The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ
1st Reading: Isaiah 43:1-7
The portion of the book of Isaiah which begins at chapter 40 (often referred to as “Second Isaiah”) are words spoken by a prophet near the end of the exile of Jews in Babylon, preaching hope and the expectation that the time of exile is about to come to an end. In our reading this morning, God declares that he will save his people because he loves them. Israel is a people like no other people for God. And yet, the image of drawing people from all four directions of the compass may indicate that Isaiah expects there will be an expansion of “everyone who is called by my name.” This would be in line with other passages in Second Isaiah.
43:1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you. 4 Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; 6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,” and to the south, “Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth—7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
Psalm 29 is a song of praise. Its setting is a council of heavenly beings. The word “gods” in the first line is misleading. In Hebrew the actual term is “sons of god,” and most scholars today translate it as “heavenly beings,” implying angels. Psalm 29 shares many characteristics with a Canaanite hymn to their “storm god.” This psalm is probably an appropriation of that hymn, but also a refutation. Israel’s God is God alone. The voice of God on the waters echoes our first reading, and anticipates our gospel reading.
1 Ascribe to the Lord, you gods, *
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his Name; *
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord is upon the waters;
the God of glory thunders; *
the Lord is upon the mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is a powerful voice; *
the voice of the Lord is a voice of splendor.
5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedar trees; *
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon;
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, *
and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord splits the flames of fire;
the voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; *
the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
8 The voice of the Lord makes the oak trees writhe *
and strips the forests bare.
9 And in the temple of the Lord *
all are crying, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned above the flood; *
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.
11 The Lord shall give strength to his people; *
2nd Reading: Acts of the Apostles 8:14-17
The deacon Philip’s mission to Samaria (Acts 8:1-13) has borne fruit. Now the question for the apostles is, “How should we respond?” They send two of their number and they facilitate the Samaritan converts’ reception of the Holy Spirit. One of the great significances of this little passage is that this is the first time in the record that non-Jews are accepted into the Christian community. Granted, they are cousins of the Jews, but they had been clearly excluded under the Law.
8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit 16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). 17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Gospel Reading: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
Matthew, Mark and Luke all tell the story of Jesus’ baptism (and John alludes to it). Among them, Luke seems especially sensitive to the relationship between John and Jesus. Jesus’ baptism is mentioned without mention of John, indeed Luke has already told of his arrest and imprisonment (in the verses omitted this morning). The descent of the Spirit on Jesus is different in Luke as well. It occurs while Jesus is in prayer after the baptism. The importance of Jesus’ life of prayer will be uniquely important throughout Luke.
3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are by Epiphany ESources, E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com , copyright © 2018. All rights reserved. Permission is given to copy for group study with this attribution. Inserts are available for congregational use. For information, visit our website.