Our first lesson comes from the very beginning of the Bible. If we read the Bible from beginning to end, the first thing we encounter is God creating all that is seen and unseen. God took a chaotic, formless void that appears timeless and imposes order and substance and time.
Genesis 1:1-2:4 is orderly, sequential. We see how God creates time itself. All of a sudden, where there once was a continuation of nothing, there is now substance and time. God’s creation has a beginning, a middle, and an end to it’s existence. In the beginning God created. Each act of creation happens with a day that is measured by an evening and then a morning.
At first glance, it may appear that the reason the church has connected this short reading from Genesis with the Baptism of Jesus is because of water. Genesis says “While a wind from God swept over the waters…” And, Jesus enters the Jordon River in order to be baptized by John. True, water is a connection between the two passages. In Genesis it is a water that is formless and chaotic. In the Gospel of Mark, the water flows with a purpose as all rivers do.
But, there are others reasons that Genesis is read in support of the Baptism of Jesus.
Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate. Jesus was a part of the creation process. In the gospel of John, Jesus is described as the Word. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” So, when Genesis says that God said, “Let there be light” Jesus is that Word that creates according to the Father’s will. Jesus is the Word that makes the light and distinguishes it from the darkness.
God created time. God created the evening and the morning sequence that we all live through. As we read through the Old Testament, it is clear that God is aware of time but does not seem to be bound by it. But, when God becomes incarnate in Jesus, for the first time, Jesus is bound by that which he created. Jesus lives and works and moves within the limitations of evening and morning, daylight and night time. In this sense, Jesus is like the rest of humanity that he comes to redeem. When Jesus is baptized, he is baptized in a particular time and at a particular place.
The first chapter of Genesis is a confession of faith. Genesis confesses that God is the one who creates. All of creation exists because of God’s will. And, he declares that His creation is good. Creation is not an accident or the result of a demiurge or because of evil. Creation, as Genesis explains it, is not the result of evolution or the result of humanity’s assistance. Genesis offers a confession of faith about what God did and is capable of doing. As believers, we are asked to trust those words.
When Jesus enters the Jordon River to receive baptism, he is also making a confession of faith. He is confessing his trust in his heavenly Father to go forward with the mission he has been entrusted with. Jesus is confessing his trust in the Holy Spirit to give him the words to say, the ability to heal, and the resolve to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sake of the world.
John’s baptism was for repenting souls. But, Jesus did not need to repent. Jesus is the one we repent to. Jesus’ baptism is the beginning of his earthly ministry. Beginning at the Jordon, he will three and a half years later, redeem us from the grip of sin, death, and the devil, through the cross and the resurrection in Jerusalem. He goes forward with all faith.
To reflect on Jesus’ baptism is to reflect on our own. In God’s infinitely mercy, God chose to use water connected with God Word of promise to create within us a faith, trust, and hope that we cannot easily account for otherwise. Because of our own baptism, God continues to create us anew with His grace and forgiveness. God’s light and love are embedded within us and they shape our imagination and the direction of our lives. Through Holy Baptism, God washes us and binds us to himself.
Our confession of faith is that the God who creates is the God who redeems and is the God who nurtures the faith within us. One God, three persons, expressing one love for us and the world.
All God’s people say…Amen.