Rev. Dr. Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras
Mark 1:4-11: the baptism of our Lord
January 10, 2021
Illustration: Baptism, Lost and Found
A drunken man stumbles across a baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river. He proceeds to walk into the water and stand next to the old country preacher. The minister notices the old drunk and says, "Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?"
The drunk looks back and says, "Yes, Preacher: I sure am." So the minister dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up.
"Have you found Jesus?" the preacher asks." No, I didn't!" said the drunk.
The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up, and says, "Now, brother, have you found Jesus?"
"No, I haven't, Reverend."
The preacher now holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, brings him out of the water, and says in exasperation, "Man, have you found Jesus yet?"
The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher, "Are you sure this is where he fell in?"
Maybe the purpose of the minister is to wake the drunken man up. This short story might sound funny, but in essence, it reflects our misunderstanding of the sacrament of holy baptism. I invite you to explore the significance of Jesus' baptism and ours.
The evangelist Mark gives more details on John the Baptist much more than Jesus Christ. Mark compares the baptism of our Lord with John the Baptist. John the Baptist "proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins "(1:4), whereas Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit (1:8). What do these baptisms represent?
In writing about baptism, the evangelist Mark goes out of his way to describe John's unusual clothing. It is not only to show John's poverty, but his clothing signifies his identity and points to his baptism. For a Jewish audience, this detail linked John the Baptist to the prophet Elijah, who wore similar clothing. In 2 Kings 1:8, we read that "They answered him, "A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist." The king said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite." In Matthew's Gospel, our Lord Jesus connects John the Baptist with the prophet Elijah (Matthew 11:11, 14). We understand that John represents the prophets and the law. His baptism has to do with the work of the law. The prophets encouraged people to repent and to follow the law to reconcile with God. The prophets Zachariah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah prophesied about baptism that cleanses the Israelites from their impurity. In this case, the baptism of John the Baptist and our baptism are similar. The big difference in Jesus' baptism is that he baptizes us in the Holy Spirit. According to Jesus' great commission in Matthew 28: 19, we are baptized in the name of the triune God. In the book of Acts, the apostle Paul emphasizes to the believers in the city of Ephesus, who were baptized by John the Baptist, that they need to be baptized in the name of Jesus and to receive the Holy Spirit because John the Baptist directed people to believe in Jesus (Acts 19:1-5).
In our baptism, we die with Christ and rise with him (Romans 6:4). We have the Holy Spirit dwells in us. We no longer need the law to guide us because we have the Holy Spirit to lead us. The Holy Spirit has renewed us in our baptism. The apostle Paul said to Titus 3:5, "He [God] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit." The Holy Spirit plays a significant role in the believer's life because the Holy Spirit intercedes for us before God (Romans 8:26-27).
After the Holy Spirit descended like a dove on Jesus, God the Father declared from heaven that "you are my Son, the beloved; with you, I am well pleased "(v.11). Likewise, in your baptism, God declares that you are a child of God, the beloved. In the letter to the Romans 8:15, the apostle Paul teaches, "you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" The adoption by God is not part of John's baptism. Therefore, my friends, the apostle Paul insists on the baptism by the Holy Spirit so that we will enjoy all the privileges that the holy Trinity bestows on us.
Baptism is not merely ritual practice, but it has a profound meaning for our entire life. In your baptism, God claims you a child of God, sealed by the Holy Spirit. It is the work of God, not the work of a minister or a baptized person. In your baptism, you make a promise, or your parents and godparents made a promise on your behalf to continue to live your life for Christ alone. As the apostle Paul says to the Galatians 3:27, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." In our Lutheran tradition, baptism comes with significant responsibilities
to live among God's faithful people,
to meditate on the word of God and partake in the holy communion, to grow in faith and prayer, to trust God,
proclaim Christ through word and deed,
care for others and the world God made,
and work for justice and peace.
Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled these promises throughout his life. We are called to follow his example. Our baptismal vows affect every aspect of our lives and connect us with all Christians in this world. Because you are a child of God 24/7, you need to live your baptismal vocation 24/7. May the Lord grant you the strength to live your baptismal life faithfully.