In the Name of the Father and of the X Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN. Our text for this morning sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the third chapter (Luke 3:15-22).
Beloved in the Lord,
Jesus in the Water
Today the Word is added to the Water as the Logos incarnate steps into the Jordan. John chapter 1 meets Luke chapter 3 and creation is rent asunder. Jesus enters the water to be baptized by John. John is baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The ax is at the root of the Tree and the judgment of God is soon to swing. Now comes the root of the stump of Jesse as Jesus steps into that water. With each step closer to John Jesus moves even closer to death. God’s ax will cut Him down and cut Him off from the land of the living. Though Jesus is pure and without sin having no need to repent, nonetheless He is there in the water. And the water is dirty water, unclean water. The water is full of sin. For all who’ve gone before Him and all who’ve come after him have sullied that water with their own uncleanness. There in the water Jesus becomes unclean. There in the water Jesus becomes dirty. There in the water Jesus becomes sinner, chief of sinners, sin itself. “He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus is there in the water both to take and to give for us and our salvation. For everything Jesus does is always for us and for our salvation. His incarnation is for us. His nativity is for us. His circumcision is for us and today He is baptized for us. Being baptized He made unclean. He has come to take away the sins of the world, not the sins of a few, not little sins, or easy sins, or the sins we can’t help but commit, but Jesus is there taking away the big sins, the sins we love, the sins we hate, the sins that so easily entangle us seeking to drown us forever in the pit. Jesus is in the water as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World.
And Jesus is in the water to give of Himself. When the Word is added to the Water that water becomes holy water. Stepping into the Jordan to take away our sins Jesus also leaves behind His Righteousness. He fills the water with Himself, His life, His death, and His resurrection. Jesus in the water hallows the water so that you and I may join Him, not just in the water but also in paradise. Thus the waters of His baptism hallow, sanctify and make holy the waters of every baptism. Every baptism is a baptism into Jesus’ baptism.
A Dirty Conscience
St. Peter says that “baptism now saves you, not as the removal of dirt from the flesh but the pledge of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism deals with the conscience as well as the heart. We don’t talk much about the conscience do we? Not like we should anyway. There is much talk about the heart, much talk about faith, and the renewing of our minds, but there is little talk about our conscience. And we all have one, we have this innate knowledge of right and wrong which the conscience repeatedly reminds us of. God’s Law has been etched on the heart of every man, woman and child. This is why we feel guilty. This is why even unbelievers feel shame. This is why it is dangerous to both heart and soul to go against our conscience.
Nevertheless, we often go against our conscience don’t we? Going against our conscience we sin. Going against God’s Word. We sin. Following the desires of the flesh we sully ourselves. We get dirty and so the conscience is plagued because of our sin. Sin gives us a dirty conscience, not a clean one, and certainly not a good one. Plagued because of sin the conscience then can often torment us. We are reminded of our sin. We are reminded of our failures. We are reminded of the people we hurt with rude words or selfish deed. We’re reminded of the loved ones we’ve spurned taking them for granted and abusing them. We’re reminded of the separation and pain and sorrow that we’ve not only experienced but that we have caused for others. If baptism saves us it’s certainly not the pledge of our conscience. For our conscience is terribly guilty and plagued by our sin. If you think not, then think again in light of God’s Word about you, your works, and your heart. God’s Law pretty much sums up what kind of person you ought to be and what kind of person you turned out to be – not really as good as you think. We don’t need to silence our conscience, we need someone to give us a clean conscience, a new conscience, a conscience that is at peace with both the Lord and those around us.
Baptized into Sin and Death
Behold the Word in the Water! There is Jesus coming to the Jordan to fulfill all righteousness, not for Himself, but for you. All others who came before Him, confessed their sins and left the water dirtier than when they got there. But Jesus isn’t there to confess. He’s there to take and to give. Thus, Jesus takes John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and He transforms every baptism after His own. Every baptism prior was void of the body of Jesus, the descent of the Spirit and the voice of the Father. But now, now that Jesus is in the water, now that the Word incarnate has stepped into our filth, every baptism after is different. It is now His baptism. With His baptism Jesus takes away all sin. Like a sponge He takes up our filth into Himself. He who knew no sin becomes sin. The righteous becomes unrighteous. The holy is desecrated. The Son is united with rebels. The perfect is joined with sinners.
Behold the great Love of our God in the Water! Though we have fallen into, chased after, and clung to our sin, and therefore our death, Our Lord God will not leave us in such mortal conditions. He wills us to live not die, to repent not suffer judgment, to be forgiven not to wallow about with a guilty conscience. Thus He sends forth His Son. Jesus becomes incarnate. He is born. He is circumcised. And He makes His way to the Jordan that in the waters He may take hold of baptism, steal away the sins of the world, and make holy not just the waters but all who receive His baptism and follow Him with faith. Thus He pledges the good conscience towards God. With such a good conscience set before the Father Heaven opens! The Spirit descends as a dove and the Father is pleased, pleased to speak, pleased to love, pleased to honor the Son’s baptism with His Word and blessing – knowing full well what is to happen on account of this most holy event.
When the waters flow over Him, much to the delight of the Father, Jesus becomes one with us. He unites Himself to us sinners and therefore joins Himself to our curse. The wages of sin is death. Jesus did not spurn the consequences of His baptism but knew that being baptized meant being crucified. More than just water is poured over Jesus – so also is the cross. He is baptized into our sin and therefore also our death. Thus coming out of the water He begins a determined march towards calvary. He is baptized then for you and me and for the world. Baptized for you and me and for the world He is crucified for you and me and for the world. His baptism and His passion go together so that when you are baptized into His baptism you receive also His death and His resurrection as St. Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom 6:1 ESV) And if united with Him in His death you are certainly united with Him in His resurrection. What is said of Jesus is applied to you. What happened to Jesus is given to You. What was to happen to you is given to Jesus. Thus the most blessed and happy exchange first occurs in the waters of the Jordan and is completed for you in the waters of your own baptism.
Pledging a Good Conscience for You
It is here beloved, here in this water, in your baptism that Christ our Lord pledges a good conscience towards God on your behalf. He does the work for you. He fulfills all righteousness for you. He pours into the water His own baptism, that you may be baptized with the baptism with which he is baptized (Mark 10:38).
Therefore dear Christian let no man deceive you. Jesus is not receiving John’s baptism. He taking John’s baptism into His holy body and transforming it, making it His own by filling with Himself, His body, His suffering, death and resurrection, the descent of the Spirit and the voice and love of the Father. John’s baptism therefore must give way to Jesus’ baptism which is a Trinitarian baptism.
This baptism of yours, which is Christ’s baptism of you and for you, is a dear and precious gift of the Savior’s heart toward you. Not only does He take away your sins but He arms you with the strong promises of our God that you may be confident of your salvation – as St. Peter says, “Baptism now saves you.” Paul says much the same when he write, “He saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ” (Titus 3:5ff.).
To be sure the devil will not be chased away so easily and your conscience will be terrified by the remembrance of your sins. “For the devil will attack you vigorously and will try to swamp you with piles, floods, and whole oceans of sins, in order to frighten you, draw you away from Christ, and plunge you into despair. Then you must be able to say with confident assurance: “Christ, the Son of God, was given, not for righteousness and for saints but for unrighteousness and for sinners. If I were righteous and without sin, I would have no need of Christ as my Propitiator” (Luther). “But indeed Christ has been given for me. By His baptism is my baptism sanctified. My conscience is made clean and there is peace for me that you, Satan, cannot steal away no matter how great the flood waters rage against me. For there is a greater flood through which I have already passed safely resting in the Ark of My Lord’s own Body, blessed with presence of His Spirit and immersed in the Word of the Father’s love. You cannot ever sway me! So long as I remain in Christ I am safe!”
Jesus in the Water
Beloved in the Lord, the fullness of the Godhead enters the River Jordan this morning that He might be in the water of every baptism thereafter. The Word comes to the Water and the world is emptied of all sins, all death, and the devil is emptied of all of his power. Christ takes it all upon Himself for us and for our salvation. Behold Jesus in the Water this morning. He is there for you. He is baptized for you. Behold Jesus in your baptism. He is there for you. Remember the Water and the Word and remember your sins no more. They are washed away. Your conscience is eased. For, you are clean and Christ is risen. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!