Preached Online For All Saints King City, Anglican
Diocese of Toronto, Sunday, 10 January, 2020.

Lections for The Baptism of the Lord:  Genesis 1.1-5, Psalm 29, Acts 19.1-7, Mark


‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am
well pleased.’

So says the voice of God at the baptism of Jesus.    What would it mean for God to say the same
thing for each of us?   “This is my son
or daughter; with you I am well pleased”.  

Today I want to think with you about how the baptism
of Jesus makes it possible for God to pleased with us, about how baptism is as
much of an act of creation as is the coming together of the world in Genesis 1,
and what it means for us to live that new creation.

You might remember that in Matthew’s gospel, when
Jesus presents himself at the Jordan, John is just as puzzled and says,
shouldn’t you be baptizing me? 
Jesus’ response is to say “Let is be so now, for it is proper to for us
in this way to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt 3.15).  Mark doesn’t report this conversation, but
the question is worth pursuing before we proceed further.

What did Jesus mean about “righteousness”?  Why was it proper that he should be
baptized?  I think to understand this, I
suggest that we have to imagine Jesus stepping down the muddy bank of the
river, following in the footprints of all those people –  all those sinful people –  who have gone before him to seek
forgiveness.   It’s not that Jesus needed
to become righteous.  Rather, he was
baptized to offer us a new state of being, a re-creation, where we could
become righteous. 

Jesus’ baptism is a moment when we see God’s creative, life-giving power at
work, the same power which we see at the start of Genesis.  Jesus walks into the Jordan in the steps of
human sinners, but he comes out as something new.  Just as the wind, the creative spirit of God,
moved across the formless void in Genesis, so the Spirit comes down on (in
Mark’s Greek, the grammar can even mean into) Jesus.   The same voice of satisfaction is
heard:  in Genesis God saw that the light
was good.  Here the voice says that God
is “well pleased”.   That same creative
power, working out of God’s goodness, is seen in both stories.   Here, as Jesus comes up out of the muddy
Jordan, Mark signals that God has done something wonderful and new.

John hinted at this new thing when he said that
he only baptized people
with water; but Jesus he says “will baptize you with the Holy
Spirit”.  That same creative power that
brought light and goodness out of the void in Genesis, that same creative power
that descends on Jesus in the dove and pronounces Jesus “well pleasing”, that
same creative power made us into new beings in the baptism that we share with
Jesus.    In our liturgy from the BAS, it
says that  we are baptized “by water and
the spirit and so we were “raised to the new life of grace” (BAS p. 160).   Our baptism is thus a continuation of God’s
creative action, made us new people by allowing us to be one with Jesus. 
St. Paul wrote that “If anyone is
in Christ, the new
has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (
2 Cor 5:1-7).

Through our baptism, we become the son
or daughter of God, the beloved, with whom God is well pleased.  Now many of us might think that our baptism
happened long ago in our infancy, and since then  we’ve all done things we’re not proud of.   How can God still be well pleased with

Baptism shows us what God wants for
us.  It’s not a vaccination against sin
and subsequent misdoings, but it is the start of a relationship that we can
grow into.   Baptism is the beginning of
a lifetime of leaning into God, of trusting and depending in the Father’s love
for us, because there are moments in life when we need to trust and depend in the
Father’s love.



Do you remember what happens immediately
after Jesus’ baptism?  Mark says that “
And the Spirit immediately drove him out
into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by
Satan” (Mk 1.12).   How does Satan tempt
Jesus?  In Matthew’s account, every time
Satan tempts Jesus, he starts by sayig “If you are the Son of God …” and
then gives Jesus three opportunities to stop trusting in his Father’s love.   How does Jesus resist Satan?  He resists by relying on the Father’s love
and on the Word of God.  Jesus never falls
into the trap of doubting that he is the son of God.


Whatever we may think
about Satan, I think we can all agree that we are frequently tempted, as Jesus
was.   And what is the greatest
temptation of them all?   To quote the
preacher Timothy Keller, the greatest temptation we face, our greatest
spiritual vulnerability, is to stop believing that we are beloved children of


Keller says, and
rightly so, that we get into trouble when doubt that God loves us, and usually
we get into trouble when we suffer, when bad things happen.    Either we get angry at God because our life
isn’t going according to plan, or we get angry at ourselves, because we decide
that God feels that we must deserve this suffering.  Either way is a failure of trust in God’s
love.  Either way is doubt that God
really did want to create something new in us.


Here’s the thing about
creation.  Humans can be creative, but we
are created.   Despite all the self-help
talk about inventing a new you, we can’t make ourselves new, better
people.  Only God can do that, and that
is what Jesus meant when he said to John that he had to “fulfil all
righteousness”.   As Timothy Keller
notes, Jesus is the Saviour because only he is able to go down into the Jordan,
following all those muddy sinner’s footprints, and he is able to take those
sins on himself because he is totally pleasing to God.  When Jesus came up out of the Jordan, he gave
that life to us. John says at the start of his gospel,
to all who did receive him, to
those who believed in
his name, he gave the right to
children of God (Jn

Today, the Feast of the
Baptism of Jesus, we are reminded that Jesus is a Saviour who opens the door of
God’s creative power to make us all new.  
This day reminds us that in our baptism, we have received the assurance
that we are beloved children of God.  The
challenge of the Christian life is to remember that love, to rely on it, and to
return to it if we miss the path
.  If you have already believed in Jesus, that gift of adoption was always
yours.  If you want to believe, that gift
is there for you.  The only way that gift
can be taken away from us is if we are tempted into thinking that we are not
worthy of it.

0 Responses

  1. Thank you for this. Reminded me of this—
    "If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that it's a bad thing to desire one's good and earnestly hope for enjoyment, it is because it has crept in from the teachings of Immanuel Kant and the ancient Stoics. Certainly, it has no part in the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy has been offered to us. We are far too easily pleased, like an ignorant child who goes on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by an offer of a holiday at the sea." C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York: MacMillan, 1980), 17-18, 3-4. 136
    And Mud, mud, glorious mud!