What is the purpose of Church? Thinking of the physical Church, what is it?
A club? A feel-good place? A change of scenery? A respite from the world? A place where everyone agrees with me? Or perhaps a place of transformation?
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. (Matthew 3:13-15)
When Jesus came to John, he knew that everything was about to change. He knew the time had arrived to repent (turn away) from the life he was living, as a carpenter in Nazareth, and embrace his call as Savior. Jesus went to John to be baptized to show us the way of Baptism.
It is important to remember that the Baptism by John is not the Baptism you and I have had. We have been Baptised into the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and it is through this truth that we are called to live our lives.
Jesus’ Baptism is filled with symbolism. First, when Jesus was baptized it symbolized his own death and resurrection. For in Luke 12:50, Jesus said,
But I have a Baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! Luke 12:50 Then later Matthew 20:17–22 and Luke 18:31–34 reveal that He referred to His death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. This why we say as we bless the water of Baptism,
In it your Son Jesus received the Baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life. (BCP pg. 306)
Second, Jesus symbolically identified Himself with every sinner when He was baptized. For He would bear our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24; 3;18). John’s Baptism symbolized a man’s or woman’s sorrow over his or her sins and the desire to be cleansed from sin. But it did not actually cleanse or forgive sins. The cleansing of sins is not accomplished by immersion into water, the pouring of water over a person, or sprinkling with water; it is accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ and our participation in his sacrifice.
Third, by being baptized, Jesus established the pattern that every believer should be baptized as a symbolic act that they have died to self and became a new person (Romans 6:1-4; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). As St. Paul wrote to the Romans,
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through Baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:3-4)
And Jesus commanded us to continue this practice:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
Baptism symbolizes the doctrinal reality. The Holy Spirit regenerated us (Titus 3:5). We are no longer slaves to sin, and we are now slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:7, 18, 20). Believers are new creatures in Christ.
Fourth, Jesus also affirmed John’s Baptism was a symbol of preparation for the coming of the messianic kingdom over which He would rule as king. John was the forerunner for the coming Messiah, or Christ (Luke 1:17). This affirmed as the fulfillment of the prophesy in the book of Isaiah is restated in Mathews Gospel, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2
By submitting to John’s Baptism, Jesus symbolized His coming ministry as the suffering servant (Isaiah 53) who would die for the sins of the world so that others could become righteous. Thus He “fulfills all righteousness.”
He follows the call of the Father and witnesses to perfect obedience for us to follow.
Fifth, Jesus is Baptized as a witness to the Divine Trinity. Christ’s Baptism remarkably shows all three Persons of the Trinity at the same time: the Son being baptized, the Holy Spirit descending, and the Father speaking from the heavens. In this event, the Father and the Holy Spirit confirm the deity of Christ, and Jesus submits to his Father’s will.
So, how do we live out our Baptism in the light of Jesus’ own witness?
We understand the significance and purpose of Christ's Baptism. We must accept our Baptism as the gift it was. Buried with Christ and rising to new life here in this earthly plane, we can we understand the significance and purpose of a believer's Baptism.
We have been transformed and are being transformed into the likeness of Christ. The Church is our spiritual home where we are called to grow and draw closer to our Savior.
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the Baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are
buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his
resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.
Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his
fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in
the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (BCP pg. 306-307)
Celebrant and People
We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith
of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with
us in his eternal priesthood. (BCP pg. 308)
Peace in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†