The Rev. Jon Roberts
Calvary Episcopal Church
Indian Rocks Beach, FL
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened[a] and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; 17 and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”
Baptism of Christ by Trevisani, 1723
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him;
The prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament foreshadows the Messiah. The Messiah would be the new and improved, the once and for all, intervention of God in the world. This appearance was long-awaited and foretold. The old would make way for the new. This was expected by those who came after the prophet of old. Perhaps appearances aren’t everything.
Once upon a time a little girl was sitting on her grandfather's lap as he read her the story of John the Baptist from the Children’s Bible Story Book. From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek. She was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally, she spoke up, "Grandpa, did God make you?" "Yes, sweetheart," he answered, "God made me a long time ago." "Oh," she paused, "Grandpa, did God make me too?" "Yes, indeed, honey," he said, "God made you just a little while ago." Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, "God's getting better at it, isn't He?"
God was good at the time of creating the world and making the Old Covenant with mankind. The Son of God was there. God got better when He sent the Son into the world to make the New Covenant with mankind. In each account the old meets the new and we get the feeling that God is getting better. Like the grandfather in the story we can hear the prophet speak once more…Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him.
Can you feel the wrinkles in his face? God has been around a long time to watch, to listen and to act. Apparently He waited until just the right moment to send Jesus. The Epiphany is a word that points to his appearance. It is marked by a star and three major stories. The first is the visit of the magi, travelling to see the baby in the manger and adorning him with gifts. This validates his being the heir to the king. The second, today’s lesson, is the baptism of the Son of God in the river Jordan by John the Baptist. This validates his coronation as king. The third, next week’s lesson, is his first miracle performed at the wedding feast in Cana. This validates his power to do wondrous things. Each time he is getting better.
God spoke to the prophet of old, Isaiah, with those words relating to the Messiah, “Here is my servant, in whom I am well pleased (uphold).” God spoke to the prophet of new, John, with those words relating to the Messiah, “This is my son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” He refers to one as the servant and to the other as the son. They are the one and same. In whom and with whom, God is well pleased. The old and the new are one.
It is hard to say that God is getting better because God is already best but we find the greatest aspect of God when we see the youthful vitality of His son. We can touch this and understand. It’s amazing how we relate to the Father in heaven when we sit on his lap and look into his eyes, knowing that we come from Him, yet must forge into a new day. Oh what it must have been like for our Savior, coming into this world like we did as a baby. People, hopefully brought gifts and admired us as we slept. How we were brought into a royal family at our baptism, ordained for doing great and wonderful things as Jesus was at the Jordan river. Witnesses came to watch and rejoiced at our decision of faith.
Oh what it must have been like for him to say a word and a miracle happened in an unexplainable way such as turning water into wine. Then again, see the miraculous nature God has given you each time you say a kind word or help someone in need. Oh how that changes that person from fear and doubt to a place where there is hope and joy. Yes, we share much in common with the Father, with the Son and yes, with the Holy Spirit. Through them we find we are sent to be servants as well, helping the world to get better.