Christ is baptized! In the Jordan!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The ministry of the Forerunner and Baptist John was one of preparation. He was sent ahead by the hand of God to soften up the hardened hearts of those who would soon encounter the divine invasion. And, his message was simple: “’Repent . . ., for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” (Mt. 3:1-12).
This is the very same message of our Lord Who continues the divine mission inaugurated before the foundation of the world. He demonstrates that He and John share a unified mission and message, that there is divine continuity between the Old and the New Covenants. The divine imperative to “’Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” is the same with but one exception: that which John ever pointed to ahead is now front and center and eternally present in Jesus of Nazareth. The hoped for, longed for, promised Kingdom to come is now here . . . in the flesh of Jesus Christ, the Messiah prophesied from of old, the Son of God, the Son of the New Eve:
And the Lord God said unto the serpent, . . . ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel’ (Gn. 3:15).
And, again, by the voice of the Prophet Isaiah:
“[B]y way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, in Galilee of the nations: The people that walked in darkness have seen a great Light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the Light shined (Is. 9:1-2).
The Kingdom of Heaven’s Light is now come because the King Who is
Light of Light, true God of true, God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father; by Whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and [has become] Man (Nicene Creed).
The King has come. The King is come. The King will come. And with Him is His Kingdom. For a king cannot be without a kingdom nor a kingdom without a king! Where the King of Heaven is, there, my beloved, is the Kingdom of Heaven! “’Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” This is the Good News of God. This is the Gospel – the Kingdom of God (Mt. 4:23). Do not tarry. Do not dawdle. Do not lollygag. The reality of the Kingdom is not ho-hum or to be taken lightly. Christ God with His holy and heavenly fire is now present here in this sacred assembly – the King in His Kingdom is here sitting on His dread throne. And how we approach Him has eternal consequences. Do we repent of our sins or do we continue in them? Do we lay them aside for His sake and His Kingdom, or do we embrace them and forfeit His Kingdom for all eternity? “’Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” The message is a simple one, but doing repentance and being repentant is difficult work!
“’[T]he people who sat in darkness saw a great Light; and to them that sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has sprung up.’” Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Light of the world enveloped in the darkness of death and sin. He is the Sun of Righteousness risen above the horizon of this old, sin-darkened world with healing in His wings (Ma. 4:2). “’I AM the Light of the world,’” our Lord boldly declares, and promises, “’He who follows Me [Who is the Light] shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of Life’” (Jn. 8:12). He urges us,
‘Walk while you have the Light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the Light, believe in the Light, that you may become sons of the Light’ (Jn. 12:35).
The Light of Jesus Christ arouses us and awakens us to the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us not be like those who slumber and doze in the night, lulled to sleep by its darkness and promise that all is well. The Light of Christ God has risen upon us (Ep. 5:14)! We have been made sons of the light and sons of the day, not because of anything we have done, but solely because the grace of God in the flesh of the King of Light has appeared for us benighted sinners and has called us out of our darkness into His marvelous Light (1 Th. 5:4-5; Ts. 2:11; 1 Pe. 2:9). Why do we treat these holy truths so lightly? “’Repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” According to His mercy has our God saved us – and only because of that! He has done so “through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, Whom He poured out upon us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour” (Ts. 3:4-6). We who are impoverished by our shackles to this world have now been made rich by the grace and the loving kindness of our God, so “that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of Eternal Life” (Ts. 3:7). If we have Jesus Christ for our Light, how can we continue to walk in darkness? Why would we prefer our sins and passions to the gifts of His Holy Spirit and His transfiguring grace? The Apostle elsewhere tells us it’s not possible for us to be servants of the kingdom of darkness as well as the Kingdom of Light (1 Jn. 1:6; 2:8-11). The two are incompatible. Even our Lord has shown us that light (Mt. 6:24; Lk. 6:13)! By His Incarnation, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and [transferred] us into [His Kingdom of Light and love].” Thus, by His grace and mercy and love for mankind, we have been “qualified,” says the Apostle, “to be partakers – not only of His divine nature – but of the inheritance of the saints in Light” (Co. 1:12-14).
“’Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’” Repentance is not simply or merely how we enter into the Kingdom of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, it is how we remain in its Light as “we . . . complete the remaining time of our life in peace and repentance” (Litany of Supplication). We repent because “we have seen the true Light” which is Christ Himself our King and our God, and because “we have received the heavenly Spirit” (Post-Communion Troparion). It is here in this holy Body of Christ the Light we see the light of God (Ps. 35 :9). The Kingdom for which we pray to come in the Our Father is here now, made truly present to us and in us as we eat and drink of Him Who is the true Light that enlightens every soul (Jn. 1:9). The light of His life shines in the darkness of this old world and His light is not overcome by sin, death, or the devil (Jn. 1:4, 5). Repentance – turning around from our sin, our death, and our darkness towards God Who is our Light and our salvation (Ps. 26 :1) – repentance is not only the key to the Kingdom that opens up Paradise, but it is how we stay in the Kingdom until the Second Coming. Repentance is the offering up of ourselves to God as a living sacrifice and whole burnt offering (Rm. 12:1-2). Repentance is the joy of Christians for “a broken and contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 50 :12, 17).
When our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ stepped into the waters of the Jordan to be baptized, though He had no sin to confess or to repent of, He nonetheless initiated a new creation. His Light filled those waters with the Light of His divinity and grace. When He entered as divine Light into “’the region and shadow of death,’” His Light disbursed the gloom and sadness of sin, death, and Hell; it shattered the darkness where demons dwell, and He began to create anew as of old, when “in the beginning” with the Father and the Holy Spirit He
created the Heaven and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night (Gn. 1:1-5).
In Christ God, all things are being created anew. The old is passing away; “behold, all things have become new” (1 Cr. 7:31; 2 Cr. 5:17; 1 Jn. 2:17). Even we who have seen the Light of Christ and abide in His Light, even we are being re-created in His image and transfigured in His Light, pierced by His Light so that His Light is in us and His majesty shines through us. What truly matters, says St. Paul, is the “new creation” in Jesus Christ our Lord (Ga. 6:15). It is the new creation of His Kingdom which is being made ours through repentance.
Arise, shine, for thy Light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee! . . . [T]he Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting Light, and thy God thy glory. . . . [T]he Lord shall be thine everlasting Light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended (Is. 49:5-12; 60:1-22).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Christ is baptized! In the Jordan!