Happy Epiphany in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Epiphany means a manifestation of God to men. In a sense, Christmas was an epiphany, because the shepherds of the field saw the Word made flesh in the Child Jesus. In this way, the Messiah, of whom the Old Testament prophets prophesied, appeared first to the men of the people of Israel, descendants by the blood of Abraham. However, in the church calendar, we name January 6 as the day of the Epiphany, when the Word made flesh was manifested to foreigners, that is, to all nations.
Because the Lord said to his apostles in the last chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, "Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
In the Old Testament, God called the Israelites to be His chosen people with the promise that the Savior of the whole world would be born among them. And when they forgot the covenant and fell into idolatry, the Lord sent His prophets to call them to repentance. In our vacation Bible school this past week, we studied the three prophets, Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist, because John was the last of the prophets specifically sent to the Jews or the descendants of Abraham at that time.
By the law given to Moses, God prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah. When John the Baptist arrived in the Judean wilderness with his message and baptism of repentance from him, he was not imposing on the people a strange new ceremony that they had never heard of. Rather, the Jews had known many different types of Levitical baptisms since the time of Moses.
• The baptism of the priests at their consecration. Any contamination of the body contracted by the priests after their installation, in the daily performance of their duties, especially by the contact of their hands and feet with unclean things, had to be removed by washing these members when they entered the sanctuary.
• If an Israelite had touched the carcass of an animal or carried any part of it, he was considered unclean and had to wash his clothes and his body.
• There was a baptism of those who had recovered from leprosy.
But the most interesting of the Jewish religious washings was the baptism of proselytes, who, after having been instructed in certain parts of the Law, and having made a new profession of their faith, were baptized with water, and the men were of course circumcised. , after which they were considered full-fledged. Israelites.
But John called everyone to make public confession of their sins and receive the rite of purification, not just those who touched something unclean or the proselytes. The Sadducees and Pharisees thought, “" We are the people of God whom He has chosen from all the nations of the earth, and whom He has circumcised; so that we have and observe the Law, we visit the Temple of God in Jerusalem”. But John told them that no one had fulfilled the law of Moses perfectly, because evil desires and thoughts remained in their hearts.
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. But John resisted him, saying: I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me? But Jesus answered, and said to him: Leave now; because we must thus fulfill all justice. Then he left him."
John had known of the existence of the Messiah, either from his mother or by direct revelation, but he did not know him personally. He recognized the Messiah in the person of Jesus, the One who did not sin in any way, and after his question, he obeyed the word of Jesus.
“And Jesus, after he was baptized, then came up out of the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and coming upon him. And behold, a voice from heaven said: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."
The Holy Trinity was revealed in its fullness. There are clues in the Old Testament that there are multiple persons in one divine essence, but clearly here is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Messiah in Hebrew and the Christ in Greek means the Anointed One. In the Old Testament, the kings, prophets, and priests of Israel were anointed with oil on their heads. Jesus was anointed, not with oil, but with water and the Holy Spirit as prophet, king, and priest. At this time he began his public ministry, first as a prophet to proclaim the kingdom of God, but not a kingdom to come, but a kingdom had already arrived. As a priest, he made the perfect sacrifice for the sins of all mankind; and he was exalted as King of kings in his resurrection and ascension to the right hand of almighty God the Father.
Jesus did not need baptism for the forgiveness of sins, but he did it for those who receive the same baptism with water and the Holy Spirit not only receive forgiveness, but also the promise of eternal life through his resurrection. The proselytes were made Israelites by circumcision and washing. The Apostle Paul says in Colossians 2:11: "You are circumcised with the circumcision done without hands." And in verse 12 he explains this: "Buried with him in baptism."
Baptism has replaced circumcision as the seal of God's covenant, because we have a new covenant in the blood of Christ, who fulfilled the old covenant. This spiritual circumcision is not only for Jews, but for all nations, and also when the Scriptures say someone was baptized with his entire family. Also, not just for men, but women too. But, as circumcision is for children, young children and babies are included in the phrase, all nations. In Mark 10: 13-15, Jesus invites little children to come to Him. All human beings, infants, young and old, must be baptized.
As the Old Testament prophets pointed to Jesus Christ, the baptism of John pointed to the baptism of Jesus. Because in Jesus everything was fulfilled and in Jesus the sure promises of God are for you, for me and for the whole world.
May the peace that passes all understanding be with you. Amen.
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