Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In our text for the fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear again the words quoted from Isaiah 40: 1-8: "A voice crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way of the LORD..." According to our past readings, these words were a prophecy of John the Baptist, but now our text says they were "the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him: Who art thou?"
The text continues, "And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? He said: I am not. Are you the prophet?" We talk about Jesus Christ without distinction between Jesus and Christ, but his personal name is Jesus and Christ is a title. The Greek word is the same as the Hebrew word Messiah. Both mean "Promised One", ie, the Savior that God promised Abraham, Moses, King David and others in the Old Testament. John answered them, "I am not the Christ", yet John also said, "I am not Elijah," ie, a prophet like Elijah, a great prophet of the Old Testament. He was not a messenger of the old covenant of Mount Sinai, but the new covenant in the blood of Him who was to come.
Nor was he the prophet of whom Moses spoke in our Old Testament lesson (Deuteronomy 18: 15-19): "Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like me, will the LORD thy God raise, you shall listen to him ... "These words of Moses was a prophecy of the Messiah, but the Jews did not understand that.
John said with his own lips: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah." John prepared the way for Christ by calling the people to repentance and baptism in the Jordan River.
That was the thing that bothered those that confronted Juan, who had been sent by the Pharisees. "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
The term "baptism" is derived from a Greek word meaning "to wash". In the New Testament, the word sometimes refers to washing hands or dishes. Also it refers to the ritual bath that the law of Moses required of the Israelits after touching a corpse or a leper. Often when we talk about the Law of Moses that the Lord gave the Israelites at Mount Sinai, we talk about the 10 commandments, which are the moral law or the Lord's will for how all nations should live. These commandments still are His will for us.
However, the law of Moses also included many ceremonial laws that governed the worship of God in the Temple of Jerusalem. These laws prepared the people Israel to receive the Messiah, the Promised One, but do not apply to us because Christ came to fulfill the Old Covenant and make a new covenant in His blood. Because of this covenant, there is no need of the Temple and the sacrifices inside. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is enough to redeem all sin forever.
Well, then, according to the law of Moses, a Jew who touched a corpse or a leper had to wait eight days and bathe before entering the Temple again. The Pharisees extended this idea to proselytes, living people who wanted to join the people of Israel. At that time, many pagans wanted to leave their gods and worship the God of Israel. The Pharisees, a strict sect of the Jews, required a baptism, or ritual bath, for proselytes, because they were like spiritual corpses in their eyes.
Juan bothered the Pharisees because he preached a baptism of repentance not only for proselytes, but for all the people of Israel. According to John, all were sinners and needd to repent. Then, they asked of him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?"
In its response, Juan affirmed the need for universal baptism, but said his baptism was not complete in itself. "I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know. This is the One who is coming after me is preferred before me, whom I am not worthy to untie His shoes. "
What our Catechism says about baptism? "Baptism is not simple water only, but is water applied with the divine mandate and linked with the Word of God." What Word of God is this? "It's the word that our Lord Jesus Christ gave in the last chapter of Matthew: Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
When Jesus began his public ministry, He came to John the Baptist to be baptized in the Jordan River. And John said, "Lord, I am not worthy to baptize you. You should baptize me. "Jesus prevailed upon him, and when Jesus was baptized, each person of the Holy Trinity were revealed. The almighty Father spoke in a voice from heaven and said the Son of God was present in the person of Jesus. Also the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the visible form of a dove.
When we baptize in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we confess our faith that God is active in the same way as in the baptism of Jesus. God the Father sent his Son to suffer and die on the cross to open the door of His kingdom to us. After His resurrection, the Son ascended to the right hand of the Father, and both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit to all who are baptized, not in a visible form, but to live in their hearts.
Therefore, Christian baptism works forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe, as expressed in the words and promises of God. Our baptism is not only an external rite symbolizing repentance and faith in the heart, as some sects believe today. It is a spiritual washing of regeneration that has the power of God to change the heart and mind of a person, and is the beginning of a new life.
It would not be possible to receive this gift without the gift of Christ's sacrifice on the cross. But as we celebrate this season of Advent, Christ came and died in our place, then we can be adopted as children of God in water baptism and the Word of God. Therefore, we have peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
Send Pastor David Ernst an email.