Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (NRSV)
This is one of those passages that raises more questions than it answers. Why were the people thinking John might be the Messiah? Why is John not worthy to untie his sandals? (Is that a colloquialism?) What would make someone worthy to untie his sandals? Don’t the servants do that? Is John implying he is lower than a servant to Jesus? We know what the baptism of the Holy Spirit is, but what is the baptism with fire? Who gets that? When do we get that? And why did Jesus need to be baptized anyway? Was it for his benefit? For the disciples’/our benefit? Why does Jesus need to clear the threshing floor? Who or what is the wheat and the chaff referring to? Is the granary heaven and the unquenchable fire hell? What makes the fire unquenchable?
Whew! There is a lot I wish I knew! But really, when I get down to it, I think most of those questions are beside the point anyway. The point is that Jesus is God’s beloved Son. And when we are baptized, we are also God’s beloved Sons and Daughters. But the question of which comes first… are we baptized BECAUSE we are God’s beloved Sons and Daughters? Or are we God’s beloved Sons and Daughters because we were baptized?
We can get to the answer with this question: Which was it for Jesus? Was he God’s beloved Son before he was baptized? Of course. That is easy to answer in the affirmative.
So is it the same for us? I can declare with joy and confidence that we are God’s beloved Sons and Daughters before we were baptized and the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of those who were inspired to bring us to the font, or in those who shared their faith with us so we would want to be baptized. I have not doubt that God’s power is working in you. If you haven’t been baptized, what is holding you back? Go for it! God loves you and the Spirit is working in your life. If you have been baptized, whether you were a baby and the Spirit worked through the community around you or whether you were an older child/adult and the Spirit worked through the community around you to make you open to the process… well thanks be to God. It is a cause of rejoicing that we can be like Jesus and be baptized, sprinkled with the water or immersed in it, either way, sustained by the power of the Spirit working in our lives in ways that we can recognize and ways that remain unseen. The power of baptism is both a mystery and is as plain as day. We are connected with Christ through baptism. That’s clear. How does it happen? Well, that is up to God. So that part is the mystery. It is beyond my pay grade, that’s for sure.
At any rate, rejoice and be glad. The Spirit is moving in your life.
Believe it and live.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.