Download or listen to the Baptism of Our Lord, “Everything” (Luke 3:15-22)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that everything we believe as Christians, everything that belongs to the Christian Faith, is bound up in the Baptism of Jesus. Everything. If you want to know who Jesus is, pay attention to the Baptism of Jesus. If you want to know why He came, why God sent His Son, what He came to do, pay attention to the Baptism of Jesus. If you want to know what God thinks of you, how He sees you, what His will toward and for you is, pay attention to the Baptism of Jesus.
This is the season of Epiphany, when we hear those parts of the Word of God that open up for us, that reveal to us, who Jesus is. So we heard last week about the visit of the magi, and we heard how this King of the Jews and this God of Israel is also the God of all people, both Jews and Gentiles. Next week we will hear how Jesus showed a little of who He is by changing water into wine, and His disciples believed in Him there. And this week we hear the Word of God about the Baptism of Jesus. Today, if you want to know who Jesus is, listen to the Voice that comes from heaven; watch as the Holy Spirit descends like a dove on Jesus. After He is baptized, while He is standing in the water praying, the heavens are opened. This is an epiphany! It is as if the clouds were covering the sun, and they part for a moment so that you see, are blinded, by the sun. Here, the heavens open and you see the Son of the Father. You hear His voice to the Son (we are just eaves-droppers): “You are My beloved Son, in You is My good-pleasure.” This is the only Son, the unique Son; all others are born children of their father, the devil. But in this Son is all the good-pleasure of the Father for this world. This is how God loves the world, by sending this Son into the world. And the Holy Spirit appears on earth, marking this Son as the one whom the Father has sent. He anoints the Son, declaring that He is the Messiah, the Anointed One for whom all people—even all creation—was waiting.
But why has the Father sent this Son? Why is He anointed by the Spirit in His virgin-born flesh? What has He come to do? Well, He is not the only one in the water; He is not the only one whom John has baptized. But everyone else is baptized while confessing his sins. Everyone else comes declaring that what God has said about her is true. God is justified in condemning all people. That is what confession means. But this Son has no sins to confess. Yet, there He is, down in the water. The one who shares their flesh and blood has come to share their sin. In John’s Baptism, all the sin flows away from sinners, and Jesus absorbs it all like a sponge. He takes it all into His flesh and blood—all the sin before, and all the sin of those in the Jordan, and all of your sin and mine. All our little rebellions, all the times we exercise our will in opposition to God’s will, every time we act like the orphans of Adam and follow his path to death. He takes it all. This is why He came. He says it later in Luke’s Gospel: I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is My distress until it is accomplished! I have come to cast fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! He absorbs all the sin and then He is drained of life because of it. He is baptized to die, and He dies because He is baptized. The unqenchable fire is poured out on the Son, and the only thing that can quench that fire is the Baptism of the Son. He dies under the wrath of His Father against sin, and when He rises from the dead, the water of baptism begins to run in the opposite direction. By His baptism in the birth-waters of the Jordan, Jesus consecrates, sets apart as holy, all water to be a cleansing flood. Instead of the sin flowing from sinners to Jesus, now the water of life flows from Jesus to all sinners; just as Noah had a dove as the sign of the end of the flood, so here the Holy Spirit declares that the flood of judgment is over, and now there is only the flood of grace and peace.
And so we learn how the Father sees us. The angels sang of it to the shepherds: Glory to God in the highest! Peace on earth among those on whom God’s good-pleasure rests. The only place to find peace on this earth is where Jesus is, because where Jesus is is the Father’s good-pleasure. Only where Jesus dwells among sinners is God’s good-pleasure present for salvation. This is what Paul tells us: You were predestined for sonship through Jesus according to the Father’s good-pleasure. This is His good will toward and for you: that you be bound up in Jesus’ baptism, and so bound up in God’s good-pleasure. Fear not, little flock! It is your Father’s good-pleasure to give you the Kingdom that belongs to Jesus. It is His good-pleasure to give you everything that belongs to Jesus. There is only one Kingdom because there’s only one baptism: Jesus’. And you belong to the Father because you have been joined to Jesus. And if you are in Jesus, then the Father says to you what He said to His Son: You are My beloved Son! You are in Jesus, so My good-pleasure is for you. And Jesus will not fail to finish what He started: your faith and your life, your death and your resurrection are all bound up in the Baptism of Jesus, and He will bring home all the Father’s sons from far away, all the Father’s daughters from the ends of the earth; all those who are called by the Name of the Father and the Son and the Spirit, all those He created for His glory, all whom He formed and made.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
– Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 1/12/13