Walking with Jesus: Baptism of Christ

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While ritual cleaning was a common practice, baptism took on a new meaning when Jesus was baptized by his cousin John on the river Jordan.

In today's scripture reading from the book of Acts we are reminded of the radical act of reaching beyond the ethnic traditions to include the 'other' into the family of God.

The scripture lessons for Baptism of Christ Sunday are:

Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17

Rev. Kerry Bart 
Barboursville First United Methodist Church
Western District

Like John the Baptist and many disciples since then, I have wondered Why was it that Jesus needed to receive baptism? After all, isn’t baptism for forgiveness of sins, for incorporation into the Church, the body of Christ? Jesus had no sins to forgive, and Jesus was already as incorporated into the body of Christ as a being could be!

One reason I think Jesus “came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him” was that Jesus was teaching and leading by example: “If you want to be my disciples, follow me. Here’s where to start: start the journey of discipleship with baptism. No one is above it. You’re not so educated or so faithful that you don’t need baptism.”

I think that where Jesus sought baptism is also important. Jesus came from his home in Galilee, about a hundred miles north of Jerusalem, to the place where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea. At 1,400 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place on the surface of the planet. Jesus started his ministry in the lowest place on earth. Think about that. Think about Jesus saying by his actions as well as his words that he was willing to go to the deepest depths to lead humankind to redemption. “You’re not so educated or so faithful that you don’t need baptism, and you’re not so far-removed from God that you are not worthy to receive baptism. I will meet you at the lowest point. That’s where we’ll start. Follow me.”

On September 30, 2019, some two hundred United Methodists from the West Virginia area gathered on the banks of the Jordan River, near where it empties into the Dead Sea. Close to the lowest point on earth, we committed ourselves to following Jesus. Many of us touched the water and remembered our baptisms, and some even received the sacrament of baptism. How appropriate that on our first full day in the Holy Land, we began our “Walking With Jesus” journey at the Jordan River, where Jesus himself was baptized.

Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, thank you. Thank you for putting on flesh and becoming fully human so that we could better follow you. Thank you for meeting us even at our lowest points, for cleansing us of our sins, and for inviting us to follow you on the journey to redemption. We are yours. Amen.