Today's topic is “From Epiphany to Baptism.” I would like to explore how these two events, Epiphany as represented by the visit of the wise men at Jesus birth which we celebrated last Sunday, and Jesus Baptism, this Sunday's celebration, are related and what they have to do with us, here and now.
Jesus baptism was recorded in all four of the gospel stories. The story in Matthew is almost identical to the one in Mark, which was the earliest written account. The baptism story is the first event of Jesus' life recorded by Mark. Only Matthew tells of the magi, the flight to Egypt and the return to Nazareth. Luke tells a little about the child Jesus before recounting Jesus encounter with John and the Baptism. John goes right from the poetic description of the Word made flesh to John and the baptism.
One meaning of the word epiphany is an appearance or manifestation of a divine being. The visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus’ was an epiphany because it was the first revelation of God as a human in Jesus and the first manifestation of Christ to the gentiles.
These two historical events, birth and baptism, place Jesus in history, with us and like us. Can we prove the authenticity of these events? NO, Not in an objective way. We cannot stand outside of space and time and know God or Jesus in any objective way. The foundation of Christian faith is that God came to live among us in human form. God is manifest, or made flesh, in Jesus. We only know God from the inside, through the human relationship with Jesus.
Matthew’s account of the Baptism is in two parts: John’s objection and the baptism itself. Each is important. Matthew is the only gospel writer to record the reluctance of John to baptize Jesus, though Mark and Luke hint at this when they have John say that he is not worthy to untie the sandals of the one who is coming. Matthew’s is also the only gospel that includes Jesus’ reply to John’s objection. “Let that go, now. This is the way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15).
- Baptized as an infant
- Confirmed as a young adult
- Disciplined by a regular prayer life and Bible study
- Educated in theology
- Ordained as a priest, and
- Sent to serve as a pastor at a local church and overseas as a missionary.
Clearly, though, the baptism of Jesus was a defining MOMENT. It was a moment that was so powerful for him that he could actually SEE the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven to light upon his heart as gently as a dove. It was a moment so powerful that he could hear the actual breath of God speaking to him, saying, “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”