The Baptism of Our Lord
St. Matthew 3.13-17
13 January 2018
+ In the Name of Jesus +
From the sin of our first parents onward, we sinners have chosen to reject the sonship God had given Adam, that holy and pure fellowship with the Father in which He had first created man, in His own image. All sons and daughters of Adam ever since are conceived and born in sin, brought into this world sons of the devil, sons of wrath, and heirs of eternal death.
The world, the culture around us, chooses death, chooses life-less and life-draining things, chooses for immorality, and chooses to brazenly stand up against the natural law of God’s creation and promotes all manner of perversity contrary to the will of God. This is to reject the Father as Father, to reject being His children who trust the Father to provide all things good for us. The world and the devil tempts and tries and tests all of us towards rejecting God as our Father.
All is not lost. All is not darkness and despair. The heavens have been opened. Christmas and Epiphany season remind us of this most of all. The true light has shined and revealed Himself to the darkness, and does even now. God is active and is in His creation, seeking to reclaim for Himself His children. We need a real Father, who gives us His real Son to restore order and bring us back into loving fellowship, as beloved sons of God.
And behold a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mt. 3:17; my translation)
Standing in the waters of the Jordan River, the Son of God is the man to restore us to our Heavenly Father as beloved sons. The only-begotten Son of the eternal Father, from before all worlds, God of God, light of light, who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and He is man.
This God-man, Jesus Christ, standing in the water, submitting to the sinner’s baptism, obeys the Father’s will. His baptism in the Jordan reveals to us that He gladly and perfectly acts as a Son should act. He sacrificially loves and provides for you all heavenly and eternal things, by standing in the water for you, which meant, eventually, He would go to His death for your sake, would go to every possible length to restore you as sons of His Father.
The Father does not send the Son for His own vanity. The Son does not stand for us in Baptism’s waters for His own need. This is all done for you. Christ stands in your place, for He assumed the form of sinful flesh, and became the greatest sinner, and carried upon Himself the sins of the whole world. These He placed in Baptism that day long ago in the Jordan River, and washed them from Himself, and indeed from you all, in whose place He stood there, so that your sins might be submerged and drowned in His Baptism. Thus John says, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)
If Christ is the Lamb of God, He must of course be holy, pure, and innocent. If Christ bears the sin of the world, He at the same time must clearly be a great sinner. Isaiah says of Him, “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Is. 53:6) So whoever believes that your sins, and all the world’s sins, are on Christ, and that He was baptized and nailed to the cross and shed His blood for them, in order to cleanse, rectify, justify, and save them, this believer has forgiveness of sins and eternal life, has the inheritance that the Father wishes to bestow on His beloved sons in His Son. Christ’s Baptism, cross, suffering, and death are your own. (Two paragraphs adapted from Spangenberg, The Church’s Year of Grace, p. 391)
The Father is well-pleased with His beloved Son’s humble Baptism in the place of sinners. The Father is also well-pleased with His beloved Son’s lowly suffering and death in the place of sinners. The Father has fully revealed His pleasure in His beloved Son by raising Him from the dead, and the beloved Son has ascended to the right hand of the Father, and rules, in our glorified flesh, over the Church and the world.
Joined to that beloved Son by Baptism and faith, you too stand as His beloved sons, well-pleasing to God the Father, forgiven and justified for Jesus’ sake. The Father now continues to bestow upon you the blessings of His beloved Son – doing what a Father does for His Family – heaven stands open, and the true, Baptized, Crucified, Resurrected, and Ascended Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ comes to this altar, and at countless altars across time and place on this earth, at His Word, to be received by you to preserve, strengthen, forgive, confirm and unify you as baptized, beloved sons of the Father through faith in the Son.
Having been joined to the beloved Son by Holy Baptism you bear His Name given you in your Baptism, you bear the sign of His cross made upon you in your Baptism. At your Baptism, and even throughout your life, He sends His Holy Spirit to comfort you in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and eventually, as promised He will bring the unimaginable inheritance of the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come. These gifts of love from your heavenly Father can never be taken away from you, not by anything in all creation.
The hymnist Paul Gerhardt suffered great persecution during his lifetime for teaching the pure Biblical doctrine on Holy Baptism, at the hand of princes who openly rejected the work of God in Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Gerhardt was run out of the ministry of a large parish in Berlin by the ruling prince who had given himself over to Calvinist doctrine, because Gerhardt refused to teach false doctrine. Gerhardt left behind for his Lutheran congregation our closing hymn today, #596, to remind God’s beloved sons of the blessings of Holy Baptism, the inheritance of a holy son-ship that our Lord has put in the water, at His Word, for you. He teaches and encourages us with these words:
In Baptism we now put on Christ, our shame is fully covered.
With all that He once sacrificed, and freely for us suffered.
For here the flood of His own blood now makes us holy, right, and good
Before our heavenly Father.
O Christian, firmly hold this gift and give God thanks forever!
It gives the power to uplift in all that you endeavor.
When nothing else revives your soul, your Baptism stands and makes you whole
And then in death completes you.
So use it well! You are made new – in Christ a new creation!
As faithful Christians, live and do within your own vocation,
Until that day when you possess His glorious robe of righteousness
Bestowed on you forever! (LSB #596; stanzas 4-6)
+ In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit +