The text says the people were full of expectations. The Jews had long been filled with expectations, expecting a Messiah. The Biblical prophets had set up expectations that the Messiah would be one that would restore the people to God. Many thought this Messiah would be one to restore the Davidic Kingdom of Israel. That is how they saw their restoration to God. They long had that expectation. It may have been reasonable for their expectation of a king when the prophets spoke; however, as time drew on, their Messianic hopes needed to but had not evolved.
As John came on the scene, the people were still waiting for the Messiah who would lead the nation into a new political and religious reality. The people thought John was the one. John’s preaching and teaching was powerful. He drew crowds of followers and baptized by water a baptism of repentance. He seemed to be one with authority that could have easily been raised up to save them. However, he was not the one.
Both John and Jesus could preach, teach and baptize drawing crowds of disciples to themselves. As the people were filled with expectation and looked to John to fulfill their Messianic hopes, John said, there is “one who is more powerful than I who is coming.”
Last Sunday was Epiphany Sunday when God revealed Jesus to the Gentile Magi. Today is a second Epiphany. The epiphany is that there is something different about Jesus. He is different than John. He is God’s Son. Jesus is the one who is the Messiah who came after John with greater power and authority.
Not only is Jesus’ power different than John; his baptism is. Jesus’ baptism was different. We will know they are not the same by how they go about baptizing people. John’s baptism is just with water. Jesus’ baptism is with the Holy Spirit and with fire (think Acts 2). The point John makes seems to be that Jesus will have an awesome power that will be enacted through baptism.
The way Jesus would baptize would be different; still, Jesus was baptized with water. Jesus was baptized with all the others gathered, then He prayed. As Jesus was praying, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in the bodily form like a dove. A voice speaks from Heaven, saying, “You are my Son, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (v. 22).
God’s affirmation of Jesus is the culmination of the Epiphany. God’s voice affirms three things about Jesus: (1) Christ is God’s Son; (2) Christ is loved by God; and (3) God is “well pleased” with Christ. By God’s voice and Spirit, Jesus is affirmed to be the one who is the Messiah and all gathered heard the good news. His baptism and God’s affirmation was a pivotal moment in His life marking the beginning of His ministry. “Jesus’ baptism represents a moment of empowerment by the Holy Spirit and affirmation by God. His baptism represents the beginning of a journey of sacrificial servanthood.”
Perhaps baptism is a pivotal time in our lives when those three affirmations God made of Jesus could also be made about us: “We are God’s children; we are loved by God; and God is well pleased with us.” Let’s claim that affirmation. I want you to repeat after me.
I am a child of God.
I am loved by God.
God is pleased with me.
There is something significant that happens when one decides to follow Jesus. Whether a person is baptized as an infant then affirms their faith by confession or a person is baptized as a youth or adult, there is a pivotal moment in our faith when we begin to pray about our own faith journey. It is a time when we begin our journey of servanthood. Somehow, for some reason, we don’t stop to recognize that God, before sending us out to serve, first claims us and affirms us. We are children of God, loved by God, who please God.
Epiphany celebrates God’s unexpected appearances in our lives. The baptism of Jesus and the revelation to the Magi are Biblical epiphanies. Epiphany is one Sunday, but it is also a season that begins on Epiphany Sunday and runs through the Sunday before Lent. There are often epiphanies in our own lives when God shows up and reveals His power and majesty to us. Those Ah Ha! moments. Those appearances always remind us of God’s unexpected love.
God works in our lives in unexpected ways at pivotal moments in our lives. Pivotal moments are changes in our reality, a new reality. It may be a confession of faith or baptism. It may be divorce, a new relationship, a new baby, children going to school, a new job, an ailing parent, or illness. All mark a new beginning. All are ways in which God can be expected to work in our lives in a new way. That is the unexpected. We often think God will continue to work in the same way God has always worked even as our life changes. The constant is that God is always there and always working. What changes is the way God works in our lives.
Our lives are not the same as they were. We have grown or evolved in some manner. So, we can expect God to work in, with and through us in a new way. When Jesus was baptized, God began Christ’s work and commissioned Him to ministry. This required God to be working through Christ as a servant. Their relationship changed. Christ was God, remains God, but becomes servant. Jesus was God and became a servant of God submitting to baptism. This shift in Jesus’ life was a time of affirmation by God. So too is change in our lives a time for God to affirm us.
New realities require us to grow personally and spiritually. At these times, God affirms that we are children of God, we are loved by God, and we please God. That is the epiphany. This epiphany is a call for us to shift our expectations of God. We can look for God in new unexpected ways and be spurred on to further spiritual growth as we begin to look to God’s working in our lives in a new and different way.
In the past, I have often been disappointed by Christmas. I have expected God to reveal Christ to me in a BIG way. Somehow I wanted to experience God in a new way and see Christ in the world in a new way. This Christmas was no different. I started out wanting some big profound new revelation of Christ at the celebration of His birth. I knew I had been disappointed in the past; so, this year, I decided to let go of my expectation and wait on God. Recently, I was surprised. Having let go of my expectations, I finally had a new revelation. But, the revelation was not of Christ. The revelation was about myself. God revealed to me how much I have grown in the past year, personally, spiritually, and professionally. I was filled with joy that I could see how God was working in my life and how I was responding to God’s leading. The new revelation was of God, but about me. I felt affirmed that God was pleased with me.
In this season of Epiphany, my prayer for you is that you will expect an epiphany, a new revelation of God affirming how you have pleased God.
Let’s claim God’s affirmation one more time. May it be your prayer through the season of Epiphany as you await an epiphany.
I am a child of God.
I am loved by God.
God is pleased with me.