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Baptism of Our Lord–“Baptized” (Luke 3:15-22)

C-20 Epiphany 1 (Lu 3.15-22)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

As we turn to our Gospel reading for today, we meet John the Baptist again. As Luke records, “the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ….” It must have been a good feeling that John the Baptist had for the people to think of him so highly that they would see him as the Christ. Someone other than John might have let this go to their head, maybe play along with the thoughts of the people. However, John would have none of this. His ministry was to prepare the way for the Coming One, One who would be infinitely more powerful than he was, One who would baptize with the Holy Spirit, One who would ultimately be the judge of the living and the dead. John did not feel himself worthy of any of this, not even to untie the sandal strings of this Coming One.

Instead of being the Christ, John was merely the final Old Testament prophet preparing the way for the Messiah, the Christ. His work was to make the final preparations pointing the world’s attention to Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, the ultimate and perfect solution to all the sinful acts of Adam and Eve, their descendants, and all the way down to you and me. But people, asking their own questions and inventing their own answers, had their own ideas of what the Christ should be like. They needed the correction that John’s preaching provided.

John responds to the people, “‘He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.” The correction John’s preaching provided came in his famous exhortations to repent of all one’s sin and thus also to receive God’s forgiveness.

Ultimately, that is our problem: sin and forgiveness. If you sin, you need to be forgiven. But if you do not sin, then you do not need to be forgiven. It must be good if you are the person who does not need to be forgiven because you have not sinned. What a good feeling that person must have knowing that they are so righteous before God and not like the lowly sinner. Sadly, there are many who think that way, both Christian and non-Christian alike. But we confess with St. John: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

John came to preach a message of repentance, a message that the Church needed to confess then and one which the Church needs to confess today. The Church is full of sinners. That fact has never changed. John recognized that fact and that was the message that he was preaching and he didn’t hold back any when it came to that preaching. Jesus will come and separate the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats. He will separate those who are true believers from those that are not. The Christian receives eternal life while the non-Christian receives eternal damnation. That is the work of the Messiah and that is what Christ comes on the scene to do. All of that begins today.

John the Baptist has done a good job up to now of preparing the people to receive Christ and today marks that day when Christ begins His ministry. Jesus is baptized. Luke doesn’t record much of the details but Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came to John in order to be baptized. John was leery of baptizing Jesus but does so at Jesus’ request. Following the Baptism of Jesus, the entire Trinity presents itself. Luke records, “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

God the Father and God the Holy Spirit acknowledged the sacrifice Jesus made as He took our sin onto Himself and clothed us in His righteousness. Christ’s mission to open heaven is the will and work of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts in a rare appearance in physical form, like that of a dove. The Father declares His pleasure with the Son. While Jesus is the member of the Trinity who became flesh and died on the cross, we see in this reading that all three members of the Trinity are actively involved in opening the way to heaven.

This is not an everyday event. Heaven, where God dwells, opened its door to earth, because there, on earth at the Jordan River, Christ the Son of God stood. Did the bodily form of the Spirit leave Christ immediately? We do not know. Scripture is silent on that. For all we know, there was a dove, the Holy Spirit, perched upon the shoulder of Christ throughout His ministry. But more likely, the form of the dove disappeared soon after the Baptism. Yet, although the bodily form of the dove disappeared, the Spirit remained. He did not depart from Christ; not then, not ever. The Spirit remained on Him so that Christ could baptize His own Church with the same Spirit.

Therefore, Christ’s Baptism was not for Him – it was for you. He received the Spirit so that He could give it to you. The very same Dove descended on you when the waters of Baptism touched you. And so the same Father’s voice was for you. He tells you that you are His child. Everything that is His now belongs to you: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Here at His baptism, Jesus took our place under the burden of our sin. As our substitute, He carried out God’s plan perfectly. The mission that Jesus began at His baptism was successful. He opened the way to heaven. He offers to join us to Himself through baptism. The Holy Spirit gives us the faith that receives that offer. God the Father adopts us into His family by that faith. When the time comes for us to leave this world, the heavens will open, the angels will carry us home and we will hear the Father say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Baptism, Sermons

 

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Baptism of Our Lord–“Gift of Baptism” (Mark 1:4-11)

B-18 Epiphany 1 (Mk 1.4-11)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Christmas is over. With it, we saw the coming of our Lord. He came to us in the form of a babe, lying in a manger. The Christ Child was brought to the temple to be presented. There, Simeon spoke the words of the Nunc Dimittis to Mary and Joseph. Simeon had seen the salvation of the Lord, which has prepared in the sight of all people. We have heard what John has said: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

All of that brings us to today. Today we meet John again. Here we find him in the desert preaching about a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. While he was doing this, he had a message: “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

So what does all of that mean? Why should I care? Well, you have John. He came as the fulfillment of the Old Testament passages concerning the second Elijah, the immediate forerunner of the Christ. John preaches a simple message: Jesus as the promised Messiah. He focuses on the necessity of repentance for receiving Christ aright, on the person of Christ as both God and Savior, and on Baptism for those who sincerely repented and believed in the Messiah. John also alludes to the Baptism with the Spirit and with fire that Christ will give to His people to carry out His saving mission in the world. John’s Baptism, too, worked forgiveness of sins, delivered from death and the devil, and gave eternal salvation to all who believed.

So we come to the focus of John’s Baptism: repentance. Are you truly repentant for your sins? Are you sad that your sins caused a Baby to be born, so that 30-some years later, He would die on the cross for you? It’s a hard question to ask. True repentance means not only sorrow over sin and dread of God’s punishment, but a turning of mind and heart away from sin that expresses itself in outward ways wherever possible. True repentance will not allow the penitent soul to continue to live in sin.

You see, John came and he went. He went to the desert region and baptized people. Why did he do that? No one told him to do it. He did it because he knew that the people were repentant of their sins and that by being baptized, the Old Adam would die and when you emerged from the waters, you were a new person.

The early Church had an interesting way of baptizing. They had a huge baptismal font. You would descend the stairs to the font. That symbolized your dying to sin. Once at the bottom, your clothes were removed and you were baptized. You then ascended the stairs as a new person. Who you were before died in the waters of Holy Baptism. That is the same thing that John did in the desert. John knew that there was One coming more powerful than he was. He knew that he was only a preview of the joy that would come.

John eventually moved to the River Jordan. There, he met Jesus and an interesting turn of events took place: Jesus comes to be baptized by John. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; He had no sins to confess! Why did Jesus need to be baptized for the remission of His sins that didn’t exist? Matthew records for us Jesus’ simple reply to John when John questions the Baptism: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.Then John baptized Jesus.

Can you imagine Jesus coming up to you and saying, “Bob, it’s time for you to baptize me now?” How would you react? What would you say or do? We see in our text just how easy it was for John to question and do what he did. And when Jesus came out of the water, heaven was torn open and the Holy Spirit came to Him and dwelt with Him. Did Jesus have to be baptized? Was it mandatory for that to happen? No. In allowing Himself to be baptized, Jesus was showing His solidarity with sinners. Though Himself sinless, He was identifying Himself with sinners by giving Himself to the work of bearing their sins then and our sins now.

We need to make sure we fully understand what took place in the Baptism of Jesus by John. The view that by being baptized by John, Jesus only showed His willing obedience and that Jesus, though not needing baptism and yet submitted to it, makes the baptism nothing but a formality and misconstrues what John’s Baptism really was. It was not law, but gospel, not a demand to obey but a gift of grace to accept and to retain as such. Jesus was baptized by John because He regarded this as the right way in which to enter upon His great office. He, the Sinless One, the very Son of God, chose to put Himself by the side of all the sinful ones, for whom this sacrament of John’s was ordained. He signifies that He is now ready to take upon Himself the load of all these sinners, that is, to assume His redemptive office. As Luther points out, Jesus was here rightly beginning to be Christ, the Anointed One, and “was thus inaugurated into His entire Messianic office as our Prophet, High Priest, and King.”

Every time we celebrate a Baptism, the one being Baptized is made a child of God by the waters of Holy Baptism, and every sin that they will ever commit will be washed away by those waters, just as it was earlier with Averyanna. That person receives sonship in the kingdom of God. Their sins are forgiven. How is this done? It is done by a man named Jesus, sent from God to be our sacrificial Lamb, baptized in the waters of the Jordan River, forever joining Himself to sinful man in order to redeem us. It is accomplished for us by His death on the cross for us sinners. It is accomplished for us only by Jesus who has atoned for all our sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Sermons

 

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Baptism of Our Lord: Matthew 3:13-17

A-17 Epiphany 1 (Mt 3.13-17)

The seasons are changing. I don’t mean the weather seasons. Unfortunately, we’re still in the season of winter and knowing Wyoming, probably will be until May. When I say that the seasons are changing, I’m talking about the seasons of the Church Year. We have left the season of Christmas and have entered the season of Epiphany. Epiphany, as we all know, means “revealing.”

In the Old Testament, God chose one people, the children of Israel, to receive His covenant. The Gentiles, the non-Israelites, could not enter the inner courts of the temple to worship God because they were outsiders. Yet from the very beginning, God had said Abraham would be a blessing to all nations, not just to Israel: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” This is the message of Epiphany. When the Magi, who were Gentiles, came to worship Jesus, they showed that now all people have access to God because Jesus is the new temple: He is God in the flesh.

Today, on the first Sunday after the Epiphany, the Church celebrates the Baptism of Our Lord. Approximately thirty years have passed since Jesus last appeared in Matthew’s gospel. He was but a toddler then. With little fanfare Jesus suddenly bursts upon the scene in this text. He is grown to manhood and seeks a baptism from John in order to “fulfill all righteousness.” This is a great epiphany.

In reading the account of the baptism of Jesus, one must ask the question, Why? Why would Jesus be baptized if He is the Son of God who is sinless? Is there a reason why Jesus needs to be baptized?

Jesus arrives at the very place where the people have been confessing that from which He has come to save them: “their sins.” As they confessed their sins, the people were being baptized by John in response to John’s message: “Repent!” Now Jesus has come to the same place, to John, “to be baptized by him.” Does Jesus need to repent? Does Jesus need to be converted from unbelief to faith? John knows that the answer to these questions must be “No!”

How is it that the perfect God-man begins His public ministry by standing in line with sinners in order to be baptized?  This is the predicament that presents itself to John as this perfect, holy creator of all things now stands as a man in the Jordan.  How can John baptize this perfect Son of God into repentance for the forgiveness of sins?  John hesitated because he didn’t understand why the holy, sinless Son of God needed baptism.  Furthermore, even if this holy, sinless one needed baptism, he himself was certainly not worthy to do it.  He said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” With these words John confesses that he, John, is the sinner.  He is the one who needs forgiveness.  He is the one who needs the baptism into repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Now, if John calls himself a sinner, then what chance do we have?

But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  If Jesus were to explain himself, He might say it this way, “In order that poor sinners might come to righteousness and receive salvation, you must now baptize me.  I have become a sinner for the sake of sinners and must fulfill the things that God requires of sinners.  In this way, sinners may become righteous through me.”

Here Jesus begins the work of salvation by taking the place of sinners.  Here Jesus takes John’s place – your place – my place.  Here Jesus takes up the sin of the world and offers us the gift of His holiness.  He becomes the greatest sinner of all; not with His own sin, but with our sin.  Here He takes up our burden for us.  As John performed the simple act of pouring water on Jesus, God poured on Him the iniquity of us all.

St. Paul expanded on this in today’s Epistle: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”  Here Paul tells us that our baptism joins us to Christ and His baptism.  Our sin becomes His and His perfection becomes ours.  His innocent suffering and death are credited to our account.  The eternal life and salvation that He earned are already ours.  We will rise from death to live in eternal joy just as He rose from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity.  Through His Son, Jesus, God has done everything needed to secure our salvation for us.

Jesus does just what His name means, “the Lord saves.” When talking about the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Luther asks this question: What benefits does Baptism give? The answer: “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” This is the work done for us through Jesus Christ, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, we see the Trinity present. What is the purpose of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus? The Holy Spirit manifests Himself as a dove descending upon the Son. As the symbol of peace, it is a reminder to us that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. When the voice of God from heaven speaks, He says something very simple, yet very profound: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Son has been obedient to the Father’s will.  Here the Father acknowledges that the Son is indeed living a life of perfection and fulfilling the promises given through the prophets.  The Father tells us that Jesus is the cause and target of His good pleasure.  He tells us that Jesus is His beloved Son.  Since Jesus stands in our place, the Father’s pleasure with His Son is also His pleasure with you and me.  Because the Father is pleased with His Son, Jesus, He is pleased with us. We are now the Lord’s beloved child because of the work of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in Epiphany, Sermons

 

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