Epiphany, Baptism, Solidarity and Justice, Part 3

Epiphany, Baptism, Solidarity and Justice, Part 3 January 4, 2024



Let’s now take a brief look at Mark’s story of Jesus baptism, since it also is part of the lectionary readings this coming weekend.

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(Read this series from the beginning at Part 1 and Part 2.)

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:4-11)

My favorite part of Mark’s version of Jesus’ baptism is the way Jesus’ baptism is tied to these words that Mark’s audience would recognized from Isaiah:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen one in whom I delight;

I will put my Spirit on him,

and he will bring justice to the nations.

  He will not shout or cry out,

or raise his voice in the streets. 

  A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

  he will not falter or be discouraged 

till he establishes justice on earth.

In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)

The purpose of this delight, this upholding, this chosen-ness, is that this servant in whom YHWH delights and upon whom the Spirit descends will “bring justice to the nations.” It’s all for the purpose of “establishing justice on the earth.”

As this new year begins, and we reflect on the liberation themes of Epiphany and the establishment of justice in the themes of Jesus’ Baptism, where are we working for justice today? So many areas come to my mind. 

Wherever we are working for justice in our world today, these stories remind us of the biblical witness that we are not alone. The God of the Exodus stories, the Hebrew prophets, and the Jesus of the gospels has always stood in unflinching solidarity with whichever communities and voices throughout the ages have cried out for liberation and justice. And we are with that God too, whenever we are standing in that same solidarity. 


Finding Jesus book coverHerb’s latest book, Finding Jesus: A story of a fundamentalist preacher who unexpectedly discovered the social, political, and economic teachings of the Gospels, is now available at Renewed Heart Ministries.

About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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