2023-01-08 The Baptism of Jesus
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Well friends, we have turned the page again on another church season. We have crossed over from Christmas into Epiphany. The season of light and revealing has come. Isaiah the prophet wrote “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (60:1-3). It was a great Christmas prophecy summing up the whole problem that humanity faces: darkness. A thick spiritual darkness covers and clouds all people, making us stumble and trip and fall. We know this condition as the darkness of death and sin, both of which continue to mar our fallen world and fill fallen people. We see the effects of it daily on TV in the wars and conflicts, terrorist acts, crime and government corruption. We feel them first hand in our own family conflicts and internal struggles.
The Good News is that God’s Word is a lamp for our feet and a light to our path. This is where we go for that rock solid assurance we need in life that despite the depth of darkness in our world, Christ has come. The true light has come. He was born to set us free from the darkness of sin and death. His light enlightens our dark world and gives us joy that does not fade. His amazing grace is poured out for us on His cross and flows to each of us through our Baptism.
And speaking of Baptism, that’s what day it is today. The Baptism of Jesus our Lord. One of the first celebrations of the Epiphany season of light is the revealing of our Lord in the Jordan river. The sinless Lamb of God goes to be baptized by cousin John. Cousin Johnny can’t believe it himself. “I need to be baptized by you!” John protests to Jesus. But Jesus assures Him that to fulfill all righteousness, Jesus will be baptized by John. Despite that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1JN1:5), our Lord will take the place of the everyday sinner for us and for our salvation.
Of course, Jesus’ Baptism isn’t to wash away His sins. He has none. Darkness cannot exist in the realm of light. Instead, we need to see our Lord’s Baptism in a very sophisticated theological way: like a Divine Sham-Wow towel! It absorbs the sin of the world, sucking up death and taking it all away. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw 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” (MT 3:16-17).
In our Lord’s Baptism, we also have the Epiphany blessing. The Holy Trinity is revealed. God the Son wades in the waters of the Jordan river. God the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. God the Father speaks as the heavens are opened. And truly, the heavens have been opened for us. The gift of sins forgiven and eternal life is now ours through our Baptism. When the water and the word wash us, we are connected to our Lord. We die with Him on His cross. We rise with Him in His resurrection. Heaven is opened for us and becomes our home. This promise is for you and your children. Because it rests not on us or our works but only on the work of the Lamb of God, we can always take comfort in our Baptism. It is God’s promise to us that He is always Emmanuel with us, everyday of our lives. Our Lord graciously pours the light of His kingdom into our darkened hearts and minds, filling us with the light of His promise.
This is why Holy Baptism is such a huge deal for us, whether it took place 90 years ago or even just today. It is our life and our light in Christ our Lord. Even though the world around us is nothing but darkness all the time, the Gospel shines like a beacon for all to see. We ought not to continue to walk and stumble in the darkness. Instead, we should evermore seek the light of God’s truth. We should read God’s Word, immersing ourselves in the heavenly light that proceeds from the mouth of God. For the more we know the light, the more the darkness will flee away.
“Arise, shine” Isaiah says. Epiphany continues to reveal Christ’s grace for us. And likewise, we too should become people of the light. Our good works that God has provided for us to do should be abundant, shining for all the world to see. In fact, St. Paul tells us that the consequences of our Baptism are this: “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). We should walk in the good works that God has prepared for us. Why? Just to be a do-gooder? No, there is a higher calling and purpose to it. Every good thing done in faith in Christ helps spread His light into this dark world. It helps spread the truth of our Lord’s amazing grace and love for His fallen creation.
Isaiah’s words are awesome and they tell us the amazing thing our Lord is doing for us: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness” (42:6-7). And the even more amazing thing is that the Lord uses you and your works of light to accomplish all of this. St. Peter reminds us: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light” (1Pet 2:9).
The water at the dawn of creation. The Jordan river water of Jesus’ Baptism. The water of your Baptism. The Baptism we witness today. It’s so easy to look at it and think less of it than we should. But as we have seen from the Scriptures loud and clear is that where the water and the word are combined together, there is the light of God’s Kingdom that the darkness cannot overcome. The heavens are ripped wide open, the Heavenly Father approves, the Spirit descends, light and life explode with creative power, new life and righteousness result! If anyone is in Christ, boom! A new creation shines forth! What is our guarantee and confidence? How do we know for certain that God’s promises in the Gospel are ours? How do we know that beyond all shadow of doubt and change in the world this belongs to us? It is indeed God’s promise to you. You are baptized into the name above all names, the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Epiphany has come. The great blessings of our Lord at this time of year are abundant once again. Though the world is dark and full of deception and manipulation, the Word of Christ is our lamp, our light and our life. Be wise to the ways of the light. Spread it around as much as you can. It’s as simple as calling a friend who is feeling down to gathering up clothing and food donations for those in need. Through these often simple acts, the light shines in the darkness. Remember your Baptism. Remember who our Lord has called you to be. For the heavens have been opened to you. Arise, shine, for your light has come. Amen!