The Baptism of Jesus


First Sunday after the Epiphany / Baptism of Our Lord

Isa 43:1-7 / Rom 6:1-11 / Lk 3:15-22

Deacon Rex E. Watt


+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit +  Amen.

Prayer for blessing on the Word.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Kids grow up fast, don’t they?  While the adjustment to having a newborn in the house is sometimes daunting, I have yet to hear a parent say, “I just wish they’d grow up faster!”  It usually goes something along the lines of, “They’re already walking?  They’re already driving?  Oh my gosh, they are graduating…where did the time go?”  Our pericope readings for the past few weeks have been like that.  A few weeks ago, we were at the manger peering in on the baby Jesus.  It just seems like yesterday the Magi were bringing the young child gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Today, we find Jesus all grown up!

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the childhood of Jesus.  Other than the story of him in the temple talking with the teachers of the Law when he was twelve years old, what we’ve read over the past several weeks is about all we know.  Jesus’ childhood and growing up years were probably pretty unremarkable, pretty quite, pretty unassuming.  That is about to change.  Today we read about the event in Jesus’ life that marks his entrance, the beginning if you will, the manifestation, the revealing, the Epiphany, of why Jesus came.

We are in the season of the Church Year called Epiphany.  Do you remember the meaning of the word, “Epiphany?”  It is an uncovering, a revealing.  Something has been hidden, or unnoticed, and now it is revealed.  Sometimes we use the term in the sense of “Aha! Now I get it!”  We say that we’ve had an epiphany.  A question that I’d like you to keep in mind as we travel through this season of Epiphany is, “What is God’s Word telling me about Jesus that I would not have known, thought about, or considered before?”  Our text for today is about Jesus’ baptism, so we want to be asking the question, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”

Have you ever wondered, “What is Jesus doing here?”  John was baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  People were coming to John from all over confessing their sins and being baptized by him.  Jesus had no sins.  He did not need to confess anything.  Why in the world was Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him?  Shouldn’t this be the other way around?  Shouldn’t John be getting baptized by Jesus?

Jesus is here, for you!  He comes to John to be baptized not because he needs to confess anything.  He comes to John to be baptized in order to become like one of us.  In the waters of the Jordan, he is not washing away any sins he has, he is having the sins of the world washed onto him as part of the “great exchange” that the Apostle Paul refers to in 1 Cor 5.21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  In Jesus’ baptism by John, Jesus is identifying with us poor sinners.  Only sinners need to be baptized.  Jesus is taking onto himself the filth of our sin so that he can carry it to the cross where he will pay the ultimate penalty for your sin, my sin, and the sin of the whole world.

Picture with me, if you will, a pool of water where a shepherd stands and bathes his sheep who are covered with the dirt, filth, grass and dung from months of being out in the fields.  Sheep after sheep come into the pool with the shepherd and he washes each one until they are spic and span clean.  The water is a mess.  Then he spots one beautiful, totally clean lamb waiting its turn.  Should he wash that lamb?  If that lamb steps into the water, it’s going to take on all the muck floating around in that now filthy pool.  John said to Jesus, “I shouldn’t baptize you.”  And Jesus said to John, “Yes, you should!”  Your Jesus, circumcised on the eighth day shedding his first blood for you; presented in the temple at forty days old keeping the Law for you while still an infant; now steps out in public, for the first time that we know of, and so completely identifies with us, lost and condemned persons that we are, that he takes on the burden and guilt of all of our sins.

And when he does, the most incredible thing happens.  “The heavens are opened, and the Holy Spirit descends on him in bodily form, like a dove, and a voice from heaven says, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’”  God Almighty, the creator of the universe, by voice which was heard by all who were standing nearby, and by a sign, seen by all who were standing nearby affirms that his son, Jesus has begun to do all that he was sent to do.  The heavens, which were shut to mankind after the Fall into Sin are now opened.  The Spirit of God who hovered over the waters at creation and came and went upon people of the Old Covenant now rests upon Jesus to be given to whomever he will.  And the voice of God, which has been silent for 400 years is heard once again.

So what does all this mean for you and me?  When we compare Jesus’ baptism with our baptism, we see this “great exchange” at work.  In Jesus’ baptism, he is identifying himself with you, me, and every other sinful human being who ever lived or will live.  He takes on our sins, and becomes one with us.  In our baptisms, we are joined to Christ in a death like his, receive the forgiveness of our sins that he paid for on the cross nearly 2,000 year ago, clothed with his righteousness which he gives to us freely as a gift, made heirs with Christ and receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance.  Needless to say, it seems to me that we, poor miserable sinners that we are, get the better deal in this exchange.

Returning to our question that we asked at the beginning of our time together, “What is this text telling me about Jesus that I haven’t been thinking about before?”  What is the “epiphany” in this text?  Let me suggest a few:

When Jesus came to be baptized by John, he did it for you.  This is not just an historical note about something that happened to Jesus.  The sinless Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the savior of the world, came to John to be baptized, for you.

This Jesus, whom God declares to be his beloved son at his baptism by John, declares you to be his sons and daughters in your baptism.

As God has now made you his children, he makes you full heirs of his kingdom.  Children inherit from their parents.  God gives you his Holy Spirit as the down payment, the guarantee, of your inheritance.

As you have been united with Jesus in a death like his, as the Apostle Paul wrote, you dear Saints will certainly be united with Jesus in a resurrection like his.

“When you pass through the waters, [he] will be with you”  “He called you by name, you are [his].  No matter what you go through in life, your Lord Jesus will be with you.

Dear Saints of Redeemer, God your father, at your baptism, opened heaven for you.  He gave you his Holy Spirit to enlighten your eyes to see the work he was doing, forgiving you your sins, he also gave you ears to hear his voice anew: “You are my beloved son/daughter; with you I am well pleased.”  Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

No comments yet

Comments are closed