The Gospel of Luke is full of stories of people encountering Jesus, but in chapter three Jesus encounters John the Baptist. Through the gift of baptism, we all encounter Jesus.
Thirty-six years ago I made a decision to follow Jesus. The first place I followed him was into the waters of baptism. Had I been in charge, I might have chosen to do that in June rather than January, or at a church that had a heated baptistry, or–better yet–at a church in the Bahamas. Oh well. Live and learn.
For me, that moment of baptism has always carried the significance of the moment when I became a Christian. While others might point to a prayer they prayed or a feeling they felt, my Christian life has been indelibly marked with January 6, 1984, at about 6:30 pm. And seriously, you people could NOT have sprung for a baptistry heater???
Baptizatus Sum: I Am Baptize
Martin Luther, in moments of doubt or temptation, would write “BAPTIZATUS SUM” across his desk in chalk. Latin for “I am baptized.” For Luther, it reminded him that long ago a decision had been made and his life’s path was altered. That decision could not be undone–he could not become unbaptized.
For me, baptism has always been a reminder that, while I may fail and find myself weak in faith or will, God’s promises never fail. The Bible links God’s promises of forgiveness, the presence of his Holy Spirit, and my life as a disciple to baptism. When I feel like I’ve failed, somewhere on my heart is scrawled the words, “I am baptized!”
Baptism in the Gospel of Luke
I’ll be preaching from the Gospel of Luke in 2020, focusing on the people Jesus encounters. Luke begins with Jesus’ birth and childhood, but our first encounter with the adult Jesus is in his baptism. I will forever consider baptism as my own first encounter with Jesus. That’s exactly how I choose to present that moment in my preaching.
The Bible says much about baptism, and preachers tend to say quite a bit more. But what is said about baptism in the Gospel of Luke? While I pulled in a few other sources, I wanted us to find our place along with the tax collectors, soldiers, and others who were seeking baptism alongside Jesus. Luke’s Gospel seems to be for the downtrodden, the forgotten, and the rejected.
Baptism is for us too.