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Archive for January 12th, 2014

St. Matthew 3:13-17  English Standard Version (ESV)

The Baptism of Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and hesaw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The game show Family Feud had two families face off to see if they could guess the answers that a studio audience of a hundred’s top answers to a question.  Like Who is the greatest American president? Washington says the one family, the studio audience answer, Washington, 89, number 1 answer!   One question, was, Who is most likely in hell?  Of course, the top answer was…Hitler.  Yes, you guessed it.  BTW, number 3 was Dean Martin.  Anyway, that Feud question is just a variant of the perennial one who was the worst sinner that ever lived? Hitler is usually number one, Judas gets on top 10, so does Stalin, etc., etc.  I do have an answer that may surprise you:  the worse sinner who ever lived was Jesus Christ.  He became a thief, a murderer, an adulterer, an idolater and the like as He bore the sin of world in His sinless body.  He was absolutely pure yet bore our sins in Himself thus becoming, in a sense, the worse sinner who ever, ever lived. .John the Baptizer was incredulous that Jesus came to him to be baptized in a baptism of repentance.  John knew he needed Jesus to baptize him.  No says, Jesus this is to fulfill all righteousness, the righteousness of God by which He justifies, makes right those who cannot in a million lifetimes self-justify themselves.  Many of the icons depict Jesus up to His neck in the waters, which one day would overwhelm Him.  

 In response to the question, who is the worse sinner, no one ever says, Oh, yeah, that would be me.  I like the discussion of who is the worse sinner because it makes me feel good, I’m not so bad…not as bad as Hitler!  St. Paul jumped in with the right answer, I am the chief of sinners.  Paul knew that he could not make himself right.  He knew that account of Jesus Christ because He was made right. Further note that when one discovers the  wrong by what was thought, said or did, there is no escaping, like deer caught in the headlights.  The overwhelming flood of feeling is, yes,  I am the worse. It’s like the weight of the world is on you. I can’t believe what I did.  Believe it, says the Lord, this is the beginning of contrition, sorrow over sin and believe My Son, My Christ.  He  was immersed into a baptism of repentance He did not need, baptized into a baptism of repentance He did not need so the need of forgiveness is fulfilled, all righteousness, so that you can repent and be saved, washed, as if all over again. The wages of sin is death…Jesus did not receive the minimum wage, but all the wages, all what is owed us, once and for all.  The free gift is eternal life.

 When the voice of the Father sounds forth, there is no thunder, no lightening, only grace and peace, This is my Beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.  The Son comes out of  Jordan River waters, the Holy Ghost descends and the Father speaks. 

The Holy Spirit appears in the lovely form of an innocent dove. Among all birds, a dove is known for its gentle nature, peaceful and not aggressive. (And when Noah wanted to know if there was dry ground after the rains had ceased, he finally sent out a dove who returned with an olive branch in it’s beak.  The sign of shalom, peace once more with God was made through His  grace) So the Holy Spirit reveals himself in the friendliest of forms to show that he is not wrathful toward us, but wants to help us become holy and rescue us through Christ.”(Luther)

Yet, as we prayed in Psalm 29 , the Lord is also heard in thunder, lightening, the storm above the waters, above the depths that makes what He says at His Son’s Baptism utterly inviting, This is my Beloved Son.  In Psalm, in no uncertain terms, above the waters, the thunder, the lightening, the Lord says this is My cosmos, My world and above the gentle waters of the Jordan , He equally is adamant, This is My Son.  This is My Christ. This One, no other, is My only-begotten Son. Into the depths He is sent, willingly so. I am well-pleased because He is baptized and will be into the depths of my creatures’ depravity.  The fallen sons of Adam and daughters of Eve mistakenly think and act, this is my world our world, our rule, our reich, that we can destroy or save.  The Lord says you do terribly well on the destroying, but you can not destroy it all, and on the saving of the world, you do your vocation, but finally from sin  and sin’s place, the grave, I have given you My Son. 

 John and Jesus both knew that John’s ministration of the Baptism of repentance pointing to Jesus’ Baptism of forgiveness was and is no play acting.  They knew John’s Baptism was real. Christ is also baptized so that we have been and thank the Lord.  He is baptized so others may be also.  “Is not Christ’s Baptism a truly great sign of how very precious baptism is to God, that he does not abstain from it?” (Luther) Evangelization is the call to baptism or the call to renew our baptism.  The Apostle wrote consider yourselves dead to sin, because you are, dead from sin, to sin and because of sin but alive to God through Christ Jesus.  You have been baptized, washed, born again. 

 This is Lord’s daily invitation to you to call upon Him in prayer, praise and thanksgiving, to live wet in your Baptism.  Invoking His Name, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in all your prayers of  intercession and confession, praise and thanksgiving. 

 St. Ambrose, preaching on the Baptism of our Lord: “Why are you plunged into the water?  We read:  ‘May the waters bring forth living creatures (Gen 1:20).  And the living creatures were born.’  This happened at the beginning of creation.  But for you it was reserved that water should bring you forth to grace, as that other water brought forth creatures to natural life.  Imitate this fish, who has received less grace.”

 Imitate the fish, who has received less grace.  I like that: imitate the fish. We are enjoined by the Lord in His Word to pray unceasingly.  This means we need to pray at all times, walking wet in our Baptism.  “…every time we bend our knees for prayer and then rise again, we show by this action that through sin we fell down to earth, but our Creator, the Lover of Mankind, has called us back to heaven.” (St. Basil)  Jesus was baptized and He still is baptized.  Falling in prayer is not failing, but it is the means by which in confession of sin, we can confess our failings, and called back to heaven.  Falling in prayer is adoring Him who made us and redeemed us, created and redeemed in Christ Jesus. He calls us back and we need His call back every day.  Luther wrote in the catechisms that living our baptism is daily dying and rising in Christ Jesus.  He is baptized and so we are.  He is baptized so others may be, falling and rising, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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