Friday 16th February – Luke 3:15-22 ‘Anointed with fire’

Luke 3:15-22

In a coronation service, always the most special part of the ceremony is the anointing.  Even in our supposedly secular age, at King Charles’ coronation last year, the Act of Consecration was deemed so sacred, that it was the only part of the ceremony which was kept hidden from public view and the ubiquitous TV cameras; instead, a golden canopy, held by four Knights of the Garter, was suspended above and around the monarch.  The King was disrobed of his crimson cloak and all his finery was removed, leaving Charles seated in King Edward’s chair, wearing only a simple white tunic.

Then the Archbishop of Canterbury was handed the Ampulla, a flask in the shape of an eagle wrought in solid gold, which contained the holy oil.  Concealed by the golden canopy, and alone with the King, the Archbishop anointed Charles in the form of a cross, on the palms of his hands, on his chest and on the crown of his head.  In doing so, the Archbishop enacted a sacred ritual which goes all the way back to King Saul, who was anointed by the prophet Samuel as a sign of God’s blessing and empowering c.1000BC – or around 3,000 years before King Charles.

For Jesus, however, the anointing was far more public.  As large crowds of people were being baptised in the Jordan by John (v21), Jesus too was baptised – with two significant differences to everyone else.  First, Jesus was not repenting, since he was the only human being who had nothing to repent about: as John said to Jesus in Matthew’s account, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’

Second, although I’m sure God blessed and empowered many of those who came to be baptised, only Jesus received a tangible anointing from heaven itself: the Holy Spirit visibly descended on him in the form of a dove, and the voice of the Father Almighty was heard to declare: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’ (v22)

Amazingly, though, thanks to the ministry of Christ, this anointing is not limited to Christ alone.  The good news of the in-breaking kingdom of God is that it is now available to all who follow Christ too.  John declares this quite clearly to everyone: ‘He [The Messiah, Jesus] will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’ (v16)  What was previously reserved for rulers is now graciously poured on all who open their hearts to the King of kings.

Such an outpouring is not always comfortable – fire burns up our impurities, such as those John talked about yesterday.  But it remains an extraordinary privilege.  Thanks to Christ, God can anoint you with his empowering Spirit.  Give heartfelt thanks for this wonderful reality today, and pray to be dipped (baptised) ever more fully with the Spirit of Jesus the King.