1 Epiphany
Jesus' Baptism and Ours

The Rev. Dr. Winfred B. Vergara
Luke 3:15-17,21-22

First of all I wish to greet each one of you a belated Happy New Year. In this year 2010, may we continue to turn our eyes on Jesus, who alone can truly answers our deepest needs, who alone can truly mend our broken hearts, who alone can wipe the tears from our eyes, and who alone can give us abundant life. In the midst of changes and uncertainties of the times, we can be sure that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. His love, his faithfulness and his mercies never change. They are new every morning---and this is the Day that the Lord has made.

The Gospel this morning tells us about the Baptism of Jesus. In Luke 3:21-22 it says, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized also. 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 am well pleased.”

What is the significance of Jesus’ baptism to us? Let me share with you three meanings of Jesus baptism to us, especially as we live our lives as Christians in this time and age.

1. First, the baptism of Jesus is a revelation that Jesus was indeed the only begotten Son of God.

We have seen and believed that the birth of Jesus which we celebrated last Christmas was the miracle of the incarnation. It was the fulfillment of the prophecy that “unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

The baptism of Jesus reinforced the evidences of our faith with this revelation or manifestation, which we call Epiphany. In the Baptism of Jesus, the heavens opened and the voice of God was heard---manifesting that Jesus is the Son of God. It is not just a presumption; it is a revelation.

Someone once asked, “What is the difference between presumption and revelation?” A few months ago, I went back to visit our former place in California. Having been in New York for quite a while, where the streets are narrow, I really missed driving in California. The highways are great and the lanes are wide. I was enjoying my driving when a police car came and the traffic cop motioned me to pull over. Oh, oh. As I pulled over, the cop came and said, “Good morning, Sir.” I immediately said, “Officer, I believe I am not over speeding.” The officer said, “That is your presumption. But this is the revelation”---he showed me my speed from his portable radar. I could insist on my presumption but I could not argue against a revelation.

The baptism of Jesus is not a presumption, but a revelation that He is the Son of God. Jesus Himself would claim his birthright as the Son of God when he said in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten son that whosoever would believe in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” The baptism of Jesus was part of the series of revelations that ultimately led to his crucifixion, his death and resurrection.

2. The Baptism of Jesus inaugurated his public ministry.

Shortly after his baptism, Jesus was led by the Spirit in order to be tested by the devil in the wilderness. Jesus triumphed against all temptations and returned to minister in God’s power. He went about Galilee healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, giving freedom to the oppressed, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.

John, the Baptist spoke of Jesus: “I baptize with water, but He baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” The baptism from Jesus was not only the cleansing from sin but the power to overcome the world, the devil and the flesh. And when Jesus sets you free---you are free indeed. 

3. The baptism of Jesus empowers us in our ministry

We, who are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, shares in this ministry of Jesus because we are the Body of Christ. We are a missionary church because we have a missionary Christ. God the Father sent Jesus Christ on a mission; and in turn Christ sends the Church on a mission. Christ inaugurated the kingdom of God on earth; the Church is called to continue the building of the kingdom of God in the hearts and minds of people in the world.

I was baptized when I was an infant, so I could not really remember if there was any revelation in my own baptism. Then I was confirmed when I was seven years old and the only thing I remember was that the bishop was laying on hands on every child that he confirmed. It was memorable but I was too young to understand it.

My own revelation happened when I served as a missionary priest in Singapore, and an elderly Chinese gave me a name in Mandarin. He said, “Fr. Fred, your name as derived from your baptized name of Wenifredo should be Wei Hong Tao" which means, "to enlarge, to magnify or to glorify the Way."

It dawned on me that that is my call and the call of every Christian is “to enlarge, to magnify and to glorify the Way.” What is the way or who is the Way? None other than Jesus Christ. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”  This is the call of John the Baptist when he said, “I must decrease; Jesus must increase.” And this is our common ministry.

We are all called to testify, to bear witness to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. We are called to magnify and glorify Jesus, the Way, in the life that we lead and in the relationships that we create. We are called to proclaim this revelation to the end that the whole world may know Jesus. May we be found faithful to this call? Amen.