THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD AD 2023
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.
Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
“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.
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.”
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 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.”
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. No, it shouldn’t be that surprising that His name shows up so many times in the Gospel. It is His Gospel after all - His story. But Jesus’ name is named 3 times within our four short verses today. No, it shouldn’t be that surprising, if someone were writing my story after all, you’d expect my name to show up in a sentence or two. But it is surprising that Jesus’ name appears so many times in our reading today, because up to this point Matthew has only mentioned it three times in the over 60 previous verses. Today it seems like he can’t say it often enough.
As Christians, the name of our Lord is and should be so familiar to us, that Matthew’s use of it today probably shouldn’t make us bat an eye or raise an eyebrow, but it is my calling to point out to you that there is something going on here and that Matthew’s repeated use of our Lord’s name should make you sit up and pay attention. With his Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Matthew is putting today’s Gospel verses in big bold print, highlighting and underlining them for you. Something special happens in every word of his Gospel, but something super special is happening in the words proclaimed to you today.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Yes, the name means something - in Hebrew it means God saves and it is given to Mary’s child because “He will save His people from their sins.” As Matthew almost overuses the name of Jesus, he’s pointing out that something’s happening to do with Jesus being the Jesus, that He was born to be. In other words Jesus is doing a very Jesus-y thing by coming to John to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. As He is doing a very Jesus-y thing, when he insists against John’s protests that he must do it to fulfill all righteousness. And finally He is doing the most Jesus-y of all things, when He is baptized and comes up out the water to receive the Holy Spirit and be declared to be the Father’s beloved Son.
Yes, something very Jesus-y is going on at the Jordan today. But what? John’s protest points us in the right direction. Standing there in the water of the Jordan, John who was sent by God to perform a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins looks at the sinless Son of God and tries to prevent Him. He looks at himself and tells Jesus you don’t need this from me, I need it from you. But Jesus won’t be stopped, because to be baptized by John with all the other sinners is the Jesus thing to do. He came down from heaven after all to not only be one of us but actually be us. No, He not only lived life as one of us, but actually lived our lives as us in our place.
And what does life as us have in it other than sin? No, there is none of us that is righteous, no, not one. All like sheep have gone astray. And so to live not only like us, but as us, the Son of God had to become a sinner. Yes, I know how shocking that sounds. So let me be clear here, the Holy Son of God could not and did not sin, no, not even in His human nature. But He was numbered with transgressors and as St. Paul says, “was made to be sin for us.” In other words He became a sinner, the greatest sinner in fact, not by what He thought, said or did, no, we took care of that for Him. He became a sinner by taking up what we have thought, said and done as His own. He became a sinner with our sins.
The Jesus-y thing going on today in the Jordan is that the sinless Son of God is being baptized with all the sheep who have gone astray, so that He can come up out of the water as the Lamb of God who carries away the sins of the world. This is how He is fulfilling all righteousness, by taking all our stinking rotten sinfulness away from us to put it to death on Calvary, as He suffers and dies to pay for it all. Is it any wonder then, that Matthew just can’t stop saying Jesus over and over again today as He takes us to the Jordan River to point out the Son of God being Jesus in a most Jesus-y kind of way.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Yes, Matthew doesn’t want you to miss what’s going on here, because God doesn’t want you to miss it. And no, it’s not just because it is some deep theological truth (which it is without question) but God doesn’t just want you to know things, you see. Yes, He wants you to have the facts, because there are actual facts to be had, but He has so much more He wants for you. He not only wants you to know certain things, He also wants you to know what they mean, and especially what they mean for you. He wants you to know what they mean for you, so that you can live in their truth.
The carry away for today that God wants you to live the rest of the week in, or for that matter, the rest of your lives in, is that Jesus was baptized with the baptism of repentance for you to carry your sins away. Yes, the cross is where He suffered and died to pay for them all, but His baptism in the Jordan is where He took them up for you. He has given you your own baptism so that you may not doubt but believe this truth. Although your baptism is most profoundly tied to Jesus’ Baptism, it is a very different thing. His baptism was something that He did for God and for you, whereas your Baptism was something that God did for you. His baptism was all about taking sin up, while yours was all about leaving sin behind. His baptism lead to death on the cross, while yours leads to eternal life in the Father’s house.
The Lord gave you your Baptism so that you might know, that He has truly washed away your sins. Jesus was baptized so that you might know that He truly took them on Himself. They were washed away from you onto Him. And so when the devil comes around trying to accuse you and your conscience joins in with him to condemn you, you can and should not only point them to your own baptism where God washed away all your sins, but to the baptism of Jesus as well and boldly declare, “ No, no, your not going to hang anything around my neck. Yes, I’ve thought, said and done all that you say and far more, but I will not carry it. No, I will not, because see there in the Jordan my Jesus, who was Jesus there for me and took away all that you’re trying to hang on me. You got something to say? Go talk to Jesus!”
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. Indeed! Jesus in the manger. Jesus in the Jordan. Jesus in the font. And now Jesus on the altar. Jesus being Jesus in every way for you now and forever. Amen.