Today, we will be looking at the Bible’s word picture of a tree planted near water. Our theme passage compares the man who trusts in the Lord to a tree planted near water.
Our most obvious connection with water is the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Holy Baptism is the Gospel combined with water according to the instructions that Jesus gave to His church: “Baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Down through the centuries, the church has seen various events in the Old Testament as types of Holy Baptism. The readings that I chose for this morning are accounts of a couple of those events.
In the reading from Peter’s epistle, we hear Peter compare Holy Baptism to the salvation that God provided for Noah on the ark. God destroyed sin by water, but provided salvation for those who trusted Him
The account of Moses at the Red Sea also shows God at work through water. Once again, He destroyed sin and provided salvation for those who trusted Him.
There is something in these two Old Testament accounts that we don’t often think about when we think about baptism. The water in these accounts was incredibly violent. Violence is probably a word that we don’t think about when we think of baptism. We think about salvation. We think about becoming part of the family of Jesus Christ. But violence is something that just doesn’t spring to mind in our baptism.
Never the less, there is violence and death in baptism. Baptism is a washing away of sin and sin does not go quietly or peacefully. Luther states that baptism kills and drowns the Old Adam. The Apostle Paul writes, [Romans 6:3–4] “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
By baptism, the Holy Spirit joins us to the violence of the battle that overthrows our pride, our self-righteousness, our gossip, and our tendency to see the speck in the other and miss the beam in ourselves. The violence of baptism overthrows our sin and causes us to confess and beg, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”
Then in the Gospel that I chose for this morning, we see that God did come into human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. We see that Jesus stands with us in the violence of baptism. He bore the violence as He carried our sin to the cross and offered Himself up as a sacrifice that takes away all our sin.
Jesus endured incredible violence on the cross … not only the physical violence of the crucifixion … but also the divine violence that caused Him to cry out, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” It is that violence that protects us from the violence of baptism. Jesus endured that violence so that He could bring us kicking and screaming into His family. He has adopted us into His family so that He is now our brother and He tells us to call on His Father as our Father. In baptism, the Holy Spirit has violently evicted an evil spirit and given us eternal salvation.
We know all this because Jesus overcame the violence of death and returned to life. It is His resurrection from the dead that gives us the sure and certain knowledge that He is ours and we are His forever.
The waters of the flood were very violent and carried away all those who were outside the ark. At the same time, those who were inside the ark remained safe. The water of the Red Sea violently destroyed the Egyptian army while Israel passed through on dry ground. In baptism, the violence of the cross washes away all our sins and the Holy Spirit brings us safely into the arms of Jesus.
Those who reject Jesus must face a violence that is much worse than the flood or the Red Sea. They must face a violence that washes them away into eternal punishment. Those who enjoy the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith will not suffer that eternal violence, but will rejoice forever with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
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