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Worship, prayer and Bible study resources

Baptism of Jesus, Year C, White


baptism of Jesus by Rublev public domainIntroduction

Christmas has only just taken place and we are already thinking about the baptism of Jesus - Why?

Well Jesus has been born, but who is he?

If he is the Son of God, then why is he here, what is his purpose on earth.?

The baptism of Jesus marks the time when Jesus sets out on his public ministry. He chooses to do so not in the religious establishment, but rather at the hands of a man outside the system, somebody who will soon be executed. Jesus is making a statement, that he bringing something very different from the religious norm. Jesus is standing alongside the ordinary people in the desert, not with royalty in the king's palace.

Moreover at the baptism we hear the voice of God, Jesus has chosen well, and God gives him the Holy Spirit to empower him for the task ahead.

This is the time of year when we remember how Jesus demonstrated his commitment to the ministry to which he was called. We are told that it was while Jesus was praying that the wonderful events occurred. The miraculous Baptism was not something out of the blue, but rather something to confirm what Jesus had known all along. We know this form the events last week where Jesus went missing at the age of 12. He knew that he was in the right place when he was found in the temple. Jesus has spent two decades growing in his understanding of the service which he knew he must offer, and the sacrifice which he knew he must make. Here is the baptism experience to affirm him in his role and prepare him for the journey ahead.

As we affirm our baptism vows, we too should expect the energy of God to be present in our lives. Perhaps we too will hear that quiet voice inside which tells us that God is with us and will empower us to walk the path which he has set before us.

Opening Verse of Scripture

When the Lord had been baptized, the heavens opened, and the Spirit came down like a dove to rest on him. Then the voice of the Father thundered: This is my beloved Son, with him I am well pleased. (Mt 3:16-17)


Collect Prayer for the Day—Before we read we pray

Eternal Father, at the baptism of Jesus you revealed him to be your Son, and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Keep all who are born of water and the Spirit faithful to their calling as your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen. (Methodist Worship)

Eternal Father, who at the baptism of Jesus revealed him to be your Son, anointing him with the Holy Spirit: grant to us, who are born again by water and the Spirit, that we may be faithful to our calling as your adopted children; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Heavenly father at the Jordan you revealed Jesus as your Son: may we recognise him as our Lord and know ourselves to be your beloved childen; through Jesus Christ our Saviour.   Common Worship Shorter Collect

First Bible Reading  Isaiah Chapter 47:1-7

"Go down, sit in the dust, Virgin Daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne, Daughter of the Babylonians. No more will you be called tender or delicate. Take millstones and grind flour; take off your veil. Lift up your skirts, bare your legs, and wade through the streams. Your nakedness will be exposed and your shame uncovered. I will take vengeance; I will spare no one." Our Redeemer--the LORD Almighty is his name-- is the Holy One of Israel. "Sit in silence, go into darkness, Daughter of the Babylonians; no more will you be called queen of kingdoms. I was angry with my people and desecrated my inheritance; I gave them into your hand, and you showed them no mercy. Even on the aged you laid a very heavy yoke. You said, 'I will continue forever-- the eternal queen!' But you did not consider these things or reflect on what might happen.

Second Reading  Acts 8:14-17

When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

 

Gospel Reading Luke 3:15-22

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of Herodias, his brother's wife, and all the other evil things he had done, Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."


Post Communion Prayer

Lord of all time and eternity, you opened the heavens and revealed yourself as Father in the baptism of Jesus your beloved Son: by the power of your Spirit complete the heavenly work of our rebirth through the waters of the new creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.


Commentary

When Jesus was baptised he posed an interesting question for Christians. The baptism of John was about repentance and the forgiveness of sin, why then would Jesus be baptised?

Various reasons have been given for Jesus' submitting to the ritual washing.

  1. Some think Jesus was manifesting a strong consciousness of sin and its effects on humans.

  2. Others, that Jesus was showing God's approval of John's ministry to the people.

  3. Or, Jesus may have undergone the ritual as a sign of unity with those outside the Law; his future death would free people from sin. Later, Jesus will refer to his passion and death as a "baptism" he will undergo.)

  4. There are those who believe Jesus was a disciple of John and in accepting baptism Jesus was taking the first step towards establishing his own ministry. He may have been taking the first steps away from John and on his own.

But, think about Jesus' being in the same water the crowd had just left. He gets wet with water that touched them and what they left there with John's baptism. Think of what they brought down into the Jordan, what was clinging to them. Not just the sins; but the pain of their lives; the struggles against the big evils that surrounded them--- terrorism, crushing taxation by a foreign power and daily fears of unpredictable violence.

What burdened their hearts when they went into the water? Did they wonder what God was doing to help them out of the mess of their lives--- their dyings, the crippled children, the feeble elderly, the deaths from painful sickness? What about their feelings of inadequacy for not being able to provide enough food for their families or to protect them from the vagaries of daily life? Did they feel they hadn't done enough for God or taken God seriously enough?

Wouldn't we want Jesus to join us in the places we feel most frail, pained, inadequate and sinful? Jesus does not remain aloof from us, judging us from on high. He comes right to where we are gathered with all our burdens and takes them up into himself, as we wait upon the Holy Spirit in prayer.


The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus is not just about Jesus, just as our baptism is not just about our personal relationship with God. We are baptized into a community. We share together a creed, a history, and a struggle to make that faith real in the world. The Spirit calls us into community and is present in the community.

God does work in spectacular ways; but if we look for spectacle we most often will be frustrated. In this episode Jesus makes an anonymous entrance that the crowd missed, even though they had been "filled with expectation." Even the voice from heaven is not a public broadcast, but a voice directed to Jesus. It will take the Spirit's gift of fire to burn away the veil over our eyes and our false expectations to purify us so that we notice Jesus' daily entrance ---there among the ordinary, especially the downcast, people.

Meditation

Some voices are unforgettable. If I mention the name ‘Edith Piaf’, a whole generation will straightaway recall the haunting, desolate beauty of her voice. In our own time the voices of Bryn Terfel and Katherine Jenkins have similar effects - that spine-tingling “something”, indefinable, never to be forgotten.
Other voices, less famous, remind us of childhood, or adolescence, or times when we were either extremely happy or very sad.
Imagine now the voice of God. In the Bible there are times when the poets compare God’s voice with the sound of an earthquake (the ‘foundations shook’), or the sound of ‘many waters’. The effect is of awesome majesty and power.
At other times, however, the voice of God is described as quiet, intimate and very close.
This Christmas, as indeed every Christmas, God speaks to us through the stories of the birth of the Christ-child. The voice of God is tender, and very, very beautiful, calling to each one of us to enter the truth that the stories reveal.
Let me put it like this. When I hear a voice from my own place of birth - on the Welsh borders, I experience a pang of homesickness; a deep and sudden longing for the place where I was born and the people with whom I grew up. The place has, of course, changed and many of my family are no longer alive - but the sounds of that place, the sounds of those voices, continue to lie deep within my memory, and the yearning, the longing, are stirred. The Germans refer to this longing in their word ‘Heimat’, and the Welsh in their word ‘Hiraeth’. It is a deep and poignant longing for a place and a people.
Such a longing does not always look backwards: think of the voice of your husband or wife or child or a friend. Their voices too are vibrant with the same kind of intense beauty; the same haunting loveliness.
And so it is with God. At Christmas, amongst all the noise and hullabaloo, if we listen deeply to the silence of our innermost souls, we shall be met by God. He calls us to simply be with him as he is with us in Christ Jesus. The voice of God is the voice of one who calls each of us to our eternal home.
He is the source and the destiny of the longing in our souls.
The Rt Revd Christopher Herbert. Bishop of St Albans
 

Hymns

  1. O breath of life (Spiritus Vitae)
  2. Make way
  3. Fill thou my life (Richmond)
  4. Name of all majesty
  5. All hail the power (Miles Lane)

 

Prayers for Sunday and the week ahead

Accept, O Father,
the sacrifice of all our thanksgivings:
of praise, for your great mercies already received;
of prayers, that they may continue and increase;
of penitence, for the sins we have committed;
and the love of our hearts,
being the only gift that you seek or desire;
and this we ask through the merits of your Son our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen
John Donne, 1572-1631

Let us worship the Christ who draws near to each of us.
Let us praise the Christ who loves the worst among us.
Let us bless the Christ who shares with the least among us.
Let us glorify the Christ who intercedes for all among us in the presence of God the Father. Amen.
Ann Griffiths (1776-1805)

O God, we pray for all those in our world who are suffering from injustice:
For those who are discriminated against because of their race, colour or religion;
For those imprisoned for working for the relief of oppression;
For those who are hounded for speaking the inconvenient truth;
For those tempted to violence as a cry against overwhelming hardship;
For those deprived of reasonable health and education;
For those suffering from hunger and famine;
For those too weak to help themselves
and who have no one else to help them;
For the unemployed who cry out for work but do not find it.
We pray for anyone of our acquaintance who is personally affected by injustice.
Forgive us, Lord, if we unwittingly share in the conditions or in a system that perpetuates injustice.
Show us how we can serve your children and make your love practical by washing their feet.
Mother Theresa of Calcutta

 

Intercessions

Heavenly Father, we pray for all of those who have confessed your name in baptism and we remember especially those who experience persecution for their profession of faith. Give to your people repentance for their sins and the strength of your Holy Spirit to live lives worthy if our calling by you.

We thank you Lord God that you promise to us the power of the Holy Spirit to work within us to guide us in your ways and strengthen us in your service. May we never be proud of our own achievements, may we never be overwhelmed with the challenges which face us, recognising that in all things it is your strength which works in us. Whatever we may have to endure or enjoy, we thank you that you walk with us on a known way.

We pray for those who have troubled lives. Those who are addicted to harmful things which threaten their lives, those who lives have been badly damaged and broken. Lord Jesus we know that you reached out to those who lives had hit rock bottom and your touch brought forgiveness, healing and change. So we ask that you would enable us to be your healing touch among those who have not known the power of your love. Give us your willingness to be alongside those who suffer and who are in need and may we be faithful messengers of your good news.

Give us strength to bear our sorrows and joys lightly;
give us strength to make our love more fruitful in service;
give us strength never to disregard those who are poor or in any kind of need;
may we never bow before the abuse of power;
give us strength to raise our minds high above petty things,
and give us the strength lovingly to surrender our strength to your perfect will.


      

Additional Resources

Meditation

About to embark on a dangerous journey, St. Patrick refused the heavy armour offered him by friends and nobility. Instead, he presented his own protection, a song that has come to be known as "St. Patrick's Breastplate. "For all who have found the Messiah, it is a symbol of our best protection:

Christ be beside me; Christ be before me; Christ be behind me; King of my heart. Christ be within me; Christ be below me; Christ be above me; Never to part. Christ on my right hand; Christ on my left hand; Christ all around me, Shield in the strife. Christ in my sleeping; Christ in my sitting; Christ in my rising, Light of my life. Amen

Commentary

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

John the Baptist was a Jewish prophet who preached and practised a baptism of repentance in anticipation of Jesus’ ministry. The Gospels note that ‘all’ came to hear him, such was the appeal of his message and act of baptism.

Luke’s gospel associates John the Baptist—who was miraculously born to Zechariah, an elderly priest, and Elizabeth, his wife—closely with Jesus as his cousin. It is thought that prior to his ministry John may have had connections with the community at Qumran in the Judean Desert. In common with community members John had priestly connections, believed in imminent divine judgement, opposed Jerusalem and the Temple, and used water in a special ritual way.

John’s work anticipated and overlapped with that of Jesus. His public ministry began c28AD and was a passionate call to baptism, to people to repent before the wrath to come overwhelmed them. Once he had received his prophetic calling from God in the desert area along the Jordan Valley, John dressed in the clothes of a prophet, camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.

The location of the ministry of John is significant. The wilderness was a place of new beginnings away from Jerusalem and the Temple. John’s teaching forgiveness through baptism rather than making sacrifices only increased the distance between John and organised religion. John saw himself as a precursor to Jesus, and his baptism as an anticipation of the baptism of Christ with the Holy Spirit.

John called for repentance based on the broad principles of the Jewish Law, rather than narrow concerns. He was unimpressed by racial or national identity.

Among those drawn to John was Jesus, whom John baptised in the River Jordan. Only in Luke’s Gospel do they work together for a while as members of the same renewal movement in which Jesus meets his first followers. John’s initial expectations of Jesus were disappointed. John wanted to see great judgement rather than teachings about salvation and forgiveness. After his imprisonment by Herod, John even went so far as to send disciples to Jesus to ask him directly whether he was the Messiah.

Jesus had no doubt as to the importance of John, his ministry marked a transition between the old age and the new. For Jesus, John the Baptist was the greatest prophet—perhaps even Elijah whose return would herald the Lord’s coming.

John later taught in the region of Galilee where he was arrested by Herod Antipas and the executed for publicly criticizing Herod’s marriage to his sister-in-law. John prepared the way for Jesus by paying the ultimate price for speaking against the authorities. Paul was later to meet disciples of John the Baptist in Ephesus.

Today's final verses use the moment of Jesus' own baptism to depict his unique, unmistakable identity. Note that the miraculous moment of identification does not occur when Jesus comes out of the water. It occurs after the fact, when Jesus is "praying." In Luke's gospel, the most revealing and empowering moments in Jesus' ministry occur during times of prayer (Luke 6:12; 9:18, 28; 22:41-42). During this moment of prayer, Jesus receives the Holy Spirit, the gift that marks the beginning of his messianic, Spirit-filled public ministry.

The uniqueness of this moment is further underlined by the image this Spirit takes; it is not tongues of fire that descend upon the newly baptized Jesus, but a bodily form "like a dove." This is typical of Luke wanting to show the reality of the spiritual experience. Charles Royden

Prayers for Sunday

Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, you proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit. Grant that all who are baptized into his name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Saviour, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, One God, in glory everlasting. Amen. --After The Book of Common Prayer

A Prayer of the Ancient Church: Come, O Holy Spirit, come! Come like Holy Fire and burn with us. Come like Holy Wind and cleanse us. Come like Holy Light and lead us. Come as Holy Truth and teach us. Come as Holy Love and enfold us. Come as Holy Power and enable us. Come as Abundant Life and Fill us, Convert us, Consecrate us, Until we are wholly thine. Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant you a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly. May God enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe. Ephesians 1:17-19a

Hymns for Sunday

All hail the power, Be still, All earth was dark, Breathe on me breath of God, Spirit of God unseen as the wind,