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Sermon for January 7, 2024 – Baptism of the Lord

Program Transcript


As the night sky glistens with the brilliance of countless stars, we are drawn to the story of the magi, following a star to worship the Light of the World.

Matthew 2:1-12 recounts their pilgrimage, their hearts set on finding the source of this celestial light, a light that leads to the very presence of God.

In the midst of simplicity, in the heart of the humblest abode, they find the King of Kings, the one they had traveled so far to worship.

Just as the Magi brought their gifts to the Christ child, we, too, offer the gift of our worship, our adoration, and our devotion.

“As we embark on this journey of Epiphany, let us remember that the Light we seek is not confined to a single location, or a single group of people, but shines forth for all to see and bask in the warmth.

When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Matthew’s account reminds us that when we seek the Light with open hearts, we, too, will find ourselves in the presence of God.

Today, as we gather in worship, let us offer ourselves to Jesus as the magi did, in awe and reverence before the One who is the true Light of the world.

As we journey through this season of Epiphany, may the Light of Christ continue to lead us, illuminating our path and revealing the boundless love of our Savior.


Psalm 29:1-11 • Genesis 1:1-5 • Acts 19:1-7 • Mark 1:4-11

This week’s theme is the manifestation of God’s power. In our call to worship psalm, the psalmist affirms God’s power over nature. In Genesis, we witness God’s power in creating the heavens and the earth. In the book of Acts, we see the power of God as the Holy Spirit falls on new believers. And in our pericope in Mark’s gospel, he records the Spirit descending upon Christ at his baptism.

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Mark 1:4-11 NRSV

Our sermon today falls on the first Sunday of the year. We can’t change a thing from last year, what’s done is done, what was said is said, it’s all in the past. The old year is dead and buried, never to return. And this is the beauty of baptism, we acknowledge that our old lives were buried at baptism and that we have been raised to new life with Christ.

The church calendar for today focuses on baptism. Specifically, the baptism of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s only fitting then, that we should have a closer look at the baptism of Jesus. After all, there was no past Jesus needed to leave behind, there was no sin for Jesus to repent of. So, why was Jesus baptized? What significance does the baptism of Jesus have for our lives? Let’s begin by reading the text.

Read, or have someone read, Mark 1:4-11

What an interesting scene that Mark unfolds for us. Here, you have Jews coming from Jerusalem and all over Judea by the thousands, traveling all the way out into the wilderness. And the reason they were making such an arduous journey, was to repent of their sins and to be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.

Clearly, some form of revival was happening in the nation of Israel at that time. Word had gotten out that something was taking place, and many wanted to be a part of it. John was the first prophet in the land for nearly four hundred years. It was as if the heavens were shut. They may have even wondered if they were still God’s chosen people.

But what may have alerted all these people to come out to the wilderness in the first place? It seems everyone was represented: the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the rulers and the peasants. Couldn’t they just repent and be baptized where they lived rather than endure this major inconvenience and disruption of their lives?

Traveling through the heat, all the possible dangers, and the inhospitable terrain should have caused many to reconsider their holiday plans. They weren’t exactly headed to Disneyland. Let’s see if we can get a better idea of what is happening.

 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. (Mark 1:6 NRSVUE)

In this verse, Mark goes into great detail to explain the appearance and lifestyle of John the Baptist. When Mark does this, he knows right away that the bells are going to go off for his intended readers of his gospel account. The Jews would have been very familiar with their major prophet, Isaiah. In Isaiah 20:2, he is described as wearing sackcloth. This would have been a close description to John the Baptist.

In chapter 40, Isaiah prophesies about the voice crying out in the wilderness. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” Malachi 3:1-2 also describes a forerunner preparing the way for the messenger of the covenant. And of course, this is exactly what John is doing. When you add all this up, this would not have escaped anyone’s notice in the nation of Israel. This also came at a time of spiritual dryness in their history. They were hungry for good news. Could it be that their spiritual barrenness was about to come to an end?

The people had come to repent and to be baptized. Being baptized in the Jordan would have held great significance for these people. In order for their ancestors to enter the promised land, they had to enter into the Jordan. When they came up out of it, they would have made it to the promised land. So, coming up out of the waters is where they found liberation.

It’s common that when people are at their lowest point they are ready to receive the good news of the gospel. Our sin leads us into a place of desolation. Our hearts are dry, and our souls are parched from wandering the wilderness. We discover that this life of sin is actually a life of death – the antithesis of life itself.

Sin is no respecter of persons. The young and the old, the rich and the poor, the rulers and the peasants — all have been inflicted. Sin takes us out into the wilderness. Yet it is here in the wilderness where sin is destined to reach its end. Because it is here we find the Living Water, Jesus Christ, who takes our sins upon himself and brings us up in true and lasting liberation. We will say more about that in a few moments.

First, it’s appropriate to look back and see how far along the Lord has taken you, to appreciate the new life, this liberation he has gifted you with. We should have a sense of gratitude for all God has accomplished in our lives through Christ. We should remember and appreciate the ways we are now walking in freedom where once there was only guilt, shame and fear.

He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8 NRSVUE)

So, we have established the connection between the words of Isaiah and the ministry of John the Baptist. But something else is going on here. A much greater conclusion is being drawn from this connection. Isaiah 40 is a messianic psalm taking imagery from Psalm 28 and Psalm 103. Further into that Psalm you will see the emergence of the Messiah.

The people, no doubt, were not just going out to repent and be baptized, but to also anticipate the imminent appearance of the Messiah. John heightens their expectation for the one to come in verse 7 where he states that the One coming after him is much greater than him. The people were already convinced that John was a prophet, yet this prophet said he is unworthy to untie the sandals of someone else. You can sense the excitement and anticipation building at this point.

John indicates that while he just baptized them with water, the Messiah will baptize them with the very Spirit of God. What an exciting proposition John is describing! This had to mystify the crowd as to what that would even look like.

To be able to embrace a Messiah, is to understand that you need one in the first place. We need to understand that there is something faulty within us and all of humanity. We need to understand that without divine intervention, we are doomed to live a life that keeps us in the desert. We are doomed to live a life that keeps us trapped without a means of salvation.

 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 NRSVUE)

The baptism of Jesus is the first occurrence where we see each member of the Trinity explicitly represented in the Bible. We see the Son (Jesus) submitting to the Father in baptism, by faith. We witness the Spirit descending upon Jesus, and the Father expressing words of affection and approval over the Son.

While we must not minimize the importance of our own baptism, we should regard the baptism of our Lord as accomplishing something far beyond what our own baptism does. We are to understand that through Christ, humanity has been taken through the waters of baptism. Jesus repented on our behalf, not on his, as he had nothing to repent of. Though he was sinless, he was the only one who could offer a perfect repentance. His submission to the Father was for our sakes, as he was already submitting to God perfectly on our behalf by faith.

The good news is that we have been included into the faith of the Son of God. The Spirit has been poured out upon us, and it is here that we are able to experience the great fellowship that exists in the Trinity.

Through Jesus, we have left behind all the years of needless wandering in the wilderness of sin with all its dryness and desolation. The new has come and in Jesus’ baptism we see our sins and failings washed away. We have been immersed into his life, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.

Jesus is our promised land. Like the Jews of old, we have passed over and a new life has begun. However, that Living Water stays with us. You can’t have one without the other. Jesus is both our Promised Land and Living Water. This is true and complete liberation. We are free in him.

So, why was Jesus baptized? Because he was pleased to bring us into the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have been included, which was what has always been on the very heart and mind of God. Just as the old year is dead and buried, we have died to Christ and raised to a new life to experience a freedom that is only found in God’s selfless love.

Grace Areas w/ Dan Rogers W1

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January 7—Baptism of the Lord
Mark 1:4-11, “We’re Not Worthy”

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Program Transcript

Grace Areas w/ Dan Rogers W1

Anthony: So, let’s move on to the lectionary passages. That’s why we’ve gathered here today to talk about the four texts in front of us for the month of January.

Mark 1:4-11, “We’re Not Worthy”

John 1:43-51, “Come and See”

Mark 1:14-20, “Follow Me”

1 Corinthians 8:1-13, “Grace Areas”

Let’s pivot to the first pericope of the month. It’s Mark 1:4-11. I’ll be reading from the New Revised Standard Version, the updated edition, which is the Revised Common Lectionary passage for Baptism of the Lord on January 7.

So, John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And the whole Judean region and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the River Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with] the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove upon him. 11 And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

Dan, why was Jesus baptized? And what are the theological implications of his baptism?

Dan: Anthony, I’m glad this program is several hours long, so I can answer your questions fully. But seriously, I’ll try to give brief answers, but please realize these answers in no way will be exhaustive. Jesus’ baptism is often viewed as Jesus acting in solidarity with the people of Judea, as an example for his followers or as an anointing to his offices as prophet, priest, and king at the beginning of his ministry.

But the theological implications of his baptism are that it was a vicarious baptism on our behalf, done in our place and in which we vicariously participate. It was an act of substitution and exchange.

Jesus shared in our fallen humanity and was baptized into repentance, but it was not his own repentance of his own sins, but his repentance on our behalf. We could never repent totally and sufficiently, so he repented on our behalf. Jesus took our fallen nature, our sins upon himself, and gave us his righteousness in a great exchange.

He received the Holy Spirit and his humanity on our behalf, and heaven opened to us, and Jesus stood before the Father for us. He took what was ours and made it his, and he took what was his and made it ours. He united himself to us in an unbreakable bond and union. And as did Jesus in union with him, we now stand before the Father as his beloved child.

Anthony: There’s the gospel. What do you make of God the Father’s, or this voice from heaven acknowledgment, affirmation, and blessing of the Son?

Dan: In the Old Testament, Adam is called the Son of God. The nation of Israel is called the Son of God. David is God’s kingly son, and Isaiah refers to the suffering servant as God’s chosen and whom he delights and upon whom he has put his Spirit.

Now, Mark’s quoting the words of the Father at the baptism of Jesus and the beginning of Jesus ministry, echo these Old Testament identifications with the idea that they’re all fulfilled in Jesus, God’s true, unique son. The statement also identifies Jesus as God.

In Hebraic, though, the expression son of does not always mean a male child of the father. Its connotation is one having the qualities or attributes of. Now, when Jesus called James and John, for example, the sons of thunder, he meant that they were loud and outspoken. So being God’s Son meant Jesus had the qualities and attributes of God. So, in our pericope, we have God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit, all actively involved in the baptism of Jesus.

You can say, it was a Trinitarian thing.

Anthony: It was a Trinitarian thing. And I want to remind our listeners that it’s Christ’s love that leads us to repentance and just keep that in mind as you preach. God doesn’t seem to be too fond of guilt trips. It’s his love that draws us. to him. Hallelujah. Praise God.

Small Group Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think it’s important to get baptized?
  • Name some reasons why Jesus was baptized for us?
  • What are some things that you are grateful that God has buried and taken from you?
  • What are some ways that you are experiencing new life in Christ?
  • How do you see the Holy Spirit operating in your life?

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