+ The Baptism of Our Lord – January 9th, 2010 +
Text: Isaiah 42:1-9; Romans 6:1-11; Matthew 3:13-17
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.
The greatest events in Scripture all have to do with water. Think about it: Creation, the flood, the exodus, wandering in the wilderness, the entrance to the Promised Land, Jesus’ miracles and ministry – His crucifixion – there’s even water flowing from God’s throne in Revelation.
You're welcome to challenge this, but I think you could only add blood to the premise. Which only helps strengthen the case. Water and blood and Jesus.
Everything is there for you in Jesus’ Baptism: the Son is in the water, the Spirit Hovers and the Father’s voice resounds. Creation, redemption, sanctification, fulfillment – it’s all in the water – liquid salvation.
So, Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River to John to be baptized by him. At Jesus’ Baptism, John is still the forerunner. His entire identity is wrapped up in water. The same is true for Jesus. Baptism and Jesus always go together. So, it’s no coincidence that Jesus’ is anointed into His public ministry in the Jordan River.
The Jordan River appears to be an ordinary river - more like a creek – the people of Israel have been crossing and bathing in this river since the days of Moses. But, oh is it ever polluted. I’m not just talking about the silt and reeds. Think of all those people coming to John to be baptized in repentance for the forgiveness of sins; it’s unholy water. This time, when Israel wades into the Jordan River something new – a new Promised Land, a new Paradise – happens under the sun and in the water – God in the flesh goes to the Jordan River to be baptized by a sinner with sinners for sinners. That’s what Jesus wades into, a slough of iniquity. A dirty, sinner’s bath. The Sinless for the sinner. So much for a nice dip in the river.
And John calls Jesus out on it too. He blurts out the elephant in the river: “What are you crazy? I need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?!” John knows what kind of runoff is in that river. He knows the kind of people he’s been baptizing – no sin, no baptism; that’s how it works; Jesus is not one of them. He bears no guilt. He has no sin. He is innocent, a spotless Lamb without blemish. Heaven is already open to Him, His Father is already His Heavenly Father from all eternity; all that the Father has is His; and the Spirit dwells with them in eternity. John is right. Jesus has no need of Baptism.
But you and I do. We need His Baptism – we need what happens to Him in that water. We were in bondage to sin, death and Satan and the worst part is was no one’s fault but ours, we the liars , the gossipers and backstabbers, murderers, cheats and scoundrels – we, the chief of sinners were in prison and could not free ourselves from darkness and separation - sin and death. And you might think that you are alone. But you are not. He has not come to break bruised reeds and snuff out smoldering wicks. He comes to the Jordan for you.
Jesus stands in the Jordan for all of Israel, for you Muttering Moses’, for you Conniving Cain, for you Desiring David, for you Betraying Peter, for you chief of sinners . Christ goes down into the water without guilt. Without sin. Innocent.
And He comes up out of the water guilty, impure, unclean – the greatest sinner of all. A reverse Baptism. John resists, but Jesus insists. There is no other way. “Let it be for now,” Jesus says, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” So, John pours the water; Jesus is anointed for death. And like a divine sponge He soaks up all God’s wrath for you. There’s no one so bad that Jesus did not die for them, none so good that they do not need Him. In Him is the liar and the cheat, the pervert and the thief; you are in Him. He is doused with your death so that you are drown into His life. Every Baptism is a successful drowning into life.
The tides have turned. Jesus’ Baptism is a great reversal. A super exchange, a sacred swap – the Holy for the unholy, the Sinless for the sinner, the Living for the dead, the Son of David for the all sons of Adam. Jesus Baptism is your Baptism. Jesus’ death is your death. Jesus’ life is your life. He is the stand-in for all humanity. One life for all.
Heaven is open. The Son is in the water; Spirit hovers and the Father’s voice resounds. Nothing pleases the Father more than this Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. “This is my Beloved Son in whom I was, I am, I will continually be pleased.” His sacrifice is a delight to the Father. Through Jesus’ Baptism – life death and resurrection - God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
For Jesus, the cross looms large over Baptism. Baptism in the Jordan. Baptism on the cross. Water gives way to blood and fire. Death gives way to resurrection. Death has sheathed it’s sword, the angels no longer guard the way to paradise, Jesus leads you there through His Baptism, through His death, into life. “Behold, my chosen Servant in whom my soul delights.” The Spirit is upon Him from all eternity. You see Jesus, you see the Spirit. And in Him, the Spirit now rests on you.
That’s why it had to be a dove descending. The feathered Spirit rests on Jesus, having found a perfect fleshly olive branch. Peace with God. Jesus has suffered all God’s wrath for you. Jesus is the end of punishment for you. The Victor. The Fulfiller. The Accomplisher. The hell destroyer. The former things have come to pass and new things He declares:
A new and greater flood gives way to a new creation set free. Jesus’ ministry is your Freedom. He releases us from sin’s captivity for fruit bearing life. Heals and bears our diseases. Casts out Satan and his hordes. Raises the dead. The Key of David unlocks heaven and slams the gates of hell shut with a flood of water and blood. He is pierced and Heaven is open. Who do you see through the torn curtain?
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, takes away your sin. And if He has taken it away it is no longer yours, but His. Your apathy, your lies, Your sins – whatever they may be, great or small, it matters not – they no longer belong to you, but Him. Sin, death and evil are gone.
Into your empty hands He puts His peace. Into your ears He sings a new song of absolution. Into your open mouth He puts His own body and blood. He gives you faith in Him and fervent love toward one another.
And over your head He pours forth a new and saving flood that drowns all sin in you which you have inherited from Adam and which you have committed since. It may only look like water, but Jesus is there. For no one who goes into the font after Jesus comes out the same. Down with the old and up with the new. All of your guilt and shame is covered by His robe of Baptismal death-and-life-fulfilling righteousness.
Water and blood and Jesus – it’s all there in your Baptism. Should your sin disturb you or Satan fire his darts at you, point to the font and soak his lies in the Promise: “I am Baptized. There my Savior was baptized into my death and there I was baptized into His.”
In Jesus, Baptism is your ark, your exodus, your anointing, your death and resurrection. Your Jordan where the Son stands, the Spirit hovers and the Father’s voice resounds: “You are my beloved child with whom I am and I will eternally be pleased.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.