“I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8 ESV).
The baptism of John was a ceremonial washing indicating the removal of sin and a commitment to a new life. John the baptizer was preparing occupied Israel for the coming of the Messiah. His ceremonial anointing is not to be confused with the sacrament of entrance into the Covenant People of God, which was, still, circumcision. The power of this passage, however, is that John is declaring that the One who is coming, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will baptize (anoint for spiritual cleansing and renewal) through the power of the Holy Spirit: a baptism which moves beyond ceremony and rite to an inward washing of conscience, a cleansing of spirit, and a mysterious, yet undeniable, metaphysical transformation unto life everlasting.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit comes upon all who trust and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. And while the liturgical washing has been appropriate to the entrance rite, replacing circumcision, and applied to all of God’s people and their children, the divine power behind the rite is the very power of the Lord Jesus Christ himself. He is the One who baptizes. Without the presence and power of the resurrected and reigning Lord Jesus in religious ceremony—yes, even ceremony that has been mandated by God himself—all symbols and ceremonies are infertile—they cannot truly represent the inward transforming act of God. Therefore, let us all the more pray for the presence and power of the Triune God in our worship services, in our family prayers, and in our own private devotions.
“Lord, send thy Holy Spirit and enliven us to do thy will and to fulfill the Great Commission in our generation.”
This is our Epiphany lesson from John today, a lesson that calls us to pray for the furnace of Jesus’s baptism that gives power to preaching, power to the Sacraments, power to the liturgy of worship, and power to live the Christian life.
First Image: Looking Glass Falls Transylvania County (courtesy NC Tourism Commission).
second Image: Creative Commons.