Baptism of our Lord January 7, 2018
131, 298:1-4, 751 (alt TLH 301), 298:5-6
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
PRAYER OF THE DAY: Father in heaven, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan you proclaimed Him your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Keep us who are baptized into Christ faithful in our calling as Your children and make us heirs with Him of everlasting life; through Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Dear Fellow Baptized Children of God,
We are creatures that enjoy marking the anniversaries of monumental events. Depending on your age, the anniversary of a your birth might be a reason to celebrate. Wives hope their husbands will remember to celebrate the anniversary of their wedding. But we not only mark anniversaries of joyous occasions, but also the anniversaries of tragedies. On December 7 our nation marks the anniversary of the day that would live in infamy—when over 2300 men and women were killed in a surprise attack by the Japanese army at Pearl Harbor. On September 11 we mark the anniversary of the day when 3000 people were killed by terrorists.
Yet, there is one momentous event in lives of just about every one of you, which few of us celebrate. And it is rather peculiar that of all anniversaries which we celebrate in our lives that we would fail to celebrate one as amazing and remarkable as the one which we want to talk about today. I am, of course, talking about the day you were baptized. We celebrate the day of our birth—the day we were born to our parents, but how many of us know what day we were reborn by water and the word, and adopted into the family of God? Which of those days is really worthy of rejoicing over and celebrating? I have a friend, who to help remind him of that special day and the great things God did for him, produced a sign which hangs in his bedroom reading, “HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF YOUR BAPTISM TODAY?”
Baptism is a life changing event. It is life changing because of what GOD does in baptism and how GOD changes our lives through baptism. In our text for today we learn of how Jesus’ baptism marked the beginning of His earthly ministry and what God did for Him in preparing Him for this work. We will also take a look at what God has done for us in our baptism when we were baptized into Christ. May the Holy Spirit bless us by His Word that we all be mindful of our baptisms!
Today’s text is very busy. John the Baptist “appears” as he begins his ministry. People from all over were “going” out to him. John is preaching. People are repenting and being baptized. Then verse 9 we read, “Jesus CAME from Nazareth of Galilee.” For most of the first 30 years of Jesus’ life He had been dwelling at His home in Nazareth in the region of Galilee. This is the city where His mother Mary and step-father Joseph lived. Those 30 years were lived in relative obscurity. After visiting the temple at age 12, Scripture tells us nothing of the early life of Jesus. But now things were about to change. The 30 year old Jesus leaves the quite safety of His home to begin His three year ministry which will eventually end with His death on the cross.
As Jesus comes from Nazareth, He first goes to the one who was preparing the way for Him. Jesus went to be baptized by John the Baptist at the river Jordan. John had been preparing the way for Jesus by calling the people to repent of their sins and to be baptized for the remission, that is, the forgiveness of sins. Hearing WHY John was baptizing at the Jordan River it strikes us as odd, that SINLESS Jesus would come to be baptized. He had no sin to repent of and no need of forgiveness. While Jesus Himself was sinless, we must remember that at the same time He was the worst of all sinners. The LORD laid on Him the iniquity of us all. “(God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21). We also read in Matthew’s gospel account that Jesus came to be baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all things which had been foretold of Him in the Old Testament.
Throughout Old Testament times whenever a prophet, priest or king was presented for service of the Lord to Israel, he was anointed with oil. The pouring of the oil over the man’s head symbolized the pouring of the Holy Spirit into his heart, so that he would serve faithfully. In Isaiah we read of God stating how He would put His Spirit upon His promised Servant who would bring justice to the nations (Isaiah 42:7). In the book of Acts (10:38) we read of Peter reporting that when God put His Spirit upon Jesus, He was in fact anointing Jesus for His work of ministry.
As Jesus came out of the water after His baptism, Mark writes that Jesus “immediately saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are My beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.’” The baptism of Jesus began His journey to the cross of Calvary and the tomb of Easter. As He began this journey the Spirit was poured out upon Him and the Father blessed Him as an endorsement of His life and work as the Christ.
We do well to notice all that is going on at the baptism of Jesus. Because of sin, heaven had in effect, been closed. Yet when Christ came it was torn open. Also, notice what God the Father says. We heard in our Old Testament reading (Gen 1:1-5) that after God created light that He saw that “it was good.” Not since fall into sin after creation had the Father seen something on earth that He could say He was well pleased in. But now He placed His stamp of approval on Jesus, His Anointed One. With Him the Father was well pleased.
This was a life changing event for Jesus. He was ending His quiet home life in Nazareth to begin His earthly ministry. Now He was beginning His journey to the cross on Calvary. It all began with His baptism. It was with His baptism that Jesus accepts and prepares for His mission as Christ, to serve as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
Isn’t it strange how life changing moments stand out as a clear memory in our mind? I bet some of you could probably tell me exactly where you were, what you were doing, and even what the weather was like when President Kennedy was shot or when the World Trade Center was attacked. It sticks out in our minds because of how unique, how different that event was from every other day in our lives.
Most of us were too young to remember our baptism. But what about the baptism of your children, or your brother or sister? Were the heavens torn open? Did the Holy Spirit descend on you? Did a voice come from heaven saying, “You are My beloved son, whom I love; with you am I well pleased?” I can think back to one baptism I saw at our sister church in Lynnwood, Washington, near Seattle. As the infant was being baptized, the sunlight shown through the window at the front of the church building in such a way that an intense beam of light shone upon the baptismal font as the pastor baptized that child.
While we may never have witnessed a baptism like that, we all have had just as amazing a baptism as Jesus did. In Romans 6, we learn that when we were baptized we were united with Christ. The apostle Paul also writes to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). When you were baptized, you put on Christ. Much like a pastor wears a gown to cover the clothing he is wearing, your baptism covers your unrighteousness with the righteousness of Christ. Every blessing Jesus earned with His holy life, was given to you. Just as Jesus was blessed by the Father at His baptism, even so in Christ God blesses us.
In our text for this morning it is written that John was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” (v.4) Here we find one of the tremendous blessing of baptism. Baptism washes our sins away, it works forgiveness. Sometimes we struggle with our faith and our conscience reminds us of our sins. We have questions about ourselves and doubt our faith. Remember your baptism! Does God lie? Does God change His mind or does He mean what He says? If so He says He forgave your sins in your baptism. You have received a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of your sins.
Another wonderful blessing God gives us in baptism is the gift of life. All people are born into this world spiritually dead. Our hearts of flesh may be beating, but that heart is spiritually dead. So God stepped in. Out of incredible, unmeasurable love, He sent His Son into the world to pay the price for our sins by suffering the consequences of our sinning on the cross. His righteousness, His holy life, and the reward of eternal life which Jesus earned God gives to you, He credits it to your account through faith. God gives you this forgiveness and righteousness in your baptism.
Your baptism truly was a life changing event. When you were baptized, “simple water” was applied, either by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. But with the word of God it became more than “simple” water—it became an eternal blessing. Through the Word, the Spirit of God came into your heart and gave you life. The Word, the promise of God, working in the water washed your sins away. Now you are a new creature—a new creation of God. You have been born again in Christ. You were baptized for the forgiveness of sins. All that Jesus earned God gave to you in your baptism. The heavens were torn open, the Holy Spirit descended upon you, and the Father looked on you, saw His Son, and said, “You are My beloved child. With you I am well-pleased.” Your baptism was a life-changing event!
On our calendars in our home are many dates that we want to remember. We’ve scribbled birthdays, anniversaries, and special appointments. How about including the day that God showered amazing blessings on you in your baptism? On that day you were baptized into Christ. May we always be mindful of the many blessings God poured out on us at our baptism. It was a life changing event! You were given forgiveness and you put on Christ. Let us daily think about our baptisms as we confess our sins and turn to God’s promise that for Christ’s sake all our sins have been washed away. We have been baptized into Christ—we have put on Christ! Hallelujah! AMEN!
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.