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Baptism of Our Lord

Luke 3:15–22

James T. Batchelor

Baptism of Our Lord, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jan 10, 2016 

We are now in the season of the Epiphany of our Lord.  The epiphany of our Lord is all about the many ways that our Lord, Jesus Christ reveals Himself to people.  The first Gospel for the season of the Epiphany of our Lord is about our Lord revealing Himself to some magi by means of a sign in the heavens a star that led them to the Christ-child.  This week the Gospel tells us that God the Father tore the heavens open in order to talk about Jesus as Jesus submitted to a baptism by John in the Jordan.  The gospel also tells us that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.  Todays gospel is an epiphany not just of Jesus, but also of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is still on His journey to the cross.  He journeyed from His throne in Heaven to take on our humanity as a single cell in Marys womb.  He grew in her womb just like any other human baby and on Christmas we celebrated His birth.  He lived His life under the law just like any other human being.  The only difference is that He kept the law perfectly.  He never sinned.

The entire time that He grew both inside and outside of His mother, He carried our sin your sin and mine.  Up until the events in todays Gospel, He had carried them privately quietly.  Very few people knew who He was.  When it was time for Him to go public, He came to the Jordan River to John the Baptist.  He came to be baptized.

Now John was proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, (Luke 3:3, ESV) and the natural question is, Why did Jesus have John baptize Him? Jesus never sinned.  He didnt need to repent, and He didnt need forgiveness of sins.  What was Jesus doing in the water with John?

The best answer to this question that I know of is contained in the prayer that Martin Luther wrote for the rite of baptism.  Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.  Jesus submitted to baptism in order to stand with you in order to save you from your sin.  In the water of Johns baptism Jesus publicly proclaimed that He carried your sin.  When JESUS is baptized, the sins that were washed away from sinners all stick to Him.  At His Baptism, Jesus comes to be a sinner covered with our sins.  And not just one person's sins.  He comes to take on EVERY person's sins ever!

In the Gospel according to Luke that we just heard, both God the Father and God the Holy Spirit acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God chosen to earn salvation for you.  Todays Gospel proclaims, Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. (Luke 3:2122, ESV) This reverses the results of sin that God proclaimed after the first sin when He said, Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:2224, ESV) So, in Adam, it is our sin that closed off the way to paradise.  The account of Jesus baptism informs us that, in Jesus, the way to paradise is open once again.  For, as Jesus prayed, the heavens opened once again.  The Holy Spirit descended on Him, and the Father declared Jesus to be His beloved Son the Messiah the one anointed to earn salvation for all people.

As Jesus journeyed to the cross, His baptism by John is a major milestone.  This event is second in importance only to the crucifixion and resurrection.  The Holy Spirit anointed the Christ in both His humanity and His divinity.  God the Father acknowledges Him as His Son.  His ministry of carrying our sins to the cross became public knowledge.

One of the demonstrations of the importance of this event comes after Jesus ascended.  Judas the betrayer had hung himself, and the remainder of Jesus disciples came together to choose a replacement for him.  Peter reminded the others of the qualifications for the replacement.  He said, One of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from usone of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. (Acts 1:2122, ESV) Many of the men Jesus chose were originally disciples of John.  Like them, the replacement for Judas must be able to bear witness to the baptism of Jesus by John.  The baptism of Jesus forms the beginning point of the witness.

Todays reading from the Gospel according to Luke informs us of this incredible epiphany.  The heavens were opened.  God the Son was in the water.  God the Holy Spirit descended like a dove.  God the Father spoke to the crowds.  John the Baptist witnessed this epiphany along with his followers, and some of those followers would later become Jesus disciples.

However, not all the witnesses of this epiphany were friendly witnesses.  This epiphany was also a message to the devil and all his evil angels.  God the Son has taken up human flesh.  He is bringing the battle to the earth.  This is the one who will crush the serpents head.  Jesus, full of the Spirit, is ready to battle the temptations of the devil in the wilderness.  He will fight for you, Dear Christian, and He will win.

In a few Sundays when the season of Lent starts, we will read the temptation that the devil brought against Jesus.  Two of the temptations begin with the words, If you are the Son of God (Matt. 4; Luke 4).  The other temptation asks Jesus to worship the devil as God.  All three temptations attack the identity of Jesus as God the identity that the Father proclaimed at Jesus baptism.

Jesus endured the full fire of Satans temptation.  He endured not only the temptation in the wilderness, but Satan never really stopped tempting Jesus.  He tempted him through His friends and followers.  He continued to tempt Jesus even as Jesus was hanging on the cross.  As Jesus hung on the cross those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. (Matthew 27:3940, ESV) Even as Jesus hung on the cross, the passers by were still challenging the words that the Father proclaimed in this mornings Gospel.  Jesus endured these temptations as we never will.  Jesus perfect perseverance under Satans fiery temptation was part of the mission to open heaven for us.

The epiphany we heard about this morning also marks Jesus as the target of Gods wrath.  In todays epistle, the Apostle Paul says, We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:6, ESV) Jesus took your place.  He was the target of Gods wrath a wrath that was so severe that Jesus cried out, My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Jesus suffered the original baptism of fire for you.  He fulfilled Johns prophecy of baptism by fire in order to open heaven for you.

Jesus blazed a trail through death that leads to life.  He conquered death and rose from the dead.  Through His triumph, the way to heaven is open.

Here at His baptism, Jesus took our place under the burden of our sin.  As our substitute, He carried out Gods plan perfectly.  The mission that Jesus began at His baptism was successful.  He opened a way to heaven.  He offers to join us to Himself through baptism.  The Holy Spirit gives us the faith that receives that offer.  God the Father adopts us into His family by that faith.  When the time comes for us to leave this world, the heavens will open, the angels will carry us home and we will hear the Father say, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. Amen

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