John the Baptist knew that he was not God's Messiah (or 'Christ', the promised saviour-king). He had been sent to prepare for his coming - he was on his way. He knew that water baptism was just a symbol; the Messiah would work with the reality of the Holy Spirit. He knew also that the Messiah would have to root out all evil if he was to bring in God's kingdom. But he did not know who the Messiah was.
Jesus knew who he was (see Luke 2:49). He knew that he had to be baptised - not as a sign that he was repenting of his sins, but as a sign that he was identifying with us all in our sinfulness. This was the beginning of his public ministry, which would lead to the cross and to our salvation from sin.
He needed the affirmation of the voice from heaven. God was pleased with his life so far - his ordinary life in the family and community, in which he had done nothing spectacular (apart from the incident recorded in Luke 2). He needed the presence of the Holy Spirit for the work ahead. He needed these things, not just for himself, but for us. We need them too; and when we belong to him, we are given them: we too are God's beloved children, in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
ISSUES AND QUESTIONS
1. What aspects of our every day life give God pleasure? How can we give him more pleasure?
2. What is the good of baptism?
IDEAS FOR MEETINGS
Welcome question: Describe a situation when you felt affirmed.
Worship: you could incorporate the baptism service commission:
Those who are baptized are called to worship and serve God.
Will you continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship,
in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? With the help of God, I will.
Will you persevere in resisting evil,
and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? With the help of God, I will.
Will you proclaim by word and example
the good news of God in Christ? With the help of God, I will.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all people,
loving your neighbour as yourself? With the help of God, I will.
Will you acknowledge Christ's authority over human society,
by prayer for the world and its leaders,
by defending the weak, and by seeking peace and justice? With the help of God, I will.
May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith,
that you may be rooted and grounded in love
and bring forth the fruit of the Spirit. Amen.