Readings for the Baptism of Our Lord

Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:15-22

Every year during the season of Epiphany we celebrate Jesus’ baptism by John at the Jordan River. What is the significance of this event, and what does it tell us about our own baptism into Christ? One striking feature of Luke’s Gospel is the bit of information he relays just prior to Jesus’ baptism – that John was thrown into prison for his faithfulness to God. This is Luke’s way of reminding the reader about a paradoxical truth: the One on whom God’s favor rests will suffer on account of his faithful service. If the wisemen’s arrival last week revealed Jesus as Savior of the Nations, this baptism reveals Jesus as our Suffering Savior (Lk 3).

So what does this say about our baptism? Paul explores that question in the epistle reading. He says that -by his death- Christ has broken sin’s stranglehold on humanity, and by his resurrection he has opened up a new pathway of righteousness as we are guided by the Holy Spirit. God effects this change in the lives of individual believers as we are united with Jesus in our baptism. Such a profound and gracious spiritual transformation renders the idea of “casual sinning” an unthinkable bit of nonsense (Rm 6).

The Old Testament reading is filled with affection and comfort for God’s people. Initially, it was spoken to Israel as an assurance that the LORD had not abandoned her. But we see its true fulfillment in the way Jesus was exalted by his Father after passing through water (baptism) and fire (cross), rising victoriously from his grave. So He will do for us! (Is 43)