John the Baptist

“I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

This past weekend, I had the joy of attending church at Highland Park United Methodist in Dallas, Texas.  I was moving my oldest back to college and always take advantage of attending this church when we visit.  HPUMC is a thriving community of churchgoers, including long timers and college students.  We are always amazed at the outstanding choir and at all the baptisms.  Each time we attend, multiple children are being baptized and welcomed into the church.  As we attended this week, it was a refreshing moment to hear these words from the minister, baptizing each child, five in total.  Certainly a renewal of all our own baptismal vows and a reminder of the responsibility we hold as Christians to raise our children and these newly baptized children up in the word of Christ.

Today’s reading, Matthew 3, highlights a key moment in Jesus’ life on earth.  John the Baptist leads the way:

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[a]

John’s  “baptismal font” is the Jordan River.  He baptizes the people as they confess their sins.  He calls for them to repent.  He continues to preach the word not in a temple but out in the wilderness.  He message is simple, and he is not fancy about this event.  We are told his clothes were made of camel hair.  Yet, he was given such an important job.  He is baptizing the people.

“I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire.

As we move further into the reading, Jesus appears.  John the Baptist believes Jesus should be baptizing him; he is a bit taken aback (as we would be too!).  Yet Jesus asks John to fulfill the scriptures and baptize him.  We all have a vision of these two people standing in the Jordan River.  John about to baptize Jesus.  What a emotional and wonderful moment it must have been.

Continue reading and we find the symbol of the dove.  “…and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

So much meaning is represented in these two verses.  We see the spirit in the vision of a dove and then we hear God praising Jesus and saying he is well pleased.  As we tie together present day baptisms with today’s reading, it gives me peace knowing baptism has given us the gift of repentance.

As I was writing my post, this verse came into my mind.  “Let you light shine before others that they might see your good deeds and give glory to your father who is in heaven”.  It is Matthew 5:16.  Certainly speaks to me as a natural follow on to our own baptisms and discipleship this week.