January 11, 2015 — the Baptism of our Lord
Sermon Text: Mark 1:4-11
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the first chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Jesus Came to be Baptized
In St. Mark’s gospel, the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ son of God begins where our Christian life begins; in the water with Jesus. For Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee to be baptized by John in the Jordan. Jesus came to John. John had been crying in the wilderness, blasting away at sinners, making straight the path of God, preparing the way of the Lord. All Judea and the surrounding countryside were coming to John, confessing their sins and receiving baptism for the remission of sins. Sinners were coming to John.
And then our text says Jesus came to John, not to observe, nor to question John’s messianic credentials as the Pharisees had done. Jesus wasn’t there to criticize John. He wasn’t there to lend His support to a cousin wearing odd clothing and eating odd foods. The text says, “Jesus came to be baptized.” Jesus came to John as a sinner. After all, that’s who was coming to John to be baptized, sinners. And then all of a sudden there stands Jesus in the midst of sinners, with sinners . . . for sinners.
Something’s wrong here. The sinless one comes to John? The righteous one stands where sinners stand? The Holy One of God, whose sandals John is not worthy to stoop down and loosen, now comes to be baptized by him?! Something’s definitely wrong here and John knows it. “Shouldn’t you baptized me?” He asks Jesus in Matthew’s gospel account.
Now that would make more sense wouldn’t it? John the sinner should be baptized by Jesus the perfect one. Then Jesus wouldn’t be likened with sinners and everything could be as we suspect it should be. Sinners on one side and the perfect, righteous one on the other side, ne’er the two should meet.
Keeping Jesus Separate from Sinners
But that’s not what God gives us . . . is it? God gives Jesus coming to be baptized by John in the Jordan. God gives us Jesus standing with sinners, for sinners, in place of sinners. God gives us Emmanuel – God with Us, not separate from us.
There is always a great temptation for us to think and believe that God is not our Emmanuel, that He is not with sinners, for sinner, in place of sinners, and therefore not with us, for us, in place of us. The Pharisees struggled the most with this because they didn’t really think they were sinners. They couldn’t understand why Jesus was always hanging around with sinners; eating with them, drinking with them, allowing them to touch Him, and He more than willing to touch them. The righteous and the unrighteous need to be kept separate. Jesus needed to be kept separate . . .at least from these kind of people. And that’s why few Pharisees received Jesus. They had no need for Him.
You and I on the other hand manage to keep Jesus separate without even trying. Keeping Jesus separate from sinners we do our best to keep things the way we suspect they should be. God is perfect we are not. Therefore God does not share in affliction. Sinners suffer affliction. God does not suffer. Sinners suffer. God does not get sick. Sinners get sick. God doesn’t hurt or cry. Sinners hurt and cry. God doesn’t get His hands dirty. Sinners mess everything up. God is separate and at a distance from sin, sinners, suffering and death. That’s what makes sense. Thus He is at a distance from us and from our lives. He’s far above all of the mud and muck of this world’s dread.
But if Jesus is so separated from us, then He is not our Emmanuel, not “God with us” and for us. And if He’s not “God with us” and for us, if indeed He is so separated from us that the ne’er the two shall meet, then indeed ne’er the two shall meet. Then we are lost and must despair. For then our faith is so abstract that it can only cling to symbols and not heavenly realities. Baptism then is just plain water. Communion then is just bread and wine, just a warm fuzzy reason for us to gather together. If Jesus is not with sinners, for sinners, in place of sinners, then He is not with you, for you, in place of you. And we ought to be most pitied among men.
A Sure and Certain Word in the Water
But, then again, that’s not what we’re given by God is it. The Lord doesn’t keep His distance from us. He is not afraid to join with sinners in the waters of baptism. He’s not so high and mighty that He refuses to be among us, for us, in place of us. No, beloved He is higher and mightier than we suspect He should be. For there He stands with sinners in the waters before John. There He fulfills all righteousness in your place. There, heavenly waters pour down His head and over His beard. There, the creature stretches out his hand to baptize his creator.
That we may know this is for us God gives us a sure and certain Word. Thus, the heavens once closed to humanity on account of sin are opened over the man, Jesus Christ. The Spirit descends upon the Son, and the Father speaks a gracious Word: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus is not separate from us, but is now united to us in every way. He is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He stands with us before John and His baptism opens for all humanity the way to heaven.
How do I know this? I have the Father’s Word – This is my beloved Son. The Father loves the Son, therefore the Father loves everyone who is in the Son, everyone who has received His baptism and been united to the Son’s death and resurrection. That’s what St. Paul says in Romans. “do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death.”
Emmanuel – God With Us
Sinners deserve death. That’s the consequence of sin. You and I deserve death, even death on a cross. But Jesus stands with us, for us, in our place. His baptism is a baptism into death, our death. Through His death and resurrection He fulfills all righteousness for John, the apostles, the disciples, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, . . . for sinners . . . thus also for you. He who knew no sin, perfect in every way, righteous and holy before God and men, became sin. He became what you and I are by our fallen nature, so that you and I may, by faith, become the righteousness of God, so that you and I may become a new creation.
How do I know this? I have a sure and certain Word from the Father – “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” As it is with Jesus, so it is with me, with you, with all who are baptized into Jesus. Jesus is not separated from His baptized children. He is united with His baptized children, He is together with them. He is Emmanuel.
As Emmanuel, He suffers with you. He endures with you. He cries with you. He dies with you and He rises with you. He is with you and for you until the very end of the age. That is His promise. We have sure and certain Word from God. All of which is poured into the waters of Holy Baptism. For where Christ is there He is giving His grace and mercy to those who receive Him by faith. In Baptism, the Word, and the Supper Jesus is really and truly there giving forgiveness, righteousness, the Holy Spirit and faith. He is really and truly uniting Himself with sinners. No empty symbolism with Jesus – only the real thing, really doing what God says, really giving what God delights in giving – His Son and Salvation.
Coming where Christ is
And as Luther says beloved, “If our hearts would take this in, they would burst for joy into a hundred thousand pieces. In a world that is given over to sin, death, and the devil, there is one point where the delight of God dwells – His Son.” Wherever Jesus is there is God’s delight. So the question is, are you where Jesus is, where God has His delight? The answer is, “Yes.” God has put His Words on You. With the water His Name was put on you at your Baptism. You were crossed with His cross and raised with His resurrection. You, therefore are not just a doubtful, ambiguous, meaningless, hopeless bunch. You have the sure and certain Word of God put on you. So you can’t just drag along dreary, fearful, guilt ridden, nobody-loves-me, me against the world, me against God, me separate, me all alone. No, beloved, Jesus came to the waters of the Jordan to stand with sinners, for sinners. He came to be baptized – to be united to His beloved creatures, to be united to you. Your Baptism puts you where Christ is. Live, therefore in your baptism! Believe the sure and certain promises of forgiveness, life and salvation. As the Father delights in His Son, so also does He delight in all who believe in His Son. The Father’s delight is Jesus. May Jesus also be our delight. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!