The Baptism of Our Lord
January 13, 2019 A+D
St. Matthew 3: 13-17
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our Baptism works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to us who believe this as the the words and promises of God declare.
The Bible says: “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk 16:16), “Baptism now saves us” (1 Pet 3:21), “(God) saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-8), and “We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom 6:4). We believe what the Bible says about Baptism. We trust His promises. We live by faith. Baptism works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to us by naming as Christ’s own and delivering the power and benefit of His death and resurrection to us.
Baptism does what God says it does. It is glory is hidden from the eyes of the world for it is glory is like that of our King and His Kingdom. It is easily despised by the proud but honored by those who know they need saving and know Christ.
The Baptism of Jesus institutes and empowers our Baptism. It is the beginning of the great exchange. Thus it is a kind of reversal of our Baptism. In His Baptism Jesus is anointed as our King. He doesn’t have any sins to be forgiven, but Baptism doesn’t leave Him even. Instead it infects Him. Baptism gives Him sins. It marks Him as guilty. We step into the clean waters of Baptism filthy in our sins. The water washes our sins off of us for it is a washing of rebirth and renewal. Jesus steps in clean and pure, without sin, into the dirty water we left behind, scum on the surface. When He steps out His is dirty. He is anointed for His Office with our disease and death. He is most certainly not rescued from death and the devil. Immediately after His Baptism the Holy Spirit will lead Him out of the promised land and into the wilderness in order to hand Him over to the devil. Baptism sets Him as the scapegoat who takes our sins away and as the Passover Lamb who shields us from the angel of death by His death. The Lord doesn’t remove our sins by simply dismissing them. He ingests them. He becomes them. Thus the Father and the Spirit won’t help Him. He is a worm and no man. He suffers in the desert without manna. Rather than receiving eternal salvation in Baptism, He is marked for the cross. There He will suffer eternal Hell in our place. As our substitute, He will be betrayed by His friends, stripped naked, humiliated and tortured. He will know and endure all of our sorrows and then some, and He will be forsaken by His Father.
This the way that Jesus is our King. That is why we put the INRI on our crucifixes. That is His throne of which we are unashamed and in which we rejoice. For this is what He is why He was born, what He is anointed for. This is what pleases His Father and reconciles us back to Him.
The Hebrew name David means beloved. Maybe this name is coloring the Father’s declaration: “This is My beloved Son.” Matthew has already established in his genealogy that Christ is the Son of David. David was the man after God’s own heart, loved by God. Christ is even more a Man after God’s own heart than David. He is the Man who takes up the mantle of Messiah, becomes the Passover Lamb, Scapegoat, and whole burnt offering. He fulfills all righteousness.
The word translated “well-pleased” is made up of the words for “think” and “well of.” The Father is saying that He thinks well of the Son, that is, that He is proud of Him. The Father is proud because the Son is virtuous. He is willing to suffer for the love of mankind. The Father and the Son share the same values. The intent and desire of the Holy Trinity is to rescue humanity from the thief and liar Satan. We were not made for Him. We were made for God. The Son, Christ, our Lord, fulfills the Father’s will and His own will by taking on the Office and mission of Messiah. He is anointed for the singular purpose of redeeming the world by humbling Himself to death and taking back by payment and sacrifice what was His by right. His willingness to do this, His obedience, is pleasing to the Father. This is why the Father loves Him and thinks well of Him.
This is what empowers Baptism for us, makes Baptism a saving water. Christ inaugurated and instituted Baptism that saves by being Baptized, by making the exchange. He takes what is ours and in exchange gives us what is His. Our Baptisms joins us to Him and His Baptism. Baptism makes us the beloved sons of the Father in whom the Father is well-pleased. Christ takes our sins and gives us, in exchange, His holiness. He suffers His Father’s wrath so that we would enjoy His Father’s blessings. He accepts the devil’s accusations so that we might have the angels’ praise.
We are all David in Christ, beloved of the Father by Baptism, men after His own heart, who love the cross of Jesus and the empty tomb and the Sacraments that He has given. What He says of Jesus, He says of us. We are the beloved and in Christ He is well-pleased with, even proud of, us.
This morning we baptize a Timothy. That is the Greek name of Paul’s favorite son. It means “honored by God.” In some ways this is a name more fitting for Christians than the name David or any other name. In the Incarnation Christ honored us by becoming one of us. In Baptism, God honors us by joining us in our sin and removing it. He honors us with His own Name. And not just the blessed and mysterious Name that He gave to Moses from the burning bush, but the most intimate and holy of Names, the fullest and most familiar of Names, the Name of the Holy Trinity Himself: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He not only allows us to use that Name and call upon Him but He makes it our Name in Holy Baptism. Thus He elevates us. He makes us His children. He assigns angels to minister to us, to protect us and fight for us. He forgives our sins, rescues us from death and the devil, and gives us eternal salvation. To be honored by God and the favorite son of the apostle to the Gentiles, that is a good name, a name fit for us all.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.