The Baptism of Our Lord
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Everything Our Lord does, He does for us. He takes up our flesh, is born of a woman, to fulfill the Law for us. He is circumcised, his mother purified, has sacrifices offered on His behalf, denies Himself certain foods, and eats the Passover to end all those things. The Law is fulfilled in Him. His circumcision, His perfect obedience, His ritual purity counts for those who are joined to Him in Holy Baptism. The same is true of the Moral Law. He kept it for us. His fasting and temptation were done in our stead. He fulfilled what we were unable, and unwilling, to do. His sobriety, His self-denial and discipline, count for us. But that is not all. He not only kept the Law, He also allowed the Law to do to Him all that justice demanded it do to us. He who knew no sin, became sin. He suffered in the agony of His soul, the guiltless guilty with His own Blood upon His hands. All this that we might be forgiven and saved.
And thus it is that He stands in the river separating the wilderness from the Promised Land and John pours the dirty water over His head. He does not need this Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, these waters of humility, but He submits to them for us. His Baptism is our Baptism. The water does not sanctify Him, but He sanctifies the water. The water that falls off His back flows into all the fonts of Christendom, as a pure, holy, life-giving water, rich in Grace. For He who stands in the Jordan is the Word made Flesh. He makes Baptism, Baptism.
This Word crucified and risen is combined with and included in the water. It creates and sustains the faith which receives all of His benefits. This water saves by the power of His resurrection. It joins us to Him, burying us in His death, and raising us by the glory of the Father in His resurrection. You were baptized into Him. His Name was applied to you: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You now belong to Him. His Baptism, His anointing, His inheritance, is yours. The heavens opened also upon you. The Holy Spirit descended. The Father proclaimed, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased.” He was talking about you!
There is no one to accuse you. The wrath of God has been appeased. Justice has been served. The payment made in full. You go free, but not back to your old evil haunts, but to the mansions of heaven, to the life of grace. For you are a member of the royal household, a royal priest. You feast on the heavenly banquet with brothers and sisters, those still here and those already moved ahead of us. You rest secure in the ever prevailing mercy of His love.
You are not those who were baptized. You are those who ARE baptized. You are washed, clean, pure. Soon it shall be evident to everyone, and all of creation groans as in the pangs of childbirth, eagerly awaiting it. For now it is not always so obvious. There are tragedies, self-inflicted and those simply suffered at the hands of a cruel world. There are dark passages and depression. There is an uncertain future and a murky, turbulent past. Children walk into school with guns. People are starving in great numbers. Babies are violently ripped from their mothers’ wombs and tossed out with the trash. Father’s despise their children and leave their wives. Pain, suffering, and loneliness are all around us.
But let not your hearts be troubled. Do not rest on the subjective, fleeting things, the things that come and go, the feelings of happiness or sadness, the sense of well-being and contentment nor of worry or uncertainty. But rest of the objective, historical reality of Jesus death and resurrection and your inclusion in it in Baptism. Trust in the infallible, never failing, never fading Word of God. There is your hope and your certainty! You are baptized! God promises to love you and care for you, to protect you and provide for you. He says you are forgiven. That is enough! And soon the fleeting things of this life lived in death will be removed. You will see clearly, as you were meant to see. Then you shall be free inside and out, as your heart in faith already is. Then your joy will be complete. Until then, do what He says: eat His Body, drink His Blood, and listen to His Word. That will be your strength, your refuge, your fortress, and your might. That will see you through to the coming Day. It will comfort and console. It will feed and nourish. It will endure. For does He not promise, “Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the age?” Do not be afraid. The Lord, your God, who was born of the Virgin, anointed by John with the Baptism of forgiveness, crucified, and risen, He goes with you. He will not forsake you, nor leave you.
In Name of Holy Baptism: Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana