In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Text: Mark 1:9-11
Theme: "Water, Water, on Me Fall: Who's the Fairest of Us All?"
Date: January 12, 2003
Day: The Baptism of Our Lord, the First Sunday after the Epiphany
The text for our consideration this morning is taken from the Gospel read earlier. We call your devout Christian attention to these words of God:
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." This is our text.
Dear Friends in Christ: I bring you greetings from God our Father who is so kind to you and who gives you peace through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!
Who here has ever felt sorry for themselves? Who of you has ever felt that no one—absolutely no one in the whole world, not your parents, not your children, not your spouse, not your boss, not your teacher, not even your very best friend—really understood you? Who of you has ever felt so totally alone and left out that nobody seemed to want to have anything to do with you?
All of you certainly remember the fairy tale of the famous brothers Grimm Snow White. In that story there are basically two main characters. There's Snow White and her wicked stepmother. Snow White was the daughter of the King. Her mother had wished during the winter that she would have a daughter whose skin would be as white as snow, whose lips would be as bright red as blood, and whose hair would be as dark black as ebony. She got her wish, and oh, she loved her little daughter. But unfortunately (as happens in most fairy tales), the mother died. Not long after that, the King married again. The new Queen was also very beautiful, but she was also very insecure. She could tolerate no rivals. She needed to know that she was the most beautiful woman in the Kingdom. She also was a witch. She had brought to the palace her magical mirror, which she would consult for almost any issue. But her most common request was, "Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?"
Now, I happened to run across on the Internet a complete analysis of this fairy tale. Let's look at this story just a little closer. Really, the one person in the story who has the most personality is NOT Snow White, but her wicked witch of a stepmother! And really, if you would look closer at the personality of the wicked Queen, you would see a woman who was terribly lonely. You would see a woman who depended on her looks to be accepted and loved. She absolutely had to look to the mirror to give her the confidence to know that she was the fairest of all, and because she was the fairest, she would naturally be loved by all!
You and I may have various things that we've looked to in order to comfort ourselves that we were loved by all. It might be our looks. We diet and we diet and we exercise and we exercise, just for that one person to say to us, "Hey, you're looking great!" Or it may be the car we drive or the house we live in or the neighborhood or street address that we have. I once knew a Southern lady who was going to marry her second-cousin who had the same last name she had, just so she wouldn't have to change her name. Her name meant everything to her!
Today, we want to look at what our good and gracious God offers you and me so that we no longer need to look any further for that someone or something that will give us the affection and the attention that we yearn for. Today we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord. And especially in Mark's account of Jesus' baptism, there is much emphasis made on Jesus' identity because of His baptism. This is clear in all the Gospel accounts of Jesus' baptism, but even more so in Mark's rather short, but striking version. He wants to highlight for all of us that in Jesus' baptism Jesus received a verbal clarification of who He really is. And as a result, when we enter the waters of our baptism, we receive an identification that makes us special to God from that day forward. Because of our baptism, because we have been united in Christ in our baptism, we now are beloved sons and daughters of God. And because of our baptism, God is ALWAYS well pleased with us. And no matter who snubs us, who ignores us, who fails to understand us or love us the way we think we need to be loved—God is that Someone who ALWAYS, ALWAYS considers us His beloved Child in whom He is well pleased!
So, taking off on the little ditty from Snow White, let's look at the first part of our text, "Water, water, in the River, won't you show us God our Savior?"
Our text reads, "9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."' It's very clear in all the Gospel accounts—but even more so in Mark's account—that John's ministry in the Jordan River was a "preaching of baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (NIV Mark 1:4). So, if John was preaching that everyone should repent (turn back to God) and have their sins forgiven, WHY was Jesus baptized?
"Water, water, in the River, won't you show us God our Savior?" Part of the answer is obvious. If Jesus was to be the Lamb who would carry away all the sins of the world, then at His Baptism He began that role. In the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus became the Chief of Sinners. He was now THE Representative for the whole human race. He was now the Lamb who was carrying the sins of you and me, sins that we committed yesterday, the day before, tomorrow, everyday of our life, every second of our life, and not only our sins, but the sins of every last man, woman, and child who has ever lived or who is yet to be born. In the Jordan, the water of the Jordan, Jesus became Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, the murderers at Columbine High School, the drunk who killed your relative, the person you hate the most in life. But He also became you and me! "He who knew no sin was made to be sin." And that started in the Jordan River.
But something else also happened as Jesus came out of the Jordan. We read, "10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."' Jesus, the Representative of the Whole Human Race, the Son of Man, as He would call Himself, was also STILL the very Son of God, the BELOVED, DEAR Son of God, the Son that God the Father was always and would continue to be pleased with. That's also very clear in our text.
So the River does show us what kind of Savior we have. We have a Savior who was willing to take on our sin, to be identified with sinners, to become the Chief of Sinners, AND at the same time, still carrying our sins, God the Father would pronounce that NEVERTHELESS, this was His DEAR Son, His BELOVED Son, His Son with whom He was well pleased.
That brings us to the second part of our sermon. Again, using the style of the ditty from Snow White, we stand at the font and we say, "Water, water in the font, won't you give us what we need and want?"
There is something about baptismal water that is forever changed because of what happened that day in the Jordan River. It wasn't the salty, muddy water of the Jordan that made the difference. It wasn't even that salty-looking character of John the Baptizer, dressed in camel's hair, who probably looked like a wild man. It was because of Jesus who entered those waters and made them a washing of regeneration as Paul would write to Titus (3:5), a Spirit-water, as Jesus would explain to Nicodemus ("unless a person is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God" John 3:5).
In ancient Israel water was used to make a person acceptable to God. They would take a red heifer without any defects. They would sacrifice it and burn the entire animal down to its ashes. They would mix those ashes with water, and from that point on they would use that water for making people and things acceptable to God. (See Numbers 19:1-10.)
That's what Jesus did. He entered the waters of the Jordan. He took on all our sin. In exchange He gave us His righteousness, His holiness, His acceptance before God.
That's what Paul means in Galatians 3 that in our baptism we have put on Jesus Christ. "26 You are all God's children by believing in Christ Jesus. 27 Clearly, all of you who were baptized in Christ's name have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There are neither Jews nor Greeks, slaves nor free people, males nor females. You are all the same in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants and heirs, as God promised."2 So in our baptism, at the font, we get what we really desired and wanted all our life: To be accepted by God, to be totally perfect, totally on the winning team, always loved, always accepted, and "heirs of all God's promises" (Galatians 3:29).
And that brings us to the last ditty of our sermon, the title we see in our service folders this morning, "Water, water on me fall. Who's the fairest of us all?"
We are baptized. We return to our baptism every day. Why? Because we still sin. Remember our sin hasn't been removed. It has been covered with the holiness of Christ—just as the Holy Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ didn't lose one speck of His holiness when He entered the Jordan, but put on our sin as wearing a bunch of filthy rags. So because we daily sin much, we daily need to return to these waters. Because we daily sin much, we falter in our attitudes. We fall into despair and despondence. Because of our sin, we think that God only sees our sin and thinks we are the ugliest person on the face of the world. Because of our sin, we think God could never accept us or love us. Because of our sin, we think we need to control our lives, get even with those who hurt us, destroy the reputations of those who ruined ours, and this list goes on.
Come, splash in the water of your Baptism OFTEN! Let that water fall on you freely and abundantly every day. Because as you return to your baptism, you are reminded of who you are in Christ Jesus. Because of your baptism NO ONE is fairer than the other. We ALL are the fairest in the land because we're wearing Jesus and His righteousness. Listen to that water fall once again on your head, and hear God the Father say to you, "You ARE MY own DEAR Child, and I AM SO pleased with you!"
Amen! And the peace of God which goes beyond our capacity for thinking shall hold back our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
This sermon in all or parts may be used if reference is noted in the footnote(s) "From Pastor Dan Moriarity (year I wrote the sermon, e.g. 2003), Blair, NE." None of Pastor Moriarity's sermons may be sold for personal gain.
Send Pastor Dan Moriarity an email.