Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jesus' Baptism

Today's Sunday school lesson, from Luke 1-3 (with bits of Matthew thrown in)...

The big day came! Mary and Joseph had gone on a difficult journey with a donkey and their supplies to Bethlehem for a census, only to find no place available to stay. So they found a stable, and their bouncing baby was born. It was a big deal. On a tip from some angels, a group of shepherds visited them. Pretty soon, people started leaving after the census, and Mary and Joseph were able to find a house to raise their new son Jesus. A couple years later, some rich wise men came and brought expensive gifts. But on their way, they stopped by the palace in Jerusalem and talked to King Herod. Herod wasn’t too happy about this new King of the Jews, and he secretly plotted to kill Jesus. But an angel warned Joseph about it in a dream, and the family got up and fled to Africa. Maybe you know the country in Africa where they went? It’s called Egypt. They lived in Egypt until Herod died and it was safe to go back home. So after returning from Egypt, Jesus grew up in Joseph’s hometown of Nazareth. Many years passed, and Jesus turned 30.

Back up a little more than 30 years.

Mary was pregnant and scared. She went to her cousin Elizabeth’s house for a while because she heard that Elizabeth, who was too old to have children, was also pregnant. An angel had appeared to her husband Zechariah and told him they would have a son, and they should name him John. Zechariah didn’t believe the angel at first, so God made him unable to speak, until one day when his neighbors were having a discussion about John’s name, and he wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” Zechariah prophesied that John would be a prophet, and that he would prepare the way for the promised Messiah that Israel had been awaiting for centuries.

The big day came! Elizabeth gave birth to a son, and they named him John. He was born a few months before Jesus, and when John grew up, he lived in the desert. There wasn’t much to eat there, except maybe some delicious locusts and honey. Yum!!

John became a preacher and prophet, just like his dad had prophesied. He often preached and baptized by the Jordan River, and he had an interesting message. He called the people snakes! He told them they needed to change how they acted. They needed to ask God to forgive their sins. They should share their food and their clothes. Tax collectors should only collect as much in taxes as they were required to collect. Soldiers shouldn’t ask for bribes or accuse people falsely. “Oh, and there’s this guy coming. I’m baptizing you with water, but He’ll baptize you with fire and the Holy Spirit.* I’m not even worthy to untie his sandals,” something that slaves normally did. Pretty soon, 30-year-old Jesus came to His cousin John to be baptized. John was a little reluctant at first since he thought Jesus should be the one baptizing him, but Jesus convinced him to do it.

When Jesus came out of the water, something amazing happened. Heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove! A loud voice from heaven boomed, “You are My Son. I love You, and I’m so proud of You!”

Jordan River, near a location where people are often baptized. 
I did not show this picture in class, but it shows a place 
where it's likely this happened.

So that was how Jesus began His ministry. He got baptized by His cousin John, and He showed publicly that He was different from anyone else.

I showed this picture of a shamrock before the lesson, as 
St. Patrick's explanation of the Trinity is the best I've heard.
We serve one God, who has three parts. That's confusing,
even for adults. As St. Patrick explained it, a shamrock
has three leaves, but it is still one shamrock. That's similar
to how the Trinity is three parts: the Father, the Son and the 
Holy Spirit, but only one God. All three parts showed up at 
Jesus' baptism.

* The prophecy about Jesus baptizing them with the Holy Spirit and fire came true 3 years later in the book of Acts.

All pictures are in the public domain, and I got them from Wikimedia Commons.

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