(Baptism…The Best Day of your life) Mt 3:1-12
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What was the greatest day of your life?
Whatever day or days you may think of, your answer most likely would have to be a day that had some kind of lasting impact. You best day is not likely the day your 8th grade basketball team won the championship, or you were picked at random to win a bicycle. More than likely, one of your best days was when a child was born. When you bought or finally paid off your home. The day the doctor said you where cancer free, or the day you retired. Those days where life changers. Yet, after you list your top four or five “best days” they say that the next best days may happen rather randomly and you won’t notice them until they are over. Maybe it was a vacation you took, maybe it was a visit with a a friend. Those days are unexpected and very sweet to remember.
I could not tell you how many people came out to see John the Baptist in the wilderness next to the Jordan river to be baptized, but what I will say is that they had one of the best days of their lives when they did! I will also say that the day you where baptized is one of those great 4 or 5 days in your life also.
They came to John.
How refreshing and different John the Baptist was in his day. Like the first day of vacation, or a wonderful meal when you are very hungry. With John the Baptist, there was no courtyard to navigate and busy streets with vendors and moneychangers. There was no appointment made for a circumcision either. They didn’t worry about bringing a lamb or goat without defect for a sacrifice. There was not annual tax for them to pay for the privilege of coming to see John, and nor did feel the need to really dress up to meet the guy who himself was wearing something very functional. All they needed to bring with them was themselves and something they carried every day with them: The guilt of their sins.
What do I mean by “guilt of their sins”? You could think of it this way. Have you ever meet someone who was insecure and very self-conscience? I’m sure you have, perhaps you feel that way quite often yourself. Normally we see this and we do our best to try and build such a person up, or at least try to get them to relax around us. If possible, we are trying to mask or do away with their insecurity. Being insecure is no fun, and I would say that guilt caused by sin is really a form of insecurity that we have with the Lord.
The crowd coming out to see John the Baptist, these are people who are feeling unworthy, they feel talked about, they felt like a screw up, and if someone like a Pharisee or a Sadducee blames them for something, they readily would have accepted it. These people are not proud, they are not self righteous; if they where proud, they sure wouldn’t have been practicing “alternative religion” out by some dirty river with a guy eating honey from hives and wearing a leather belt! That is for sure.
These people where weighed down by their sins and the guilt it left and John and God’s healing to give them.
One of the beautiful things about John the Baptist was that when he talked, he said a sin was a sin and it was wrong; however, he did give God’s new way of dealing with it: Baptism. “Repent and be Baptized” he said. It was time for God to take it away that guilt.
It was a preliminary message, it was an introduction to the work of Jesus and it was a vital ministry. John would baptize with water and Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and he would baptize with fire when he clears his threshing floor, John preached.
What does that all mean? Are there three baptisms? Well yes and no. There is one baptism with water that washes away your sins and changes you; but I also like to think the there are two other “changes” or “washings" John is talking about that that have little to do with physical water.
An illustration. Let’s say that when you are Baptized it’s like you are given stock in Jesus. Yes. Not stock in a company where you are a part owner and get a dividend at the end of the quarter or year, but a share in the life and work of Jesus with spiritual dividends. When you are baptized you become a part of the family of shareholders in Jesus. Your sins are washed away at your baptism because Jesus says they are, and Jesus accomplished that forgiveness on the cross for you. Everyone that is baptized into Christ and believes in him enjoys that dividend. It wasn’t something you earned or deserved, it was stock given you at your baptism, regardless of your age. Just as an infant can own stock or an old man, the payout is there.
Another dividend of being stockholder is the gift of the Holy Spirit. You might say the Disciples at Pentecost got the most visible distribution of that dividend/baptism when they spoke in tongues and did many miracles in their lives. While that isn’t what we would expect to see in our lives, it’s still true today about us that the Holy Spirit “washes” us and lives in us daily because of Christ. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works in us and strengths us against temptations and many other blessings we may not even be aware of!
But that is not all, as a share holder in Jesus by your baptism, there is coming day when the earth will be “baptized” or cleansed by fire, and on that day too: Judgment day, we will be baptized, we will be changed once and forever and taken to be with the Lord in heaven. That is a big “pay out” day for you and me because of baptism which John alludes to. Baptism makes us “safe” on the last day. What an amazing message John shared with the people then and with us now.
John outlined the new life those who repent and are baptized will enjoy, and that is quite amazing!
This message has never been shared like this before in all Israel! It was very refreshing for the people to hear. The Pharisees put their stock in being children of Abraham and from his blood line. They took stock in being circumcised. They took stock in following the Laws of Moses and other Rabbis they looked up too, and John says that is not how God really works any longer. The people where no under the Law of God but Under his Grace more so than ever before.
I began by asking the question, what is the greatest day of your life? I would say that for the people that where baptized by John the Baptist, I know what their answer would be. It was the day that their sins where washed away in the Jordan river and followed down the river into the dead sea (quite fitting if you stop and think about it).
One of the best day or our lives was the day of our baptisms as well. That wonderful day the Lord made us shareholders and part of that family of believers who enjoy all the benefits of Jesus Christ.
Like the people who came out of that Jordan river, our guilt does not remain and we can walk with our head held high because the great things Jesus has done, by taking away our sins, giving us the gift of his Spirit and one day taking us heaven. How great and refreshing that message is. How prepared for Jesus’ arrival this Christmas that makes us too. Amen.