First Sunday after the Epiphany

The Baptism of Our Lord

The Voice of Authority

During the Season of Epiphany, we celebrate the many in which Jesus revealed his glory to his disciples and to those who observed his life and ministry on the earth. But as we remember, people were not always ready to see the next level of revelation of his glory. There was a time when many of his followers deserted him. Jesus had been teaching about receiving his body and blood through bread and wine. Reading in the Gospel of John:
Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.   (John 6:66-69)
Even today, in many churches, we have confusion about the Holy Communi0n. What stopped the twelve disciples of Jesus from turning away from him? They knew that he had something which they needed. He had the words of eternal life.

There are many voices in this world today. The ones to which we choose to listen have a direct bearing on our lives. Which ones speak the truth? Which ones speak with authority?

The better question might be: “which one is approved by God?” In today’s Gospel, we read:

And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw God’s Spirit descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”   (Matthew 3:16-17)

God, the Father’s approval was on Jesus. He placed his Spirit upon him. The Gospel echoes the prophecy in Isaiah:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;

I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.

He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;

a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.

He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.   (Isaiah 42:1-4)

We need to hear his voice because Jesus has the approval of the Father. But why would he not? Jesus spoke the universe into existence:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.   (John 1:1-3)

Yes. but Jesus gave up his divinity to become one of us. For him to accomplish his ministry on earth he needed both the approval of the Father and the power of the Spirit. At the baptism, the Father gave his support and acceptance of his Son, not because he was the Son, but because he was obedient to the will of the Father. Jesus gained authority from the Father by giving himself completely to the plan of salvation for all humankind. He was obedient to the Father, even to death on a cruel cross. Reading from Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
assuming human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a human,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God exalted him even more highly
and gave him the name
that is above every other name,
so that at the name given to Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:1-11)

Was Jesus faithful to the Father daily? Yes, the testimony of his disciples is clear:

That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.  (Acts 10:34-38)

Jesus spoke with authority because he completely surrendered himself to the Father. As disciples of Jesus, we have also been given a voice of authority, to continue his ministry on earth. We have been given approval and we have been given power, provided that we have fulfilled one very important requirement. Have we surrendered ourselves totally to the will of the Father?

The world needs to hear authoritative voices amid chaos. They need to hear the truth. They need to hear the words of eternal life. They need the message of Jesus Christ. They need his voice. We are his voice today if we have fully surrendered to our Lord and Savior. There is a price to pay for authority. God cannot give us his authority unless he can trust us to use it according to his will. What a great challenge we have! But what a great privilege and honor to speak on his behalf!

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon development, Year A

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