Sunday, January 8, 2018
After the 400 Years of Silence
The context of the text
Have you ever wondered what happened between the Old and New Testaments? What happened between the last page of the Book of Malachi and the first page of the Gospel of Matthew? How many years have passed between the two testaments? About 400 years and what exactly happened during these 400 years?
Let's do some history here. The Babylonian empire invaded Judah, and the Israelites were forced out of their destroyed homeland (also known as the Babylonian Exile or Captivity). Years passed, people returned to Palestine to rebuild their homes. Then, the Jewish homeland fell to the Persians, then to the Greek, then to the Egyptians, and finally to the Romans. During these times, there was no divine revelation or even prophets to give them a message from God. This is why we call these years, the 400 years of silence, because we find no evidence of divine intervention.
Let me ask you this. How would you feel if you were one of the people lived during the 400 years of silence? You are in a desperate need of divine intervention but you hear nothing no matter how long you wait. You would feel discouraged, devastated, and despaired, right? Just imagine how despaired they might have been. No sign of hope for 400 years. All of His promises have seemed to be washed away. You can imagine them feeling the weight of waiting endlessly.
And the world is now something less than what God intended. You see evil everywhere. You see people without food. You see people hurting other people. War, poverty, inequality, injustice, and so forth.
Then, a voice crying in the wilderness broke the 400 years of silence. It is the voice of John the Baptist. John the Baptist is calling people to repent for the kingdom of God has come near. There is a multitude of people who are going to John. Among them was Jesus. God sent us a son who became a man, one man among us, that he might do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Now, let’s look at what happened at Jesus’ baptism and see what our baptism is supposed to mean.
1. Baptism means God’s affirmation
God tells us who Jesus is in this passage when Jesus was baptized. God tells, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." This is what happens at baptism. God affirms you as a new person in Christ. God acknowledges you as His own child and Himself as your own father. You are incorporated into God’s salvific plan. God includes you in His family. God takes delight in what you have become in Christ.
If you are in Christ and if you have embraced Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God delights in you, just like He delights in His Son for we have become brothers and sisters in Christ who form the body of Christ, the church of God.
2. Baptism means God’s provision
He was filled above measure with the Spirit. The Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove. We have to remember that God not only came to us but also became one of us. Christ is fully human at this point and Christ in his humanity had to depend on the Holy Spirit. Although Christ is both fully divine and fully human, he had to depend on God for his ministry.
In other words, we are not perfect and we have flaws and shortcoming. But God is willing to use our weaknesses to display His glory. When you are baptized, you are promising to trust God, not relying on your own understanding just like how Jesus’ baptism truly speaks of his humility. He is not relying on his own understanding or his own abilities but on the Spirit of God. Likewise, we are called to submit ourselves to God and let God take full control over our lives. Remember, God does not call the qualified but He qualifies the called. Receive the Holy Spirit and you will experience amazing things that God will do through you.
This is where we come to know God better. Unless we give God 100% of our trust, we won’t come to experience His provision and providence. By giving all that we are and by placing our hope and trust in God, we come to experience how God provides for us. That is what baptism supposedly mean. It is our promise to live like Christ-depend not on ourselves but on God-and God’s promise to be with us to help us, guide us, and provide for us.
3. Baptism means God’s Empowerment
The Gospels say from this point on Jesus was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” He was guided, led, protected, and empowered by the Spirit of God. Jesus then casted out demons, healed the sick, fed the hungry, and raised the dead. How did he do all these things in a way that nobody could? Because he was empowered by the Spirit of God.
It is the same for us. God promises us that He will do great things through us at the moment of baptism and as long as we continually abide in Christ by faith. Now in Christ means that we are obedient to Christ through our love and faith for God. Jesus Christ’s life is manifested through our lives and God is the One seen in our lives. We are dead to ourselves and alive in Christ. That is how we come to experience the power of God by emptying ourselves as Christ did.
This is clear from today’s reading that God has anointed, appointed and equipped Christ for ministry. If you are baptized, it means
- that God has anointed you as God’s beloved child,
- that God has appointed you to live for a higher calling,
- and that God has equipped you to partake in God’s ministry.
And I have to talk about the next passage. It is very important for it is the first thing that Jesus did after his baptism. Do you know what happened right after Jesus was baptized? He was tempted by Satan. Imagine this. He has waited 30 years, and now he is ready to do God’s ministry. He is feeling great, being filled with the Spirit, and being empowered by the power of God. He is ready to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. But the first thing that Jesus did after his baptism was to go into the wilderness to be tempted. And remember, he was led by the Spirit. Remember this. He was led by the Spirit. This means that Jesus can overcome Satan's temptations because the Spirit of God was there with him.
In his temptations, Satan was not testing Jesus’ ability but was questioning Jesus’ identity. The first two temptations begins with a premise: “If you are the Son of God.” It was not about what Jesus can do. Rather, it was all about how Christ identifies himself. Satan wanted Jesus to doubt his identity in God. Now, Jesus’ dilemma is: Will he misuse the power of God or will he rely on God?
Jesus could have taken control. Had he baptized, the Spirit descended like a dove, and the heavenly voice called him. However, it is not all about what you can do in God but who you are in God. We read later in the text that he can make bread to feed not only himself but also more than 5,000 people. Instead, he gave up all control and chose to trust God. Because Jesus was baptized, received the Spirit, and empowered by God, Jesus didn’t have to prove anything to Satan but only to God-he did so by humbly giving God all control.
We are called to do the same. We are not called to misuse the name of God or the power of God according to our desires but we are to submit to Him. That is who we are. Although we have our own ways to resolve issues and answer questions, we are to trust God and follow His way. That is what our baptism is supposed to do to us: make us dependent on God. Remember your baptism and remember who you are and what you are called to do. Remember, we are new creatures in God. God affirms our new identity in Christ. God fills us with His Spirit. And God empowers us to partake in His ministry.
Now, God is calling you to be anointed and be accepted into the family of God. God is calling you to be appointed to live for a higher calling then your ego. God is calling you to be empowered to partake in His ministry. God is inviting you at this moment. If you feel convicted to be incorporated into His family, to be used by God, and to be filled with the Spirit, I invite you to stay after worship. Our prayer team and I will be with you to pray for you and with you. We will have a trialogue: you, us, and God, and discover what great things God has in store for you.