Tuesday, January 12, 2016

With you I am well pleased. . .

Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord, preached by Pastor Daniel Ulrich on Sunday, January 10, 2016

As we read through the four gospels, we notice that each one has its own unique character and style. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all wrote to proclaim Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, but no two gospels are exactly the same. All four evangelists, inspired by the Holy Spirit, made editorial decisions. They had to decide what words and deeds of Jesus to include and which ones to leave out. Sometimes they included the same; sometimes they didn’t. Of course, all four included Jesus’ death and resurrection, but there’s another significant event in Jesus’ life that they all also included, Jesus’ baptism. These men understood the importance of Jesus’ baptism, and what it means for us. Today, as we hear Luke’s account and also Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear that WE’RE BAPTIZED INTO GOD’S BELOVED SON AND we hear THAT OUR HEAVENLY FATHER IS PLEASED WITH US.

I. Luke’s account is simple and short. He records this significant event in just two verses in the context of John the Baptist’s ministry. We already know from earlier in Luke’s gospel that John was the forerunner of the Christ. He prepared the way of the Lord; he made God’s people ready for their Savior. John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He called people out in their sins, in their selfish ways, in their false securities based on their heritage. He announced the judgement that was awaiting them for of their sin.

The people who heard John’s message questioned whether or not he was the Christ (Lk 3:15). But John silenced these question, definitively denying that he was the Messiah. He said, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to unite. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Lk 3:16-17). John wasn’t the Christ. He only baptized with water. He wasn’t the one who would save God’s people. The Christ, the One who came after him, the One who was mightier than him, the One whose sandals John was unworthy to untie, that One would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire; He would save God’s people.

When the people heard John’s message, they repented of their sins, and they were baptized. And Jesus also came to be baptized by John. Matthew tells us that John tried to stop Jesus, because he knew who Jesus was. He knew Jesus was the mightier one. He knew that Jesus was sinless, and therefore, He didn’t need John’s baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And yet, Jesus insisted, in order to fulfill all righteousness (Mt 3:15), in order to fulfill God’s plan of salvation.

Jesus submitted Himself to John’s baptism, to be baptized with sinners, in the same waters, so that He could take their sins upon Himself. At Jesus’ baptism, He began His 3 year journey to the cross where He would die for the sins of every sinner, in every place and in every time. Jesus had no sins of His own, but He took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, He took your sins upon Himself, and was baptized into His own death.

All baptisms are a miracle of God, but Jesus’ baptism was a special one. Listen again to how Luke records this significant event. “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased’” (Lk 3:21-22). Nowhere else is the Triune God seen more clearly. In these two verses we see each person of the Godhead: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; all Three working for your salvation.

At that moment, Jesus was being anointed. He was being marked as the Messiah, the Christ, the One who saves. As those waters were poured over His head, God the Father announced His pleasure in God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, marking Jesus as the Savior, the One who brings God’s people out of sin and unites them with God.

Isaiah 43 speaks about this. In this prophecy, God proclaims that He’s Israel’s Savior. He’s redeemed His people and protects them. The Lord says that His people are precious in His eyes and that He loves them. And then in verses 5-7, He says this, “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you. I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Is 43:5-7).

The people of ancient Israel were dispersed into the four corners of the earth because of their sin. Isaiah proclaims God’s punishment of exile for their idolatry and turning away from Him. But in these words of Isaiah 43, God promises that He’ll bring His people back.

This wasn’t only a prophetic promise for the dispersed Israelites, but for all people, all who are separated from God because of their sin. This is a promise for you and me.

We’re separated from God because of our sin. Like the people of ancient Israel and those whom John the Baptist ministered to, we’ve sought out after other gods, the god of self, doing what satisfies our selfish desires. We’ve fallen into false securities, trusting in ourselves and what the world around us can provide. All of this distances us from God, it keeps us from living with Him as He created us to do. But because of His love for us, because we’re precious in His eyes, because of His grace and mercy, He sent His Son to rescue us, to redeem us with the shedding of His holy, precious blood and innocent suffering and death.

At Christ’s baptism, He stood with and in the place of sinners, taking upon Himself the sin of the whole world. And again, He stood in their place, in our place, as He hung on the cross, paying the penalty for our sin. With His sacrifice, He did away with the sin that separates you from God. With His death, your sin is overcome, He redeemed you, and brings you back to God. God the Father’s words of pleasure at Jesus’ baptism assures you that Jesus’ sacrifice is acceptable to God, it’s live-saving for you.

II. Jesus’ baptism was all about His anointing, marking Him as the Messiah, the Christ, the promised one who would save God’s people. With the descent of the Holy Spirit, He was declared your Savior.

Our baptism is all about receiving the gifts of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s about being connected with Jesus and brought back to God from our sin and death. It’s about freeing us from our sinful nature. Paul says, “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. … 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 it” (Rom 6:3-6).

As those holy waters washed over you, your old Adam was drowned, your sinful nature is put to death; and the new Adam, the forgiven saint is raised in Christ. No longer are you enslaved to your sinful nature. No longer do you have to pursue sin. Baptized into the Triune God, Christ’s name is placed upon you, and you’re united with Him. You’re clothed with His redeeming blood and righteousness, and you’re given the desire to live according to that righteousness. Of course, there are times when you stumble and fall, singing again and again. But you’re covered with Jesus’ sacrifice, when you confess your sins, God graciously forgives you, because He is well pleased with His Son.

Jesus’ baptism is one of the great events in His life. It was so important that all four evangelists included it in their gospels. Christ’s baptism is connected to His cross. It those waters, He was anointed as the Savior. All who are baptized into Christ Jesus receive His anointing of the Holy Spirit and are named a beloved child of God. In your baptism, you’re connected with Christ so deeply that when God the Father looks at you, He sees Jesus your Savior. And because of this, He says to you, “You’re my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ name...Amen.

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