Epiphany and Christ’s Baptism
The Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3, 13-17)
Long before Christmas had been celebrated, Epiphany was the most important feast day of the Early Church from October to March. At Epiphany 4 events got commemorated together at one day:
2. Christ’s Baptism (by John the Baptist)
3. The Wedding of Kana (Revelation of Christ’s Glory by Making Wine out of Water)
4. Arrival of the Wise Men (Worshipping of Christ, Epiphany of Christ’s Godhead)
First since the fourth century after Christ the “Nativity” is celebrated seperatly at December the 25 and with it taken off from Epiphany. Further, Rome has shifted the commemoration days of “Christ’s Baptism by John the Baptist” and “The Wedding of Kana” to other times of celebration, so that solely “The Feast of the Appearance of the the Godhead of Christ in the World” moved to the center of Epiphany.
There was an objective necessity for the Church to seperate temporally “Nativity” from Christ’s Baptism. In those days heretics claimed, God had adopted Jesus as his Son first at his day of baptism (by John the Baptist) and Jesus had not yet been “The Son of God”, when he was brought forth by Mary. The heretics meant, Jesus had become the “The Son of God” first at his day of baptism by John the Baptist and before he had been solely an ordinary man (brought about by Joseph). Consequently, in the eyes of the heretics Jesus birthday and his day of baptism was the same, therefore the Chruch had to seperate the 2 feasts.
Assumed, Jesus had soley been an ordinary human being (conceived by Joseph), he had never been able to become our Redeemer.
The truth: By a miracle Christ came into the womb of the Virgin Mary. Only the Son of God, who came down from heaven, was able to bear our sinful flesh and with it the whole mankind.
But one questions remains: Why required Jesus John to baptize Him?
Jesus Christ was not a sinner, but the Holy Son of God and therefore he had no need for forgiveness. Jesus had no need to be batized by John, because the baptism by John the Baptist was the proclamation about the person to be baptized: “This man is a sinner, who needs forgiveness and release”, but Jesus was no sinner.
Why wanted Jesus to be baptized, despite of the fact that he was no sinner?
Answer: As Jesus got baptized, he equated with the sinners that means he got the status of a sinner. The Holy One, the Righteous One, the Sinless One got proclaimed about himself: “He is a sinner”. Even if the baptism by John was not sacramental, it came from heaven, that means Jesus actually became attached a label: “SINNER”. “For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.” This “whole” righteousness is not an egoistic Holyness, but perfect love for the human beings, for the sinners. The Pharisee can just imagine one righteous man on earth: he himself. Jesus is literally the opposite of a Pharisee, because he thinks of himself as sinner and gots proclaimed that about himself by baptism. God the Father cannot keep silent in that great moment and calls from above: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased“. Jesus wants to be considered as sinner, in this moment God calls: “This is my beloved Son”. Of course Christ has yet ever loved us, but by baptism he really joined our community. By calling “my beloved Son” God expresses that it was exactly according to his will that Jesus entered the community of the sinners. Behold, the saviour of the sinners comes to us.
It should not be too difficult for us to imitate Jesus, that means to consider ourselves as sinners (or yet???). The attribute “sinner” makes brothers all mankind. We all have one characteristic in common: We are sinners. Even if we believe in Jesus Christ, we remain sinners (it is only that in the believers life the sin is dethroned) and we are not allowed to be arrogant. Besides, the one, in whom we believe, wanted to be in community with the sinners.
Although Chrisitianity is the only true religion, we have no right to reject members of other religions. Of course we must reject their wrong doctrines, but we are not allowed to reject the human beings himselves or herselves, to the contrary we are supposed to love our fellow human beings.
Christianity is the only religion that works in reality, because we have a Redeemer who is alive.
God’s Grace is not our property, but we are supposed to share grace with our neighbours. Don’t let us meet our fellow human beings as judges, but one sinner meets the other one and wants to tell him something about grace. If we consider ourselves as sinners, maybe God will call us some day: “My beloved sons!” Don’t let us award grace to ourselves, but wait until human beings and God say: “Loveable sons”.
Let us try to be in community with the sinners, let us visit each other!
By some unfortunate events “Christ’s Baptism” was seperated from Epiphany (first the most important feast) and instead Christmas became the most important feast. The bad result we face today is that we don’t celebrate “Christ’s Baptism” any longer, but it was the most important part of the feast of Epiphany (as Jesus was baptized, heaven opened up and God the Father preached with audible voice!!! It is very seldom that God the Father speaks with audible voice, he does it only in connection with very important events.)
The presiding bishop of the EKD (German Evangelical Church) Mr. Nikolaus Schneider rejects the doctrine of Virgin Birth. By rejecting the Virgin Birth, he indirectly rejects the Gospel. Because, if Jesus would not be more than an ordinary human being (conceived by Joseph), he could never bear our sins and the sins of the whole mankind.
(I made this article with much support of scriptures of Dietrich Bonhoeffer!)