Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homily for The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

Baptism Jesus


Matthew 3:13-17; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Isaiah 42:1-7

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’ baptism was different than both John’s baptism, which it fulfilled, and the baptism He Himself would institute after His death and resurrection. John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, a baptism for sinners who hoped for their savior. Jesus’ own baptism by John was not a baptism of repentance, for He had no sin of which to repent, but His baptism was a consecration into His work of salvation, into His work of being their hoped for Savior by dying on the cross. Therefore, John was right, Jesus did not need to be baptized by him, but Jesus wanted to be baptized that He might fulfill all righteousness.

When Jesus was baptized, His Father proclaimed the acceptability of His self-offering saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This was, and is, a remarkable proclamation, for countless men, women, and children had stepped into the Jordan’s waters before Jesus, and never once could God the Father proclaim that He was well pleased as He could and did with His own Son Jesus. Indeed, all those men, women, and children before Him brought their idolatries, adulteries, murders, thefts, and countless other sins into the water with them, and when they stepped out they were considered clean by God on account of the work His Son would do for them on the cross. However, when Jesus, clean, pure, sinless, and holy, stepped out of those waters, He took upon Himself their sins, your sins, and my sins, the sins of all men, women, and children who will ever have lived and died. Jesus’ baptism was His consecration as our Holy Prophet, our Great High Priest, and the King of heaven and earth. He was proclaimed to be righteous by His Father. He was anointed and chrismated by the Holy Spirit. And He was sent forth, bearing our burden of sin, to face temptation, suffering, sorrow, and death for us, in our place, as our substitute, with whom the Father was, and is, well pleased.

In His baptism, Jesus became the scapegoat for us. The Father placed upon Him all our sin, guilt, and iniquity and sent Him out into the wilderness to face all that Azazel, Satan, could throw at Him. This St. Matthew captures saying “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Stronger still, St. Mark says that “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.” There, Jesus was tempted by hunger and weakness, He was tempted by power and greed, He was tempted by pride and the desire to be a god unto Himself – just as all men are, just as you are. However, Jesus resisted and overcame all temptations by faith and trust in the Word of God, bearing with suffering, in love for His Father and for you. He suffered all for you, ultimately, even your death. The wages of sin that you have earned, Jesus bore in His flesh and suffered in His soul for you, that you might be the other goat, offered in sacrifice to the LORD, a living sacrifice which receives forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.

Yet, despite His washing in the water of the Jordan, St. Luke records these words of our Lord indicating another baptism with which He would be baptized, “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” The baptism to which Jesus was referring was His baptism into death on the cross. In the Jordan, Jesus had stood flesh and blood as our brother, taking upon Himself our sins and the sins of the entire world. As St. Paul puts it, “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” In His baptism, Jesus took upon Himself our sin, and therefore, our death, for “the wages of sin is death.” When Jesus suffered and died upon the cross, He drank the cup of God’s wrath against our sin to the bitter dregs so that there was no wrath left, but it was finished.

Then, after His death and resurrection, Jesus commanded His apostles saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” and He promised, “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” The baptism which Jesus instituted was, as John had prophesied, a baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The Spirit was His to give, for the Holy Spirit had descended upon Him and had anointed and chrismated Him for baptism into death for our sins, and the Father gave to Him “all authority in heaven and on earth.”

Now, that’s a fairly comprehensive authority. Truly, there is nothing in heaven or on earth that does not belong to Jesus, over which He does not have authority and control. And, the good news is that, through baptism and faith, everything that belongs to Jesus, belongs to you as well. “But, pastor, whatever do you mean?” you may be asking. To understand this truth you must understand the meaning of your own baptism. Your baptism, whether it be a sprinkling of water upon your infant forehead, or the total immersion of your entire adult body, or any other kind of washing, at any age or any time, when water was applied to you along with the words of Jesus’ command, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” – your baptism was, and is, as St. Paul teaches, a baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection, so that His death is your death, and His resurrection is your resurrection. Therefore, just as the Father gave all authority over heaven and earth to His Son with whom He is well pleased, so has He given this and all things to you who are baptized into Him and who believe in Him. You are His own adopted sons and daughters, heirs with Jesus of all the blessings and joys of heaven. More than that, you are the Bride of Jesus Christ, His body, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone, in Holy Communion with Him so that He is yours and you are His. His perfect faith, trust, love, and obedience count for you. His perfect suffering and death count for you. His glorious resurrection and ascension count for you. And, He is coming for you to raise you from death to eternal life, with a new body and your eternal soul, like unto His own, to live and reign with Him and worship the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.

And yet, your baptism is not only a guarantee of good things to come, but it is the guarantee of your possession of these good things now. For, when you were baptized, you died with Jesus and you were raised with Him in spirit. And, already, now, you have a new and holy spirit that loves the Lord, whose will is His will, who loves His Word and His Law and desires to keep it and do it. Already, now, you have a new and holy spirit, a new man, that will never die. Yes, the flesh will die, the body must die, but the spirit will never die. Your baptism is a powerful gift of God’s grace, it is a powerful means and channel of receiving God’s grace, made possible by Jesus’ own baptism, death, and resurrection, into which you have been baptized.

What does this mean for you and your life now? It means that you may take comfort and find confidence and strength in your baptism into Christ. For, as with Christ the Father is well pleased, therefore He is well pleased with you in Christ. And, as Christ is victorious over temptation, sin, death, and the devil, even now you hold the victory over these enemies. Be certain, however, that though the spirit is willing, your flesh is weak. Further, be certain that the baptized in Christ have a powerful enemy in Satan who will not rest from seeking to lead you astray into sin. When you suffer Satan’s attacks, when temptation is strong and sin is crouching at the door to devour you, remember your baptism, make the sign of the cross in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and pray to God for strength to resist the temptation, to persevere through suffering, to cast out doubt and fear, and to flood your soul with the Light of Christ in His Word. For, that is one of the great gifts of Holy Baptism – wearing Christ and His righteousness, being covered with Him, sealed in the Holy Spirit, named, claimed, and christened with God’s Holy Name. For, Jesus has promised He will never leave you or forsake you. The Father has promised that nothing can separate you from His love which is in Jesus Christ. And, again Jesus has promised, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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