Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

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.
Our God, who created all things in the beginning, who sustains all things even now, also works through the stuff of His creation to redeem and re-create it anew. And so, the LORD dwelt with men in gardens, on mountaintops, in tents and temples, and promised plots of land and, but ultimately, in the flesh and blood body of a human man, and in the common bread and wine and water of the Sacraments. One need only consider how many times a very specific river, in a very specific geographical location, factors in the LORD’s salvific interactions with His people.
Joshua, the Greek rendering of the name Jesus, lead the children of Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land, leaving their past slavery to sin and idolatrous wandering behind. At the LORD’s command the priests of Israel entered the waters of the Jordan carrying the Ark of the Covenant and the waters parted providing them safe passage on dry ground. Joshua completed what Moses was meant to do, and yet Joshua’s crossing the Jordan did not see its fulfillment until Jesus, the Son of God, foreshadowed in the Ark of the Covenant, the New Joshua and New Moses, Himself, was baptized in the Jordan and opened the Promised Land of heaven to all who are baptized into Him.
Later, the prophet Elijah transferred his prophetic ministry to Elisha at the Jordan, casting his cloak upon him, foreshadowing John the Baptist consenting to baptize Jesus in the very same river in order to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus proclaimed that John was the promised Elijah who prepared the way for His coming as the Prophet promised to Moses and the children of Israel from their own midst in whose mouth God would place His very own Word. However, Jesus does not merely speak the Word of the LORD, but Jesus is the very Word of the LORD in human flesh as our brother and redeemer.
There is even a connection with Noah and the Flood that involves the Jordan River, albeit in a less direct way. As Jesus stood in the waters of the Jordan, heaven was opened to Him, the voice of His Father spoke, and the Spirit descended upon Him as a dove. So was Noah the man in the water, floating in the ark. He was there because God opened the heavens to rain down the flood. The signal that the waters had receded and that the earth was dry once again was a dove that returned to Noah with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak. In the very same is a connection to Adam: Jesus is the New Adam leading mankind and animal kind into the New Eden where God dwells at peace with His creation once again. Suffice it to say, Jesus’ baptism is the story of creation retold.
In Holy Baptism, you were made a New Creation and were graced with access to God the Father once again. You went into the water a condemned sinner to drown and die in the flood of God’s wrath against sin, but you came up out of the water a new man, woman, or child, an adopted son or daughter of God in Jesus Christ, a true heir with Him of all that belongs to the Father: righteousness, holiness, heaven and earth, life that can never die. As the Father said of His Son on the day of His baptism, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased,” so He has said of you in your baptism. The heavenly dove, the Holy Spirit, alighted upon you and remains with you, the Spirit of wisdom, counsel, knowledge, and the fear of the LORD.
In the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan are Adam, Noah, Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha, and also you. In baptism you are Adam, a true son of God having unhindered access to Him in the paradise of heaven. In baptism you are Noah, kept safe in the Ark of the Church until the flood waters of God’s wrath against sin have receded, and the heavenly dove, the Holy Spirit, bespeaks to you peace with God through Jesus Christ. In baptism you are preceded by the New Moses through the raging sea on dry land, and your Joshua, your Jesus, leads you into the Promised Land of peace with God. Jesus’ baptism was necessary for your salvation, necessary to fulfill all righteousness. Therefore, the New Elijah, John the Baptist, consented to baptize Jesus, and he himself decreased that Jesus should increase.
Your baptism was pure gift, pure grace, no strings attached. Baptism is not a work of man, nor a decision or choice that you make, but it is the LORD’s design and the LORD’s gift foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament and fulfilled in Jesus. Through baptism you drowned and died in the wrathful waters, but you were raised to new life that cannot die. Though sin still clings to you, you need not be baptized again but, as our Lord Jesus has taught, you need only have your feet washed and you are clean. That is to say, you return to your baptismal purity and wash your robes clean in the blood of the Lamb when you repent, confess your sins, and are absolved, when you hear and believe and trust in the Gospel, and when you eat and drink Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. All these the LORD graciously provides you in the safety and grace of His Ark, the Holy Christian Church.
“Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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