Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Proclaimed in Baptism: Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending January 3, 2010

Purpose: To understand how in Christ, baptism opens heaven to each of us

Scripture Text: Matthew 3:1-5, 11-17 (NRSV)

Matthew 3:1-6, 11-17
(1) In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming,( 2) “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (3) This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
' Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.' ”

(4) Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. (5) Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

(11) “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (12) His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
(13) Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. (14) John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (15) But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (16) And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. (17) And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

I would first like to talk about the place where the baptism of Jesus took place. I think the location can tell us about how important an event this was. I will start with Moses; it was about 15 miles to the east at Mt. Nebo where God showed Moses the Promised Land between the Jordan River and Mt. Neboi. It is also where the “chariot of fire” carried Elijah away to join Moses in glory. Five miles to the west was Jericho, where Joshua fought the battle. Just above Jericho, in the mountain fastness of the Brook Cherith, the ravens had fed Elijah. A little further up, on top of the mountain ridge, was Bethel, where Abraham built an altar, and Jacob had seen the ladder of angels ascending and descending, to which Jesus, just after His own temptation in this same area, referred in His conversation with Nathaniel, as a picture of Himself as the Ladder of Angels. Nearby southward, on the same mountain ridge lays Jerusalem, city of Melchizedek and David. To the south across the Dead Sea, lays the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is where Jesus’ ministry both begins and ends. You can easily see the importance of this area around the Dead Sea and the River Jordan; this is also the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls have been found, possibly left by some followers of John the Baptist.

Although John and Jesus were related and may have seen each other often in their youth, after John had made the decision to live and preach in this remote area, it may have been several years since the two had seen each other. John could have chosen to be a priest like his father, but instead chose to preach a new message, one of repentance and good works, doing what was right in the sight of God and forsaking the past and a life of selfishness.

As we read the scripture passage, I think it is noteworthy that it is Jesus that approaches John; Jesus makes the first move in this relationship. Also notice that it is John's humbleness that allows God's will to be done. The same is true in own lives, Jesus always calls us first, and then it is how we respond to that call, that results in “God's will being done on earth as it in heaven.” It certainly was not necessary for Jesus to be baptized, but it was important for John's ministry and for the anointing that Jesus would receive prior to entering His earthly ministry. It most certainly pleased God.

Baptism is a sacrament, (from Church Latin sacr?mentum vow, from Latin sacr?re to consecrate) it is a consecration of ourselves, a vow, that we will follow the leading of Christ and the Holy Spirit on our lives and it is pleasing to God. Our willingness to humble ourselves and be baptized is what opens up the glories of heaven to us both now, and for all eternity. Take time this week to remember your baptism, you can do that by putting your hand or fingers in some water and touching your head or heart and remembering that it pleases God for you to be obedient.

An Epiphany Blessing of Homes and Chalking the Door- Chalking of the door is a way of marking our homes, usually at the front or main entrance, with sacred signs and symbols as we ask God's blessing upon those who live, work, or visit throughout the coming year. In Exodus, the Israelites marked their doors with blood so that the Lord would pass over their homes; but in this service, we mark our doors with chalk as a sign that we have invited God's presence and blessing into our homes. Follow the link for a complete outline on: Chalking of the Door for Personal or Group Use


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