The Living Water of Baptism
HW in HI
based on Mat 3:13-17
If we look around the church this morning, we can see that weve moved from the
Christmas season, sometimes called Christmastide, to Epiphany. Epiphany is the season of
light. In Advent we heard that the people who live in darkness have seen a great light.
And this is it: The Light of Christ.
Our Gospel lesson this morning returns to John the Baptist. We find John pretty much
where we left him in Advent:
O wearing camels hair O eating locusts & honey in the wilderness O baptizing
people in the River Jordan
Then Jesus shows up. You know, a lot of the time, when Jesus shows up, everything
changes. We can imagine a hush of silence falling over the crowd. And John the Baptist
then looks up and sees Jesus. Hes confused. He says, I need to be baptized by
you. And do you come to me? Hey Jesus, youre the Messiah, Im the
prophet. What are you doing here? But Jesus answers John that this is right the
right thing for John to do is to baptize him. And John does baptize Jesus. But things dont
go back to normal. Instead, the Spirit of God descends upon Jesus like a dove. And a voice
says, This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
How many here are familiar with the story of Jesus baptism? It seems like a story
weve heard so many times, that when we hear it again, we really dont stop to
think about it.
I think that for Jesus, Its a little like his first day on the job, after
extensive training. Let me explain. I have an MBA. My first job was like more training.
But then I took a job as a management consultant for a big accounting firm. I remember my
first day. I had no idea whether or not I could do the job. I was intimidated. (Scared.) I
think the first day of college is like that. And probably the first day in the military.
Its sort of a queasy feeling in the pit of your stomach, that maybe you arent
This morning I find myself wondering whether Jesus might have had that same queasy
feeling. He is now a grown man, and tradition has it that he is about 30 years old at the
beginning of his ministry. He spent his childhood learning the Torah and praying, and it
is believed that he spent his early adult years working to support his mother and brothers
and sisters. And of course he also spent this time praying and listening to God. And now
he is ready to do Gods work. First, he goes to get baptized. Probably he is queasy
in the pit of his stomach. What if John refuses to baptize him? What if someone says hes
Well, John does baptize Jesus. And then the most remarkable thing happens: O the Spirit
of God descends upon him like a dove. O A voice from heaven announces, This is my
Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.
We cant really know whether or not Jesus was in great need of some sign from God.
But it must have been wonderful. It must have been a whole lot better than that first day
at work, when your boss says, Good job!
Baptism has become one of two great sacraments in the church. Does anyone know what the
other one is? (Communion.) If you grew up in the church, you probably heard that a
An outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.
But what does that mean? Or more importantly: Why should we care? So far as I know,
Jesus never baptized a single soul.
I think the answer is, at least partly, that with Jesus baptism, everything
changed. We just celebrated his birth. We had huge parties all over the world for him. But
we forget that at the time he was born there were no huge parties. There were some
shepherds, some angels and magi. But no big parties. Most of the people in fact
just about everyone had no idea that he was the messiah.
Once Jesus was baptized, it wasnt just baptism anymore. Once Jesus was baptized,
the water wasnt just water anymore. Once Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit got
involved. And the water of baptism became a holy thing, a living thing. With Jesus
baptism, baptism became a sacrament with which to be reckoned.
With John, baptism had to do with be cleansed of sins. And so it does. But with Jesus,
baptism became more. With Jesus, baptism became a place to die to the old you, and be born
anew. With Christ, we emerge from the waters of baptism reborn. We turn away from what
was, and we turn to Christ. We turn to life. We turn to joy. We turn to a God that calls
and does not turn away. The water of baptism is the living water, because our God is a
Inside every human being is that feeling of longing, that feeling of desire for .....
something. I once met a young woman who came to talk about being baptized. I asked what
she believed about God. She said she could only believe in something. We are born knowing
there is something. Some reason. Some answer. It wasnt time for her to be baptized.
She had no idea who Jesus was, and God played no role in her life. It wasnt time for
her to say, Okay, Im turning my life over to you. You are the answer. Bring on
the living water of baptism. Let me die to my old self and be reborn with you.
In this font is the living water. It is not alive because a priest put it there. It is
not alive even because we can ask God to bless it.
There was a woman at a well, a Samaritan woman. And Jesus told her, If you drink
this water, youll get thirsty again. If you drink the water I give you, you will
never be thirsty again. Jesus was talking about the living water. The baptismal
water is alive, because with it we are baptized in Jesus. We become alive in Christ.
Once Jesus was baptized, the water was never the same again. When we are baptized in
it, that which we long for is given to us: a life with God. Amen.