The Baptism of our Lord
13 January 2018
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Dr. Jason D. Lane
GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.
From the moment of His conception in Mary’s womb, He was God. And when God became man, His divinity never changed; it was never diminished, which means that there was never a time when He was less God. When Mary’s Son was born in Bethlehem, God was born in Bethlehem. When the child was circumcised according to the law, it was God who was circumcised. When the Magi followed the star and brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to worship a king, they didn’t find just a boy; they found a boy who was God and King of the Universe. And when the child was 12 years old, and in the temple teaching the teachers, God was in His temple. And when He APPEARED OUT OF GALILEE AT THE JORDAN WITH JOHN, TO BE BAPTIZED BY HIM, God came to be baptized like a sinner.
Even though HE WAS IN THE FORM OF GOD, He DIDN’T COUNT HIS EQUALITY WITH GOD SOMETHING TO BE GRASPED. At the Jordan, the Great Epiphany is that HE MADE HIMSELF NOTHING. That’s the whole incarnation and life of Christ all the way to His death and burial. HE MADE HIMSELF NOTHING. And that’s the way the ministry of God-With-Us starts. He takes His office as the Christ by becoming nothing, to be baptized like a sinner.
That’s not us. Our old nature doesn’t want us to look weak, doesn’t want to be called a sinner, and so we do everything we can to look righteous, to show others how full of good works we are. We want people to know about the thing we did, the things we do, and all the things we can do, if we’re just given the chance. We want approval. We want to be recognized.
If someone doesn’t praise us, doesn’t recognize everything we’re trying to do or everything we’ve done, we drop a hint—so quick to justify ourselves. We care so much about what people think of us, and end up doing little things and big things in hopes of getting people’s attention and getting people to love us. We act like we’ve never been loved before and live as if we don’t have the attention and love of God the Father. It’s pride and pride is just another form of selfishness, another way the old Adam in us coils in on himself, looking out for number one, while everyone else stays a long way off at number two. Adam’s first sin was pride. He didn’t want to consider Eve better than himself. He could’ve MADE HIMSELF NOTHING for her, put her above himself, but instead he made himself great and made her the sinner. “THE WOMAN YOU PUT HERE WITH ME; SHE GAVE ME OF THE TREE!”
But, beloved, now look at Jesus. Look at Jesus. HAVE THE SAME MIND AS CHRIST JESUS. He was by nature before all others. That’s how He was from eternity: God from God, Light from Light, and the very substance of the Father and the BELOVED SON of the Father. And yet, verse 13, God APPEARED AT THE JORDAN WITH JOHN, TO BE BAPTIZED BY HIM. He took on the FORM OF A SERVANT, no even less, He took on the form of a sinner. He came to be baptized by John with the rest of those sinner. But JOHN TRIED TO PREVENT HIM.
The Gospel of John tells us that the Baptist didn’t know who the Christ was until the Holy Spirit descended on Him. John said: “I DIDN’T KNOW HIM, BUT FOR THIS PURPOSE I CAME BAPTIZING, THAT HE MIGHT BE REVEALED TO ISRAEL.” He was waiting for a great epiphany! Here at the Jordan, he’s still not sure whether Jesus is the Christ. To know that for sure, He needed the Holy Spirit. NO ONE CAN SAY JESUS IS LORD or that He is the Christ, EXCEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Still, he had to have a hunch. He’d been waiting for the Christ his whole life, and when his cousin Jesus approached, he at least knew that He wasn’t like everybody else. John must have seen something holy in that carpenter coming out of Galilee, because he says, verse 14, “I’M THE ONE WHO NEEDS TO BE BAPTIZED BY YOU, AND YOU COME TO ME?”
John had seen through to the heart of the Pharisees and Sadducees and he called them snake children. But John also saw through to the heart of those thousands upon thousands that were coming to the Jordan River, confessing their sins. He received them. He baptized them. And we can only assume that He saw something in Jesus too. Maybe he sensed the divinity, like he did when he leapt in his mother’s womb. Like a baby knows the scent of its mother, John the Baptist must have smelled the aroma of Christ’s divinity, because John tried to prevent Him from getting into that water. He knew enough to know that Jesus didn’t belong in that sin-stained river. John saw greatness in Jesus. It’s why he TRIED TO PREVENT Jesus from baptism. It wasn’t right that the GREATER One should be lesser than John. It wasn’t fitting for the Righteous One to get involved in all that unrighteousness. BUT JESUS ANSWERED AND SAID TO JOHN: “ALLOW THIS NOW, FOR THIS IS FITTING FOR US TO FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.” It was fitting that the LESSER should baptize the GREATER and the GREATEST BORN OF WOMEN should baptize the LEAST IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. But it was more than just humility. Jesus says that is was TO FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Jesus had to get down in that water. It was the only way. Not that He was a sinner but that He came to soak up all that sin. He WHO KNEW NO SIN had to BE MADE SIN FOR US. It was the only way to FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS, because it was the only way to cleanse that water for the rest of the world.
John tried to prevent Him, because it’s not proper to treat Jesus like a sinner and have Him baptized like a sinner. And our hearts will try to prevent Him, not from getting in the Jordan, but to prevent Jesus from being a sinner. We say He’s too righteous, too holy, too clean to be involved with sin, with our sin. But Jesus says: ALLOW THIS NOW.
John didn’t think it was right for Jesus to get into the water. 23wesdxBut, beloved, if Jesus doesn’t get into that water as a sinner, then nothing changes. God remains righteous and we remain sinners. But if He gets into that water like a sinner, then He becomes the sinner and we become righteous. That’s why Jesus says: ALLOW THIS NOW. Sin has got to be somewhere. Either it’s on us or it’s on Jesus. What’s it going to be? Jesus says: ALLOW THIS. Christians, IT’S FITTING FOR US to allow Jesus to be our sin, so that He could destroy sin and that He alone could be the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. The office of the Christ is to be the SIN-BEARER. If Jesus is to be our Christ, our Messiah, then let Him bear our sin. Allow Him to get down into our mess. I mean the real sin you’ve been hiding or the sin I’ve been trying carry myself. Whatever pride we’re still holding onto that tries to prevent Christ from being a Savior. We’ve got to allow Him to take it. Why? It’s to FULFILL ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS.
JOHN ALLOWED IT and we’ve got to allow it, too. Jesus stepped out into that water contaminated with the sins of Israel, and He took up the sins of the whole world. He plunged into the depths of our mess, so that Jesus Himself is the one praying Psalm 69: SAVE ME, O GOD! FOR THE WATERS HAVE COME UP TO MY NECK. I SINK IN DEEP MIRE; THERE IS NO FOOTHOLD. I HAVE COME INTO DEEP WATER AND THE FLOOD SWEEPS OVER ME…LET NOT THE FLOOD SWEEP OVER ME, OR THE DEEP SWALLOW ME UP OR THE PIT CLOSE ITS MOUTH OVER ME. He went and plunged down into that water, and came out Jesus the Christ, the Anointed. He was always God, but now He takes up His office as the Christ, anointed with the sin of the whole world. He went in clean and came out stained. He came out bearing it all, all your sin, all my sin, everyone’s sin. He soaked it all up. And I tell you, that water has never been more pure than now. That day at the Jordan He sanctified that whole river and not just that river, but water in every faucet and font. Whatever’s been washed away from us in the water is on Him now.
How do we know? [Vv. 16 and 17] AND WHEN JESUS WAS BAPTIZED, SUDDENLY HE CAME UP FROM THE WATER AND BEHOLD, THE HEAVENS WERE OPENED TO HIM, AND HE SAW THE SPIRIT OF GOD DESCENDING AS A DOVE AND COMING OVER HIM.  AND BEHOLD A VOICE FROM THE HEAVENS SAYING: “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.”
You see the whole Trinity is involved in His baptism, because the whole Trinity’s involved with our Baptism. INTO THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT we are washed clean. It’s not just washing away the dirt. It’s not just an analogy of being clean by faith. It’s that baptism does it. It forgives sin, because in our baptism we are placed into water that’s been sanctified by Jesus Christ. God Almighty has baptized us, so that our sin is put on Christ and the righteousness of Christ is put on us.
The heavens opened at His baptism to declare that He is the Christ, THE BELOVED OF THE FATHER, on whom THE FATHER HAS SET HIS SEAL, THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD. And because He’s purified the water with His baptism and His word, He now through the gift of Holy Baptism opens the gates of Heaven to us, so that we’d wake up every morning to CONSIDER ourselves DEAD TO SIN AND ALIVE TO GOD IN CHRIST JESUS, so that every part of our lives would be pleasing to God the Father, so that we’d hear that voice from heaven, too: YOU ARE MY BELOVED WITH WHOM I’M WELL PLEASED. It’s what the Father says to you now. Not because you’re without sin, but because all your sin has been washed onto Jesus and all His righteousness has been washed onto you. ALLOW THIS MUCH: Allow Christ to be your sin-bearer. Allow Christ to be your Righteousness. And for the baptized child of God, BEHOLD THE HEAVENS ARE OPEN TO you. THE SPIRIT RESTS on you. Listen: “YOU ARE MY BELOVED child,” says the Father. Amen.