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  • Writer's pictureHenry Rafferty

Sealed & Saved

Are you ready to have God remove your veil?

Old Testament Reading- Malachi 3:1 & Malachi 4

New Testament Reading- Mark 1:1-11

By Henry J. Rafferty CP -May 22, 2022

You have heard how John the Baptist came to be baptizing people in the wilderness of the Jordan River valley. You have heard how he was dressed in camel hair clothing and ate locusts and wild honey after the manner of the prophet Elijah. You have heard how John had come, in the spirit of Elijah, preparing the way of the Lord. Making straight paths through the wilderness and proclaiming that all, regardless of bloodlines, economic status, or whether they were male or female, should repent of their sins for the kingdom of God was at hand. You have heard all of this, but what does it really mean? More importantly, what does it mean for you?

Through the ages, God had made a covenant with His people. Part of that covenant said that He would send the Messiah, a savior for His people Israel. This savior would be from the line of King David and would restore Israel to its former glory and show the whole world just how great God’s people really were. It least that’s how they saw it. That is what they wanted to see, but what they failed to realize is that God does what is right in His own eyes, not what is always right in ours. God was going to send a savior that would save everyone, not just Israelites, but Samaritans, Greeks, and Romans alike. All nations of the world would be saved by God’s Messiah.

God prepared His people all along the way. First, He brought them out of slavery in Egypt with a mighty hand. Showing His plan of salvation in ways that they could not yet piece together. In Egypt, as the Israelites sacrificed their lambs and washed the blood over the door frames, God’s Spirit passed over their houses and gave them life, where the Egyptians found death. Saved by the blood of their lambs. Next, they traveled for forty years through the desert on the way to the Promised Land, learning and beginning to live in a manner acceptable to God. As they entered their Promised Land and claimed it as their own, God protected them and continued to bless them. After many years Israel began to forget about God and to turn away from Him to other gods. God then allowed them to be taken over and conquered by other nations, but always after a period of time, God would hear their prayers and bring them back again. All the while, the Lord would continue to send prophets that would tell them about His future plan of sending the Messiah, His only Son to ultimately save the world from their sins, and so they waited.

Then in the wilderness of Israel came a man who appeared as Elijah had, preaching the repentance of sins and he baptized, or spiritually cleansed the people in the waters of the Jordan River. No money needed, no exchange of property or material goods, no need to be a priest or of a certain religious sect. All you needed to do is confess that you had sinned and were in need of God’s forgiveness. John symbolically, through submersion and by pouring water over the people would cleanse them of their sins. He told the people that he was not Elijah or a prophet, but that he had come to make a path for the Lord. He had come also to prepare the people for the coming of the Savior who would not symbolically cleanse them, but that would cleanse them of their sins for real.

Matthew 3:13-17 tells us,

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

But, as I said before, this seems all well and good, but what does it have to do with me? How could all of this really mean anything to us today? Why would this ritual of baptism have anything to do with me?

I will first read to you the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus recorded in John 3:1-18,

“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely, they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked. “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

You have to be born again, Jesus said, but what does that really mean? Nicodemus, who was a learned man was baffled by Jesus’ words. Jesus is introducing a new thing to those seeking for God, something that all the scholars could not and still do not understand. You cannot achieve faith by becoming a scholar, by being of the line of Abraham, or by doing good things. Faith is not achieved; it is given by God. This is a hard concept, and hard to understand by human beings, but Jesus tells us that through baptism we are born again. Think of it this way, when we come to be baptized, we confess that we have sinned and are in need of a savior. Through the water of baptism, we are not cleansed by water alone, but infused with and cleansed by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Living God. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Everyone is born into this world in the same way, but we choose to accept the Spirit of God into our lives, to change us so that we are born again in the Spirit of the Almighty.

When you allow the Holy Spirit into your life, you become changed, and if you allow it, the Holy Spirit will do many things for you. It will transform your life by giving you insight into the Word of God. Look at Nicodemus, he was a teacher of the Jewish people and knew the Scriptures inside and out, but he could not understand Jesus’ teachings because he thought as the world thinks. He thought that faith could be achieved, like an award, or a prize. Instead, the Holy Spirit teaches us that it is God who gives us our faith and our understanding of His Word. Imagine it as a veil that you are born wearing, then one day the veil is removed, and you see clearly and that only God can remove the veil. Sin is that veil that we are all born with and by accepting God’s Spirit we receive healing and sight. In this Holy Sacrament of baptism, we not only receive the Holy Spirit, but we choose to accept Jesus Christ as our long-awaited Lord and Savior and declare that He is the One and Only Son of God.

What does this all mean for you? Are you ready to have God remove your veil? Christ was sent into the world to save it, not to condemn it. Whether you made the choice to follow Jesus and be baptized yourself, or you were baptized as an infant matter not, you are cleansed one time for all. Baptism is a sign and seal of God’s grace and our grateful response. It is the foundation of our commitment to Jesus Christ and to His Church. In the waters of baptism, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, made a child of the Most High, set free from the destructive power of sin, and set apart for a life of service to Almighty God. All Glory and Honor are His forever and ever. Amen.

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