Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
There was a time when I carried six different ID Cards. I knew who I was, but the Air Force didn’t recognize my Wyoming driver’s license. The Pentagon didn’t acknowledge either of them. I worked in a special place that didn’t accept anyone’s identification systems. I needed special IDs for each place. Then I needed another ID to access my computer. And finally, to get books at the county library, I needed a library card. Again, I knew who I was … but to prove it, I needed a wallet full of 2 1/8 x 3 1/4 inch cards.
In Jesus’ day ID cards didn’t exist. But, if Jesus were ministering along the banks of the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, you can bet He’d need one. Despite everything written about Him through the ages, if you were to ask people today who Jesus was, you’d get an amazing variety of answers. Once you got past the “Jesus … He’s a pretty good guy” statement, the field is wide open on His identity. Some might call Him a great religious teacher or philosopher. Others might call Him a great leader. And some might even call Him a mighty prophet, right up there with Moses and Elijah. Then, some might even say He’s God.
True enough, Jesus didn’t carry a small, wallet-sized ID card identifying who He really is. But the gospels were “Written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31)
If I didn’t have the proper ID with me, one of the ways I might be able to gain access to the place I was going would be to have someone with proper credentials vouch for me. This person, trusted because they had the proper ID, would say they trusted me and would be responsible for me.
St. Luke tells us about Jesus’ baptism. After John the Baptist baptizes Jesus, the Holy Spirit visibly descends on Jesus and a voice from heaven vouches for Jesus’ true identity saying, “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22) With these words, God the Father vouches for who Jesus truly is … the Son of God. A great religious teacher – yes. A great leader – yes. A mighty prophet – yes. And so much more – God! He did things only God can do … forgiving sins and raising people from the dead for starters. For His claims to be God, He was executed because nobody believed Him. Nevertheless, Jesus proved His true identity by doing another thing only God can do … defeating the power of death and rising to new life. Rising from the dead He validates His identity … He is God. As such His promises to us … the forgiveness of sin and eternal life … are most certainly true.
In baptism our Father gives us our true identity … sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Christ. Then the Holy Spirit descends upon us, dwells within us, and gives us faith. By faith in the Son of God, we believe His promises – forgiveness of sin and admission to eternal life in His new creation.