 1:29-42 New Living Translation (NLT)

Last week was The Baptism of our Lord. We looked at the scripture from the gospel of Matthew. This week’s scripture is the next day from John’s gospel. John, as usual, gives us a little different perspective than the synoptic (meaning “seeing together) gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John doesn’t describe the baptism directly, but through John the Baptist’s testimony we understand that he has recently baptized Jesus.

Last week I asked the question, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” John wanted to know and Jesus told them it was required because that’s what God required. John baptizes Jesus – and like the other accounts we know that Holy Spirit descends like a dove. John relays to the crowd that God the Father told him that “The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” John the Baptist now knows that Jesus is the Messiah – the Chosen One – the One written in the prophets. It is this Messiah that will save the people from their sins – it is this Messiah that is the Lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world.

John knows that his part in the gospel story is coming to a close. He is the forerunner to Jesus – he is the one who is designated to prepare the way for Jesus. He has been doing this and now reveals to the Jewish people that Jesus is the fulfillment of their prophecies.

The next day after the above day, John is standing with his disciples – perhaps they weren’t there the day before – but again he declares as Jesus approaches…”Look! There is the Lamb of God.” They immediately leave John the Baptist and go to follow Jesus. They are the first of the disciples. Did you ever think about how John the Baptist felt – losing his own disciples to another teacher? Apparently word spread quickly that Jesus was the promised Messiah – but they also recognized Him as a teacher – for they called him Rabbi. Two days after his baptism and Jesus has already started developing a following.

I find it interesting in all this that John the Baptist revealed to those around him that Jesus was the Messiah. He had been preparing the way for Jesus. He knew that he was simply the forerunner – the message bearer that the true light was coming into the world. Once he declares Jesus as the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, John the Baptist fades from the limelight.

John the Baptist did a great job in testifying to the light. That is what we are supposed to do. We are now solidly in the season of Epiphany. This season’s theme is to follow the mission of Jesus. We learn that Jesus speaks much of building the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist knew that for Jesus to get the glory – to give glory to the Father in heaven, that he must decrease.

This conversation happens in chapter 3. Both John the Baptist and Jesus are baptizing and John’s disciples are upset because more people are going to Jesus. John knows his place – that he is simply preparing the way – that he is not the Messiah. John is not jealous of Jesus’ success – something that can’t be said of the Pharisees. John replies to his disciples:

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

John 3:30

And that’s how it should be with us. We are not the Messiah – even though there are times we get a Messiah complex. We are called to prepare the way for Jesus – make the highway straight – to call people to repentance – to call people toward God’s salvation – to call people toward Jesus – and then get out of the way. God calls us to be humble. I was going to say like Jesus, but in this case…we can learn something from John the Baptist. He must increase. I must decrease. Amen!

Obedient to the Father

The Baptism of our Lord | January 12, 2020

Isaiah 42:1-9 • Psalm 29 • Acts 10:34-43 • Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”

15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

16 After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.”

Matthew 3:13-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

This coming Sunday is known as the Baptism of our Lord. The gospel reading for this Sunday tells the story of Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. As you may remember from our readings during Advent, John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. The baptism of Jesus, signifies the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. For the next three years, Jesus’ ministry will be out in the public. We don’t have much record of Jesus previous thirty years of life, but the final three years are earth are well documented.

John the Baptist is a bit confused. He doesn’t understand why Jesus is coming to him for baptism. After all, Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is God in the flesh. There is no need to be baptized for the remission of sins, because Jesus is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. John says, it needs to be the other way around – that Jesus should be baptizing him.

Jesus reminds John the Baptist that this is the way it needs to be because God requires it. Jesus is our example – Jesus is God in the flesh – Jesus came to identify with His creation. Baptism will be something the followers of Jesus will do to identify with Jesus. Even 2,000 years later, believers of Jesus are still baptized. As we go into the water, we bury our old self – signifying, Jesus’ death on the cross. We then rise out of the water, into Christ. Just as Jesus was risen on the third day to give us new life!

Jesus’ baptism is one of the first places in the New Testament that we see the Trinity together – the voice of God the Father, Jesus the Son being baptized, along with the Holy Spirit coming down like a dove. By being baptized, Jesus has been obedient to God the Father – and Jesus will continue to be obedient to God the Father. It is this call to obedience, that Jesus calls us. He was obedient to the Father to the point of death as we are reminded in Philippians 2.

As I mentioned earlier, Jesus’ baptism signifies the beginning of his earthly ministry. This season of Epiphany – or the Sundays after Epiphany emphasize the mission of Jesus. We hear how Jesus calls his disciples to build and grow the Kingdom of God. Many of Jesus’ parables are references to the Kingdom of God. 2,000 years later, Jesus still calls his disciples to grow and to build the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of heaven. We are not to build our own little kingdoms of fiefdoms, but the Kingdom of heaven. By our baptism, we identify that we are a disciple of Jesus and we desire to be obedient to God the Father.