What Do WE Know?
#WhatDoWEKnow is the podcast for January 13, 2019, the Baptism of the Lord. Luke doesn’t even mention water about Jesus’ Baptism. What is he saying? What is that all about? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke #Luke2 #Gospels #Example #Trinity #Epistemology #Capacity
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/13/2019 The Baptism of the Lord.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 2:15-17, 21-22.
How many times have I heard this! “Well, I think God was telling me.” The problem is that he IS telling us and we can know. More on that later.
The word ‘water’ does not appear in this account of Jesus being baptized. In fact, if not for a small phrase, we would hardly know that Jesus was baptized at all. His Birth has chapters written about it in Luke; his death, too. The Gospel of Matthew has four verses, packed with details about why Jesus should be baptized when he is without sin, the Jordan, John, water, the Holy Spirit as a dove, and the voice of God from the heavens. The Gospel of Mark has three verses, John, the Jordan, water, the Holy Spirit as a dove, the voice of God from the heavens.
Luke, on the other hand, has a small phrase about the baptism, “Jesus also had been baptized and he was praying…” That is it. Luke has the event as an event of prayer where the heavens were opened, which is a sign of a new dawn and age. Then, the Holy Spirit descended bodily like a dove. Note that this is where we get the symbolism of the Holy Spirit as a dove. We also have the Holy Spirit descending upon the Son of God as the Father speaks. This is one of the ways we know that when one person of the Holy Trinity acts, all others act as well.
Luke also has what all the others have: a quote which combines verses to very important scriptures that are fulfilled by Christ as the Messiah. The first is Psalm 2, “This is my son, my beloved.” It is a coronation Psalm that was read when kings were anointed to become King of Israel. It includes the notion that the anointing made the earthly kings God’s son: the vice-regent of God on earth. Luke has established clearly that Jesus is God’s son, so this would mean that the baptism announcement here is for our edification. The public is to be told that this 30 year old man is God’s son. In Chapter 4, Jesus will make this announcement in the local synagogue in his hometown.
The second half of the passage comes from Isaiah 42, or what we call Second Isaiah. It is when the theme of the Servant Messiah, Servant King, is presented by Isaiah. This is how we know that the Son of God will be a Servant King, a suffering Messiah, not a tyrant.
The fact that the heavens were opened is highly significant. This is a message from God. This is an event that tells us who Jesus is. From this event, we come to understand what Baptism is and how it defines who we are.
One of the major themes of Luke is prayer. Everyone is praying and singing. Zecharaiah prays and then sings. Mary prays and then sings. Simeon prays and then sings. Jesus is praying, says Luke. He has been baptized and he was in prayer. As he is praying, the heavens were opened and the Lord proclaimed to all who he is and what he was about to do. We know then, that if we want to know who we are and what we should do, we should be people of ardent prayer. Prayer should be a central part of our life: we know what God is saying when prayer is a central and regular part of our life.
Another major theme of Luke’s through the Gospel and Acts is the activity of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit came over Mary. The Spirit arrives at Pentecost. The Spirit moves Peter to speak. The Spirit here descends from heaven in the form of a dove. We are people who believe in the movement of the Holy Spirit. We believe we are able to know what the Holy Spirit is doing and saying to us. We know because this passage of Jesus’ baptism in Luke is all about the Holy Spirit preparing Jesus for his mission out of his baptism. We, as Christ people, we are people who through prayer and watching the way things unfold, know the movement of the Holy Spirit. It isn’t just good things that tell us. We, of all people, should know the movement of God when we see it. Does it look like something God would do? Would God put someone high and mighty in their place, like Paul? Would God move a simple person to do great things, like Mary? Would God use an unlikely source to make big announcements? See shepherds. We are people who know the movement of the Holy Spirit, because we have been baptized and we pray, just like our Lord shows us in this passage.
We know what is what because we have internalized the Scriptures. The words of the Father in this passage point us to two larger passages. We know what he is saying because we know the passages he is quoting. This is how we know Jesus is the Son of God who is the Servant Messiah, as I said. We can put all that together to know in whom we believe in Jesus.
We have been sidetracked by the world that the one true thing is the physical world in which we live. We have been told that things can only be known through the senses with studies and repeatability and proof to us as humans. Yet, we cut off one of the ways that we know things as humans: through our spirit.
There is that voice that says, “do not go there…” like when we watch a scary movie and yell at the screen: “Don’t open THAT door!” There is that sense that our loved one or a person with whom we are close is in harm’s way. There is this knowledge that we are here and there is an eternity out there. These are all things we know without sensory proof. Einstein had all kinds of truths through mind experiments. They were really leaps of faith enlightened by the Spirit. We know these things because we are spiritual beings and we are in the image and likeness of God. The Holy Spirit is telling us. Spirituality, the walk with the Holy Spirit, is a form of knowledge. We KNOW because we have testimony from him.
It is this encounter that prepares Jesus Christ for his journey into the desert, then to proclaim his ministry in the synagogue at home. The encounter is his baptism. It is the archetype for our baptism, our identity, and our mission. We can know these things through this act of God in our lives.
Our baptism is done in the name of the Trinity, like the Son, Jesus Christ, hears the Father, and has the Holy Spirit descend upon him. Jesus is a man of prayer out of his Baptism, and even before. We need to be people of prayer. The descent of the Holy Spirit comes upon us in baptism and we then hear God’s calling for our lives. Jesus has the Dove of the Holy Spirit come upon him and then the announcement that he is the Servant Messiah. Our lives are claimed by God and given a mission and purpose like Jesus in our baptism.
So, we know God through our baptism and a regular prayer life. We know how God works and what he can call us to do. We know things that the Lord alone reveals to us. We know a lot more than what the world wants to accept. So, when we approach our life, our Christian life, then we should act like people who know, not like people who have to excuse their existence. Our example is the Lord Jesus Christ. What he would do with his baptism and spiritual encounter is embrace it, live it, and die for it. I believe he is asking us to do the same. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2018.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian