Baptism of Our Lord – “Baptized into Jesus” (Mark 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.

Back to John the Baptist, again. From Advent until now, he has been the focus of the Gospel reading on two separate occasions, all focusing on the same thing – his baptizing of people for the forgiveness of sins. Today, we get the same account – John baptizing people for the forgiveness of sins. It sounds like the same old story we’ve heard before, because we have. In Advent 2, it was from Mark’s Gospel, Advent 3 was from John’s Gospel, and then today, the Baptism of Our Lord, we hear again from Mark’s Gospel, in fact, half of today’s Gospel account is a repeat from Advent 2. Again, what’s the big deal about John the Baptist going out into the desert and baptizing people? As has been established on two previous occasions, this was for the forgiveness of the people’s sins. That is something that is notable, because people definitely need their sins forgiven – just ask me and I’ll tell how much I need MY sins forgiven! But there is something new added to our text today from the previous accounts, there is one more baptism, one that is different than all the others – the baptism of Jesus.

Here is John the Baptist, going about his business as the herald of Jesus, baptizing people from all across Judea and Jerusalem. Again, old news, move on to something else. But Mark writes, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” Clearly, that must have been a typo on Mark’s part. John is baptizing for the forgiveness of sins and here comes Jesus to be baptized, the only one in all of creation to have no sins. Clearly this must have been a mistake!

It’s easy to think that way, especially if you read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism: “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”” That sounds more like it. That sounds like the way it’s supposed to be. Why baptize the sinless One of God; it just doesn’t make any sense. But that’s where you would be wrong. That’s your limited thinking, just as it was John’s limited thinking. John has already confessed to the people, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” John knows his place and his place is beneath Jesus, hence why it doesn’t make any sense to John to baptize Jesus.

John isn’t the only one who is confused by all of this. We’re confused as well, because Jesus is Jesus and not a sinner. Baptism is for sinners, Jesus is not a sinner, thus, baptism is not needed for Jesus. It’s really simple to connect the dots. But it takes Jesus to reconnect the dots for us: “But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.””

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.”

Here, in the Jordan River, Jesus became one of us. He took on all that has gone wrong with us, every sin. By taking our sin onto Himself, He becomes the greatest sinner. He becomes the greatest sinner so that He could become our only Savior. He takes His place under our sin, so that He could lift it from us and carry it away. He carried our sin away from us so that the punishment for that sin will not fall on us, but on Him. That is how God has decided that His judgment and His righteousness should go. Jesus should take our sin to Himself with all its condemnation, guilt, and punishment. God turns His friendly face to us because Jesus became one of us and took our sin on Himself.

The Baptism of Jesus reveals the plan of God to restore this love – to heal our relationship with Him – to open heaven to us once again. Here we see the Son of God in the flesh in order to take our place under the law. Here stands the sinless Son of God who carries in Him the sin of the entire world. Here is Jesus standing with us in the waters of baptism in order that we might be joined to Him in eternity.

From the moment that Jesus came to be in the womb of the Virgin, the Son of God has carried the sins of the world. Up until this moment of baptism, He carried our sins in silent anonymity. Now, at His baptism, His role as sin bearer becomes public. The heavens were torn open. The Spirit descended on him like a dove. A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The time has come for Jesus to publicize His journey, a journey that will pass through the cross where He will take away the sin of the world, a journey that will also pass through the empty tomb of Christ’s resurrection that demonstrates His power over death.

God the Father is pleased with His Son as He continues this journey of salvation. This is God the Father expressing delight in God the Son. This is God the Father expressing delight in us as well. For Jesus’ journey through the cross and the open tomb earned salvation for us. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit joined us to Christ Jesus. All that is ours belongs to Him, and all that is His belongs to us. So God delights in us just as He delights in Jesus. In a world that has long ago surrendered to sin, death, and the devil, there is one place where we receive the delight of God. That is where we are in solidarity with Jesus who heard 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.

Baptism of Our Lord – “Baptism” (Matthew 3:13-17)

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 go through life, there are certain monumental occasions that we deem to be important: births, graduations, wedding day, deaths, and other days that mark a significant time in our lives. When it comes to Jesus, there are obviously certain events in His life that we could say are monumental, and one such event takes place today – His Baptism.

Why is today such an important day in the life of Jesus? Surely it’s because of what Baptism gives. Luther asks in the Small Catechism, “What benefits does Baptism give?” He answers by saying, “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.”

As we look at Luther’s answer, we are quick to identify some problems: Jesus has no sins to forgive! Jesus does not need rescuing from death and devil. Jesus does not need eternal salvation, for He is the Son of God. It seems as if we are left with a conundrum: based on what Luther says Baptism gives, Jesus doesn’t need it, and yet, He insists on being Baptized.

All of this seems out of the norm, for when Jesus comes to John to be baptized, John quickly responds by saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John knows who John is and John knows who Jesus is. John knows that John is a sinner, conceived in sin, born in sin, lives a life of sin, and eventually dies as a sinner. John also knows who Jesus is, that is, the Son of God and therefore, not a sinner. Clearly only one person needs to be baptized, and that person is not Jesus. Does Jesus need to repent? Does Jesus need to be converted from unbelief to faith? Is Jesus among the lost sheep who were no longer members of the true Israel and who needed to be brought back into the family of God? Of course not, and yet Jesus insists upon being baptized by saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

What is needed “to fulfill all righteousness” as Jesus tells John? The sinless Son of God receives the baptism meant for sinners because He shall be the sin-bearer. For Jesus, this is what is necessary because it shows perfectly how Jesus will save His people from their sins. Here, Jesus stands in the place of sinful man and is baptized, literally standing in the place of the many. And so here begins the true work and ministry of Jesus Christ.

What takes place after Jesus is baptized identifies for all who are present and for all of creation who Jesus is: “the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to reset on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.””

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.

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’ baptism identified Him with the world of sinners. Paul describes Christ’s substitution for sinners by telling us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Even though Jesus never sinned, God made Him to be sin. Paul then takes us back to today’s Gospel. Through baptism, we are joined to Christ. His life is for us. His death is for us. His resurrection is for us. Jesus came to John to be baptized for us.

God’s justice requires punishment for sin. Our sin has earned eternal hell for us many times over. God’s love for us seeks to save us from that eternal punishment. The only solution was for God to take up our human flesh so that He could take up our sin. That is what Jesus did. When John baptized Jesus, he baptized the only one who can carry the sin of the world. Jesus carried those sins to the cross. There on the cross, Jesus satisfied both God’s justice and His love. God’s justice was satisfied by punishing our sin IN Jesus Christ. God’s love was satisfied by punishing Jesus Christ instead of us. In this way, God punished our sin without punishing us.

In solidarity, Jesus in the water is one of us. He suffers with us. He died for us. He shows us that He is the sinner’s friend and savior. In His baptism, He publicly continues the work that makes me His own so that I may live with Him forever.

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. 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.

Baptism of Our Lord – “Baptized into Death and Life” (Romans 6:1-11)

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 Epistle, which was read earlier.

We gather here today to rejoice. We rejoice because you have died. And we are truly glad that you have died, for you have died in Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism. And because you have died, you have been born again. And that fact makes us even happier than the fact that you have died, for you have been united in Christ.

As St. Paul writes to the Romans, a lot has been going on in that community. Rome was a large territory with everything under the sun at your disposal. That also included every type of religious teaching you could think of. He writes his letter to the Romans as a precursor to his visit there. The Church had been in existence there in Rome for quite some time and Paul makes mention of many acquaintances there in Rome, some 26 names mentioned in the greetings to the Roman Church. But alas, things are not perfect in Rome. Pagan teaching, false teaching and the like have crept into the teaching of the Church. But what Paul focuses on in our text for today is one of great importance to the Romans, and for the entire Christian Church, for it is a doctrine of the work of Christ in Baptism.

Paul begins with a problem that many in Christianity have, and that is sin. The problem isn’t that we are sinners, but the problem is we keep on sinning. Paul asks the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” You see, the popular thought of the time was that the more you sinned, the more forgiveness you could get from God. So, if you sin a little, then you get a little forgiveness. But if you sin a lot, then you get a lot of forgiveness. But there’s just one problem with that thinking: IT’S WRONG! God does not forgive in measure of degrees. You are either forgiven or you are not forgiven. You can’t be forgiven any more or any less than another forgiven saint of God.

But when you look at our text, that’s not where Paul places the majority of his emphasis. Instead, he places it on Baptism, and rightly so. Paul speaks so much of Baptism in just a few verses, namely, what Baptism does and what Baptism means for the one who is baptized.

He begins by saying, “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.” These words of Paul are spoken in our funeral liturgy to remind us that we have been baptized into the death of Christ. In that death dies all of our sin; past, present, and future. Because Christ has died, He has defeated death once and for all. And because Christ has died to death and defeated it, He rises from the dead in triumphant victory over sin and death. That means you and I rise from the dead and walk in a newness of life, a life that is forgiven of our sins, a life that is founded in and centered in Jesus Christ and His all-atoning work of salvation for us.

We know that to be true in what Paul tells the Romans: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” That is not a statement to be taken lightly. That is not a statement to be overlooked. And unfortunately, that was what was happening in Rome. The victory of Christ over sin and death was losing to the popular erroneous teaching of the day. The life of a Christian does not end when they die. The death that we experience is a death of the body, but not of the soul, for we already experienced the death of the soul in our Baptism where our sins were washed away by the blood of the Lamb upon Calvary’s cross.

Listen again to what Paul says: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Death for the Christian only leads to life, life that is Jesus Christ. When we were baptized in Christ, we die to sin. Our old, sinful natures inherited from our Old Adam are drowned. Though the Old Adam rears his ugly head, we have the assurance that our sins have been forgiven and those sins sink to the bottom of the font and are washed away and the new life that is Christ Jesus rises anew in us.

As baptized children of God, you and I are sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. We are marked as ones ransomed by Christ. It is by Christ’s perfect life, death and resurrection that we are ransomed by Christ. It is by Christ’s shed blood on the cross that you and I received redemption of our sins. It is by Christ and Christ alone that we are made children and heirs of the Father. It is the baptized children of God that are promised full redemption, to be perfectly renewed at the Last Day and raised incorruptible to live with Christ forever.

What the Roman Church forgot and what we tend to forget is that we must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Here’s what that looks like. Are we sinners after our Baptism? Yes. Will we keep on sinning after our Baptism? Yes. Should we revel in our sin? Absolutely not! It goes back to Paul’s earlier statement: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!”

Mankind is satisfied to live and function in this perverse thinking and doing. But Paul reminds the Roman Church and us that this kind of perverse thinking has no power over us. Our sin has been drowned. We have been set free from all these sins, not because they don’t matter, but because Jesus died for them. We are forgiven because Jesus took all these sins to the cross. When we repent, when we turn away from those sins, we no longer bear the punishment we’ve earned. We’re delivered from hell to heaven, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

Baptism into Christ offers to us this new life, a life that is different because God’s name has been placed upon us. Does that mean we won’t sin any more? No, but it does mean that those sins we commit have been forgiven on account of Jesus Christ.

As we see the sinful crowds along the banks of the Jordan in our Gospel lesson, Jesus does not shun sinners, but comes to be numbered among them. In your Baptism, Jesus has come to you, to number you with Him. He has declared that He does not shun you for your sin, but rather He has died to take your sin away and has risen again. He has joined you to His death and resurrection, and so you have eternal life. This is the joy that we have received because of the Baptism that Christ received, the Baptism that we have been Baptized into. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Baptism of our Lord – “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.

As we look at the major events of the Church Year, we immediately think of the big two: Christmas and Easter. Christmas, as we just celebrated, is when God takes on human flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. Easter, which we will celebrate in just a few months, marks the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ and His defeat of sin, death, and the devil. We would most certainly say that those two events rate very high in the life of the Church. But as we look at our Gospel for today, another event is highlighted, one that is indeed very important to the life of the Church: the Baptism of Jesus.

In our text, we see two sets of Baptism taking place. First, John the Baptist “appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Repentance was the purpose or result of John’s baptism. One way to view this is that one could not be said to have repented unless and until one had been baptized. This was so because baptism was not one way to achieve repentance for John – it was the way to attain it, indeed, the only way. John’s baptism enacted the plea and vision of the Old Testament concerning preparation for the coming personal presence of God in the promised Messiah. Through the baptism of John, God made for himself a cleansed and repentant people, prepared for His visitation.

The people acknowledged who John was, the last of the Old Testament prophets, and went to him in order to be baptized and to confess their sins. Everything that John did was not for his benefit or for his own desires, but rather it was for the benefit of those who came to him. The baptism that John offered, a baptism of repentance, said something of the individual coming to be baptized. They desired to repent, to turn from their sinful ways.

To keep from drawing attention to himself, John never took credit for anything. He always sought to get the focus off of himself and onto the One to whom the focus was deserved: the coming Messiah. John says, “After me comes he who is mightier than I….” That brings us to the second Baptism that takes place in our text. “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

In an interesting turn of events, 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? St. 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 with no further discussion.

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

Here, in the Jordan River, Jesus became one of us. He took on all that has gone wrong with us, every sin. By taking our sin onto Himself, He becomes the greatest sinner. He becomes the greatest sinner so that He could become our only Savior. He takes His place under our sin, so that He could lift it from us and carry it away. He carried our sin away from us so that the punishment for that sin will not fall on us, but on Him. That is how God has decided that His judgment and His righteousness should go. Jesus should take our sin to Himself with all its condemnation, guilt, and punishment. God turns His friendly face to us because Jesus became one of us and took our sin on Himself.

So it is that Jesus submits to the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He repents of your sin. He undergoes the sinner’s baptism for sinners. Jesus stands with us in the waters of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The Baptism of Jesus reveals the plan of God to restore this love – to heal our relationship with Him – to open heaven to us once again. Here we see the Son of God in the flesh in order to take our place under the law. Here stands the sinless Son of God who carries in Him the sin of the entire world. Here is Jesus standing with us in the waters of baptism in order that we might be joined to Him in eternity.

From the moment that Jesus came to be in the womb of the Virgin, the Son of God has carried the sins of the world. Up until this moment of baptism, He carried our sins in silent anonymity. Now, at His baptism, His role as sin bearer becomes public. The heavens were torn open. The Spirit descended on him like a dove. A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The time has come for Jesus to publicize His journey, a journey that will pass through the cross where He will take away the sin of the world, a journey that will also pass through the empty tomb of Christ’s resurrection that demonstrates His power over death.

God the Father is pleased with His Son as He continues this journey of salvation. This is God the Father expressing delight in God the Son. This is God the Father expressing delight in us as well. For Jesus’ journey through the cross and the open tomb earned salvation for us. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit joined us to Christ Jesus. All that is ours belongs to Him, and all that is His belongs to us. So God delights in us just as He delights in Jesus. In a world that has long ago surrendered to sin, death, and the devil, there is one place where we receive the delight of God. That is where we are in solidarity with Jesus who heard 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.

Baptism of Our Lord – “Baptism is Christ’s Work” (Matthew 3:13-17)

A-17 Epiphany 1 (Mt 3.13-17)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.

St. Matthew gives us a very abbreviated history of Jesus’ early life. Matthew records that Jesus is born, the wise men come and visit Jesus, and then Jesus is taken to Egypt for protection from Herod. All of this occurs before Jesus is 5 years old. Then there is no recorded history of Jesus from that point on until we get to our text.

Our account takes place after John the Baptist was performing baptisms a plenty at the Jordan River, for those who confessed their sins and were repentant and refusing to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees for their lack of repentance. Now we find Jesus around 30 years old. Suddenly, He bursts upon the scene with little fanfare. Jesus is a grown man and makes a trip from Galilee to the Jordan River. Our Lord comes to John in order to be baptized.

Before we go any further, we need to ask a question. Why? Why would Jesus need to 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, John was baptizing the people in response to his message, “Repent!” But what about Jesus? What does He need to repent of? Does Jesus need to be converted from unbelief to faith? The answer is clear to John – no.

Imagine the scene that is set before you. You have John the Baptist preaching a message of repentance. You have a crowd of people coming to be baptized, while at the same time confessing their sins. You have the Pharisees and Sadducees who saw no real need for repentance and yet desired John to baptize them, their true intentions unknown. And to top everything off, here comes Jesus desiring to be baptized. What is John supposed to do? He did what he knew to do – he tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized. He said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

It seemed to be a reasonable request from John. You have sinners and then you have Jesus. One obviously needs to repent, confess, and be baptized while the other clearly does not. Everyone seems to get it except one person, Jesus. Jesus insisted, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” We are left with a question. How has righteousness been fulfilled if Jesus is already righteous?

Here is the crux of the disagreement. It is not for Christ’s righteousness but it is for your righteousness. In order for sinful man to come to righteousness and receive salvation, Jesus must be baptized. He stands in the place of and for the sake of the sinner to fulfill that which God requires of the sinner – perfect obedience to God’s Law.

Here Jesus begins His ministry. Here He stands in the place of the sinner. He takes the place of John. He takes the place of those gathered. He takes the place of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He takes your place and mine. He takes upon Himself the sin of the entire world, offering us His holiness. He becomes the greatest of sinners, not with His own sin, but with our sin.

St. Paul expands on this in today’s Epistle reading from Romans: “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.” 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 us. The eternal life and salvation that He earned becomes ours. It is this great reversal that fulfills all righteousness. It is Christ taking our sin and giving us His perfection. It is Christ taking our death and giving us life.

Jesus’ baptism identified Him with the world of sinners. Paul describes Christ’s substitution for sinners by telling us, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Even though Jesus never sinned, God made Him to be sin. Paul then takes us back to today’s Gospel. Through baptism, we are joined to Christ. His life is for us. His death is for us. His resurrection is for us. Jesus came to John to be baptized for us.

The opening of the heavens after Jesus’ baptism was much more than the parting of clouds so that the sun could shine through. It was more like the experience of the prophet Ezekiel, “the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, we now 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. At this time, the Holy Spirit bestowed upon Jesus the special gifts He would need to carry out the responsibilities of His office as the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah had foretold what these gifts would include:And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

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 children because of the work of Christ.

The baptism of Jesus in the Jordan points us forward to all the work Jesus did for us –

His perfect life, His suffering, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and the work He still does among us as our risen and ascended Lord. It points us forward to our own baptism as a means for the Holy Spirit to deliver Christ’s salvation to us. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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.

Luther quotes

I’ve been bad…I haven’t been keeping up with the Treasury of Daily Prayer like I should have been.  I have to say that I really enjoy the Writings for each day.  Here are two writings from Martin Luther that should remain at the forefront of our minds.  The first writing is about baptism and the value and importance and meaning of it.  The second writing is about the office of holy ministry, something very important, as I am one who holds that office.  Enjoy these snippets from Luther.

Wednesday After Easter

For just as the truth of this divine promise, once pronounced over us, continues until death, so our faith in it ought never to cease, but to be nourished and strengthened until death by the continual remembrance of this promise made to us in baptism.  Therefore, when we rise from our sins or repent, we are merely returning to the power and the faith of baptism from which we fell, and finding our way back to the promise then made to us, which we deserted when we sinned.  For the truth of the promise once made remains steadfast, always ready to receive us back with open arms when we return….

It will therefore be no small gain to a penitent to remember above all his baptism, and, confidently calling to mind the divine promise which he has forsaken, acknowledge that promise before his Lord, rejoicing that he is still within the fortress of salvation because he has been baptized, and abhorring his wicked ingratitude in falling away from its faith and truth.  His heart will find wonderful comfort and will be encouraged to hope for mercy when he consideres that the promise which God made to him, which cannot possibly lie, is still unbroken and unchanged, and indeed, cannot be changed by sins, as Paul says (II Tim. 2[:13]): “If we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.”  This truth of God, I say, will sustain him, so that if all else should fail, this truth, if he believes in it, will not fail him.  In it the penitent has a shield against all assaults of the scornful enemy, an answer to the sins that disturb his conscience, an antidote for the dread of death and judgment, and a comfort in every temptation–namely, this one truth–when he says: “God is faithful in his promises [Heb. 10:23; 11:11], and I received his sign in baptism.  If God is for me, who is against me?” [Rom. 8:31].1

Thursday After Easter

This ministry [that is, the Word of God, Baptism, and Holy Communion] will endure and is not to be replaced by any other.  But the incumbents of this ministry do not remain; they die.  This necessitates an ever-new supply of preachers, which calls for the employment of certain means.  [This ministry] came directly from Christ; but later Christ departed from this earth.  Now a new way of sending was instituted, which works through man but is not of man.  We were sent according to this method; according to it, we elect and send others, and we install them in their ministry to preach and to administer the Sacraments.  This type of sending is also of God and commanded by God.  Even though God resorts to our aid and to human agency, it is He Himself who sends laboreres into His vineyard.

There everyone [who preaches] must realize that he has been sent.  That is, he must know that he has been called; he dare not venture to sneak into the office furtively and without authorization.  It must be done in the open.  The sending is done through man, for example, when a city, a prince, or a congregation calls someone into office.  But at the same time this person is sent by God.2

1) Writing from Martin Luther, “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” pp. 59-60 in vol. 36 of Luther’s Works, American Edition
2) Writing from Martin Luther’s sermons on the Gospel of St. John, p. 482 in vol. 22 of Luther’s Works

Baptism of Wesley Michael Tucher

(I know I’m a little late on posting this, but it’s been a bit busy with family here and family leaving.  Below are some pictures following the service.)

I knew that this day would be difficult, but I managed to get through it with a minimal amount of tears.  This was truly a special day for several reasons.  The first, Wesley was brought to the waters of Holy Baptism.  Secondly, I had the privilege of performing the Baptism.

Gwen, Wesley, Jared
(Gwen, Wesley, Jared)

Shannon, Bré, Gwen, Wesley, Jared, Kim
(Aunt Shannon, Cousin Bré, Gwen, Wesley, Jared, Grandma Kim)

John, Margaret, Gwen, Wesley, Jared, Janet Ethan
(Grandpa John, Grandma Margaret, Gwen, Wesley, Jared, Aunt Janet, Cousin Ethan)