Christ is baptized! In the Jordan!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. Paul says this to the Corinthians:
I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; . . . to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win the Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, . . .; to those who are without the Law, as without the Law . . .; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the Gospel’s sake, that I may be a partaker of it with you (1 Cr. 9:19-23).
The Apostle shares with us not only his motive for what he does, but he shares with us his methodology as well, that is, how and what he does in order to bring the Good News of God to bear upon all men in the hope that by doing so he may “save some.” He is not a chameleon changing form and shape and color because he has no clue who he is or what he is or what he believes. In fact, he makes it clear that when he becomes like those who are without Law that he himself, however, is not lawless, but is rather “under Law toward Christ,” that he might win these souls to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, like his Lord, humbles himself and becomes a bondservant, taking on the likeness of those to whom he ministers the saving Word of God all in an effort to “save some” from sin, death, and Hell (Pp. 2:5-11). Going to great lengths, he assures his beloved Corinthians in his Second Epistle to them that he is without doubt beside himself for their sake all “for the love of Christ.” “For the love of Christ constrains [compels] us,” he says (2 Cr. 5:13-14). This, beloved, is what wins the lost of this world: the love of God and for the Gospel of His Son! This is the apostolic motivation and methodology as one sent by God out into the world so loved by God (Jn. 3:16-17). This is the apostolic missionary principle and the evangelical way which we are called to imitate ourselves as those who have been
delivered . . . from the power of darkness and conveyed [transferred] . . . into the Kingdom of the Son of [the Father’s] love, in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins (Co. 1:13-14).
This is the very thing we heard tonight on the Eve of our Lord’s holy Theophany: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, . . . our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, . . . gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” In no uncertain terms, we are assured that it is “the kindness and the love of God toward man” that compels God to be “incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and [become] Man” (Nicene Creed; 1 Jn. 4:9). For our God is a “merciful God,” “a good God [Who] loves mankind”! It is purely and solely His divine act of mercy by which we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. The Baptizer and Forerunner of our Lord recognized full well that Jesus has no need for his baptism. In fact, it is John who confesses his need to be baptized by Jesus! But, the holy, pure, and sinless Lamb of God and Lover of mankind becomes all things to all men that He might save all those who “’believe and are baptized’” (Mt. 3:13-17; Mk. 16:16; Jn. 1:29,36; 1 Pe. 1:19-21).
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood,” says St. Paul, “He Himself likewise shared in the same [except without sin], that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hb. 2:14-18; 4:14; 1 Jn. 3:8). This, beloved, is the “meat” of the Gospel of the Incarnation of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ. He comes to redeem sinners. He comes to reclaim sinners from the clutches of Eden’s serpent. He comes to restore sinners to Paradise through His flesh and blood. For our salvation Christ our true God deigns to be born in a cavern and laid in a manger. For our salvation Christ our true God deigns on the eighth day to be circumcised in the flesh. For our salvation Christ our true God deigns to be baptized by John in the Jordan. Love compels. Love constrains. Love learns obedience by suffering and, ultimately, by death, even the death on the Cross, so that, being raised up from the dead He might be “the Author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Pp. 2:8; Hb. 1:9-10; 5:7-10).
This is the One, then, Who having become one of us and one with us in all ways save sin, teaches us to turn our backs on ungodliness and the passions – worldly lusts – and that we should focus our attention and our hope on His “glorious appearing” both in His Nativity as well as His Second Coming when He will come again in the same body with which He once ascended into Heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand. Because of this Jesus Who lived, and died, and rose again in the flesh, we should be about the business of living soberly, that is, with all humility, righteously (for we are created good), and godly (for we are to attain to the likeness of God) “in the present age.” For the fire with which our Lord baptizes – the conflagration of the Holy Spirit – purifies us just as He Himself is pure (1 Jn. 3:3). And, He is doing so, so that we might be “His own special people,” sanctified by His holiness – “made partakers of His divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:4) – and set apart, a people “zealous,” the Apostle says, “for good works.” Like our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ Who is our good God and the Lover of mankind, we, too, are to be full of God’s goodness (Rm. 15:14), drink deeply of His goodness, and to be changed by His goodness so that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is goodness in us made manifest in works of God’s goodness (Ga. 5:22-23). “’Let your light so shine before men,’” says our Lord in His Sermon on the Mount, “’that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven’” (Mt. 5:16). Why? Because, as He Who is “Light from Light,” says, “’You are the light of the world.’” You, beloved, are the City of God. For “’a city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden’” (Nicene Creed; Mt. 5:14; Jn. 1:4-5, 9; 8:12; 12:35-36).
God, in Jesus Christ, has become all things for all men so that all might be saved – even us poor sinners (1 Tm. 2:3-4)!
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
Gn. 1:1-13 Gn. 32:1-10
Ex. 14:15-18, 21-23, 27-29 Ex. 2:5-10
Ex. 15:22-16:1 Jg. 6:36-40
Js. 3:7-8, 15-17 3 Kg. [1 Kg.] 18:30-39
4 Kg. [2 Kg.] 2:6-14 4 Kg. [2 Kg.] 2:19-22
4 Kg. [2 Kg.] 5:9-14 Is. 49:8-15
Ts. 2:11-14; 3:4-7