Vicar Christopher Stout

And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

How loved do you feel?  How loved do you feel by your mother or father or spouse or children or roommate?  How loved do you feel by yourself?  Like most emotions, the feeling of being loved fluctuates up and down.  It’s rather easy to love yourself when you’re doing pretty good at your job or with your family.  It’s rather easy to feel loved by others when you are holding up your end of the duty bargain.  How loved do you feel?  Do we ever look at ourselves in the mirror and wonder, “Who could love me?”  After committing a sin that we struggle with, after intentionally hurting someone, after a self recognition of how weak our flesh is, do we ever wonder, “How could I have ever loved myself?” or “How can I ever love myself again.”

Vicar Christopher Stout

And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

How loved do you feel?  How loved do you feel by your mother or father or spouse or children or roommate?  How loved do you feel by yourself?  Like most emotions, the feeling of being loved fluctuates up and down.  It’s rather easy to love yourself when you’re doing pretty good at your job or with your family.  It’s rather easy to feel loved by others when you are holding up your end of the duty bargain.  How loved do you feel?  Do we ever look at ourselves in the mirror and wonder, “Who could love me?”  After committing a sin that we struggle with, after intentionally hurting someone, after a self recognition of how weak our flesh is, do we ever wonder, “How could I have ever loved myself?” or “How can I ever love myself again.”

Satan loves for us to love ourselves – our perceived wisdom, our desires, our bodies.  He loves us to idolize ourselves.  Conversely, Satan loves for us to hate ourselves.  Satan loves us to ask, “How could God love me?”  But, our Gospel reading shows to us that nothing can prevent Jesus from giving you the identity of being loved by the Father.  Nothing can prevent Jesus from fulfilling all righteousness for you.  John would have prevented him, saying “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.” 

John’s baptism was one of repentance.  John’s baptism was meant for conversion, from unbelief to faith.  And there’s Jesus, wanting to receive John’s baptism.  What sort of Son of God is this?  Does he need to repent?  Does he need to be converted?  No, of course not.  But in His Baptism, Jesus shows us how He’s loves us. He is humbly standing in the midst of sinners.  John tried to prevent Him, but failed.  He stands with sinners to heal them – so that they might walk in newness of life, because He knows that because of His love for them, He will die in the place of sinners. 

In Jesus’ Baptism, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit show us where God in the flesh dwells – with sinners, receiving a sinner’s baptism.  The Father and the Spirit are well pleased with Jesus’ baptism in the midst of sinners and the Father and the Spirit will be well pleased with the Son’s death in the place of sinners.  It’s a cleansing and redeeming death for us sinners.  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  His death on the cross and our death in Baptism give us the identity of being loved by the Father.  Can you deny this gift – can you reject your perfect identity with the Son – can you treat such a gift as it is trash?  Yes, for only faith receives this identity.  

 Jesus identifies Himself with sinners and your identity is God’s child; clean, pure, free from sin.  You are baptized (as Finn was baptized this evening).  You have been set free; you are no longer enslaved to sin.  You are united with the beloved, sinless, well pleased with Son of God.  You are to love your neighbor as yourself because that’s who you are.  You can’t help but love because you are united to Christ who loves and is loved. 

What’s not to love if that’s just who we are?  How can you not be pleased with yourself when you love your neighbor as yourself and love God with all your heart?  Satan tempts us to no longer identify ourselves with Christ but our own self righteousness.  He not only wants us to doubt God’s love for us when we feel bad about our self, but when we’re doing really good, he wants us to chalk it up to our righteousness and try hard attitude.   He wants to separate us from Christ’s promised gifts that release us from sin.  He wants us to forget our baptism.  He wants us to have no hunger or thirst for the righteousness Christ fulfilled for us and now delivers to us in His body and His blood. If we look to ourselves in this pride, we will look to ourselves to rescue us from our own sin and when in trouble.  Then, Satan can throw our deliberate sins and our giving into temptation and lust into our face as we turn to ourselves for the answer.  “You are called righteous, so be righteous for goodness sake!” he says.

How loved do we feel when we reflect upon ourselves in this way?  So, Satan tempts us both ways.  He hides himself in good times and good feelings and soothes us to make us comfortable in our sin and dull towards God’s grace.  And he accuses us, saying “God can’t love you.  How can anyone love you?  How can you love yourself?”

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he say the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  God’s word keeps pointing us away from ourselves and pointing us to Jesus.  Isaiah points us to God’s servant, whom He has chosen, whom His soul delights, whom He will put His Spirit upon (Isaiah 42:1-2).  Though He will weary in the Garden, He will not grow faint or be discouraged until he has established justice in the earth (Isaiah 42:4) and proclaims, “It is finished.”  Isaiah points you to Jesus. In His Baptism, the Triune God revealed Himself, and the Father and the Spirit do what they always do.  The Spirit descends and points you to Jesus; the Father speaks and points you to Jesus.  “This one, I love and am well pleased – this one with water dripping off his forehead from a fresh Baptism standing with sinners – this one with blood dripping off his forehead from a crown of thorns standing in the place of sinners– this one I am well pleased with.”  When we feel unpleasing to God, when we feel as if we don’t deserve His love because of who we are, Jesus reveals to us how loved and pleasing to His Father we really are because of our identity in Him.  This one opens heaven and brings it to you now, this one who still stands with sinner and speaks “take and eat; take and drink.”  Jesus words speak to us now, “You are loved by God.  You are well pleasing to the Father.”  

 Our Lord and Savior, after being baptized, hears a lovely sermon from the voice of His Father.  These words are for you.  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  These words give us peace.  These words point us outside of ourselves, and point us to God’s perfect description – not of “how loved you may or may not feel?” – but of how loved you are in His Son.  When falling, rest in the Servant whom God upholds.  In times of guilt and unrighteousness, be at peace that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness for you.  In times of doubt and self hating, rest assured that you are beloved and well pleasing to the Father. 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a