Baptism and the Power of the Spirit

“And the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form, as a dove” (Luke 3:22).

The descending dove hovers over St. Luke ‘s account of Jesus’ baptism. The baptism story is told similarly in the first three gospels, but only Luke makes it clear that the dove was a spectacle seen by all, a clear sign of the anointing of the Spirit poured out by God the Father on his beloved Son.

The Old Testament abounds with other stories of leaders anointed by the Spirit. Judges, kings and prophets were all touched by the Spirit and received power to do God’s work. In that tradition, Isaiah describes the coming Messiah: “I have put my Spirit on him, he will bring forth justice to the nations.” The anointing of the Spirit marked the Messiah as specially chosen by God, and brought the wisdom and strength to do his will. “He will not fail or be discouraged,” Isaiah writes, “until he has established justice on the earth.”

The epistle lesson highlights this aspect of Jesus ‘ ministry. Jesus’ power to heal and to cast out demons is a sign of the Spirit’s presence in him. From his baptism by John in the Jordan to the cross, Jesus was at work to “establish justice,” reconciling the world to fellowship with his Father.

John describes Jesus as the one who would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus would pass on his Spirit to his disciples, prospering their work for him with the same power that he had received from the Spirit. Every baptism is a Pentecost in miniature. The candidate is “reborn by the Holy Spirit,” receiving God’s power to “confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share in his eternal priesthood.” We are not left to our own devices, but rely on the strength supplied by the Holy Spirit.

This Sunday will be widely observed as Anglican Communion Sunday. On a day so marked by the miracle of the Spirit’s work and when our Church so greatly needs God’s healing power, Archbishop Williams’ 2008 Pentecost remarks are well worth remembering: “Only God the Holy Spirit can bind us together in lasting and Christ-centered way, and only God the Holy Spirit can give us the words we need to make Christ truly known in our world. So we must go on praying hard with our people that the Spirit will bring these possibilities to fruition as only he can.”


Look It Up

How is Christian baptism like the miracle described in Numbers 11:25-26?


Think About It

Where in your life do you need the power that the Spirit supplies?


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