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The Baptism of Our Lord

St. Matthew 3.13-17


Epiphany 1, series B
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Jan 8, 2012 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 As Jesus approaches John the Baptist to be baptized, John balks at the proposition. 

[St. Matthew 3.14]

I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?

John tries to refuse Jesus because he knows that Jesus is the one about whom he has been preaching.  John knows that Jesus is the one whose way he's been preparing; the one who comes after him, who is mightier than he, and whose shoes he is not worthy to bear.  (St. Matthew 3.11) John knows that Jesus is the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.  (St. John 1.29) He doesn't want to baptize Jesus with water, because he knows that Jesus is the Messiah who will baptize him and all humanity with the Holy Spirit.

2 And yet, Jesus submits to be baptized by John.  Not because he has sins that need to be forgiven.  Not because he has any need of contrition or repentance.  No, Jesus comes to be baptized by John because he is the Messiah who has come to fulfill the righteousness demanded by God.  Jesus tells John

[St. Matthew 3.15]

Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill

all righteousness.

3 In submitting to John's baptism, Jesus reveals that this baptism is necessary for him to fulfill all righteousness.  By being baptized, Jesus stands in the place of every person who does have sins that need to be forgiven.  By submitting to John's baptism, Jesus stands in the place of every man, woman, and child, caught in the seemingly endless cycle of contrition and repentance over sins from which we cannot break free.  Jesus' baptism is nothing other than the moment when he takes the sins of the world upon his own soul.  As the water pours over him, our sins fall down upon him.  As he is covered with water from the river Jordan, his soul is covered with your sins, my sins, and the sins of all mankind.  And this pleases God the Father who sends the Holy Spirit upon Jesus and speaks his blessing for all to hear.  As St. Matthew says:

[St. Matthew 3.16-17]

And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven saying, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

4 As heaven opens, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus.  The Father speaks his blessing.  And the Son stands there beside the Jordan with his true identity revealed and his divine mission made plain for all to see.  Jesus is the sinless Son of God, in the flesh, come to fulfill all righteousness.  Jesus is the One who takes the sins of the world away.  He is the One foretold ages ago by God himself as he spoke through the prophet Isaiah:

[Isaiah 42.1, 6-7]

Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. . . I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

5 We are the Gentiles for whom Christ is our covenant and our light.  Ours are the eyes blinded by darkness, which Christ opens by his grace.  We are the prisoners held in bondage by our sin, whom Christ delivers into freedom.  We are those who sit in the prison house of darkness whom Christ leads out into the light of God.  For Christ has been baptized for our sake and fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf. 

6 Today, the Holy Spirit holds Jesus before us at his baptism to remind us again of what he once said through the Apostle Paul:

[I Corinthians 1.31b]

He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

When we meditate on Jesus' baptism we see that we truly have no glory of our own.  Without Jesus we would still be blind, and unable to see all things with eyes of faith.  Without Jesus we would still be in the prison of sin, and unable to live as God desires.  Without Jesus we would still sit in darkness deep as death, and there we would sit until we breathed our last.  So we have no reason to glory in any achievements of our own.  The only achievement that counts for anything before God is that which Jesus has done.  He alone has taken our sins upon himself in his baptism.  He alone has fulfilled all righteousness on our behalf.  He alone has carried our sins throughout his earthly life all the way from the Jordan River to the cross of Calvary.  And there he paid the price that they demand: the price of pain; the price of blood; the price of his own dear life. 

7 So today God calls on us to repent of every sinful inclination to glory in our own achievements rather than in Christ.  Today, God calls on us to repent of every sinful thought, word, and deed that would rob Christ of any glory and instead have it rest upon us.  Today, God calls us to behold our Lord in the River Jordan, and see our sins laid upon his soul as he is baptized by St. John the Baptist, that we might ever glory in him and him alone, who takes our sins upon himself, and taketh away the sins of the world.

8 As we do such repentance, we have the LORD's promise that he will sustain us in our faith.  He says through the prophet Isaiah:

[Isaiah 42.3]

A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench.

Even if you are so steeped in your sin that you are near your breaking point, Christ, who is our wisdom, will strengthen you in your fight against all evil.  Even if your faith is so weak as to be like a spent candle still barely smoking, Christ, who is our righteousness, will fan the flame of faith in your heart to bring you once again into his salvation.  Even if there is nothing at all holy about your life right now, Christ, who is our sanctification, can make you holy before our heavenly Father.  And for sinners like each of us, Christ, who is our redemption, has made atonement for us all upon the cross of Calvary and reconciled us with God.  For, as St. Paul says:

[I Corinthians 1.30]

. . . of [God] are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.

So do not fear to confess your sins to Jesus.  For they have already been lain upon his soul in the River Jordan.  And Christ has carried them all the way to the cross of Calvary and taken them away.  By his baptism, by his earthly life, and by his holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death, Christ has fulfilled all righteousness for you, for me, and for all the world.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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