Posts Tagged ‘Baptism of the Lord’

Text:  John 1:29-42, especially the italicized verses

29 The next day (John the Baptizer)  saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizeswith the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

Jesus Calls the First Disciples

35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be calledCephas” (which means Peter).

John’s vocation pointed by preaching and teaching the Word of God to the Christ. A pastor told me that on one Sunday morning, Good Shepherd Sunday, they had in the sanctuary as an illustration an actual lamb. This pastor was noted for creativity in the liturgy.  The pastor commented about having lamb in the sanctuary, ‘Boy, did he ever stink!  Never again.’  I am sure glad the Lord did not and does not so think about His people:  don’t want them in here, never again, they stink.  Oh, we do and that’s the reason we come together, to be cleansed in His Word, repented and forgiven in Him. 

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
    He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake
.  The Lamb of God is also the Good Shepherd. Lamb and Shepherd are two aspects of the one Office of Christ.  He bore our sin as the Lamb of God and so leads His people as the Good Shepherd of His flock..  The slaughtered lamb is the wounded Shepherd.
and with his wounds we are healed 

The Lamb of God did not stink but He was baptized so He would stink with the foulness of a zombie flesh eating, vampire blood-sucking, breaking bad world.  He had no need for washing the stain of sin from His body and soul. John witnessed that Jesus was baptized, fully immersed into the sin of world taking it away with every step He walked, that we walk in Him.  Fully immerse so that, with every Word He spoke, we speak His Word, with every prayer He uttered that we pray, with every morsel He ate that we be fed, with every tear He cried that we are washed, with every drop of blood He shed so that we are made whole.  Feed my sheep, the risen Lord commanded Peter three times.  “That stinks to high heaven” and so the Lord of heaven came down to wash His sheep three times in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. He feeds us His Body and Blood, the Word of God, the Word of grace and peace through His forgiveness.  John’s vocation pointed by preaching and teaching the Word of God to the Christ.  The Lord called John the Baptizer to baptize and point to the Lamb of God. Jesus is the baptized Lamb of God.  He still is.  

“For the Holy Scripture declares that the sin of the world does not lie on the world, or St. John’s sin on St. John, or St. Peter’s on Peter, for they are unable to bear it.  The sin of the world lies on Christ, the Lamb of God.  He steps forth and becomes a vile sinner, yea, sin itself (2 Cor. 5: 21), just as if He Himself had committed all the sin of the world from its beginning to its end.  This is to be the Lamb’s office, mission and function.”

The Lord, the Holy Spirit inspired men to write the Scriptures to point to the Lamb of God. Later on in John’s holy Gospel, Jesus teaches,  …The Scriptures are the Word of God in the words of God He inspired human authors to write. We can count on His Word to point us to our Savior and away from the quicksand of our thoughts about Christ causing us to fall. Luther:  “This is a key element especially to the devil, as he seeks wasy to tear us away from the Word (of God), and then , apart from the Word leads us away from the Word, and then, apart from the Word, leads us to think our own thoughts (about Christ,apart from the Bible, see for instance Mohammed and Joseph Smith or liberal theologians).  for then (the devil)  knows has won and we have lost” (Luther). The star led the Magi to Jerusalem as these pagans logically thought the King of the Jews must be born in the capital, in the Temple of Israel, but it was finally the Word of God in the words of God in Micah, which states that the king is born in the least of the cities of Judah, Bethlehem.  “The Word is a trustworthy star, and it guides them straight to Christ.  Without and apart from the Word, they would not have found Christ the King.” (Luther)

 Paul wrote that Adam was the type of the one to come. There are many types, examples, in fact the Old Testament can be regarded as filled with the promises and the types of Christ to come,so that the Lord’s Church be challenged, encouraged and strengthened.  So Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that the journey of his freed people Israel through the wilderness is an example or types of Christ.  When the people of Israel cried out for water, the Lord told Moses to hit the rock with his staff and water came forth.  For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. The Bible is about Jesus Christ, from when the Lord clothed the fallen Adam and Eve because they were ashamed with the nakedness of their sin till when He baptized us and so clothes us in Jesus Christ, our christening robe. 

The Lord baptizes His Church, His Body to point to the Lamb of God, following Him,  abiding in His Word and so He feeds us His Word.  The two sections of today’s Gospel both commence with John’s sermon: Behold!  The Lamb of God. In the first section is his witness to Jesus’ Baptism.  In the second section is John’s witness to the Lamb of God to John’s disciples.  Andrew and the other disciple wanted to know where Jesus was staying, or abiding.  They followed Him. They wanted to know where the Lord was staying, abiding.  They wanted to spend time with Him, the Word of God made flesh and so Andrew invited his brother Simon, or as Jesus named him, Cephas or rock.  They wanted their words and life to point to the Lamb of God.  This was a new orientation in their lives.  What do our lives point?  The compass point of the world always points inward.   The compass of His Word which makes the Church points out to Jesus Christ.  We live in the disorientation of a world concentrating on the idolatry of the self.  The Lord baptizes and calls His church to point to the Lamb of God.  We need His orientation day by day.  The picture above is the altarpiece painted by Mattheas Grunewald for the hospital chapel of Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Isenheim, Alsace (then part of Germany), where monks ministered to victims afflicted with the disfiguring skin disease known as Saint Anthony’s Fire, which was common in the middle ages. Monks, hospital staff, and patients at St. Anthony’s would have related in a very personal way to the ravaged body of Christ as it appears in the central Crucifixion scene of the closed altarpiece.  It shows John the Baptizer with a big long finger pointing to the Crucified. He doesn’t point at us to say how bad you are.  He does not point to himself to say how good he is, and the words  in Latin behind John are his own sermon, He must increase and I must decrease.  The altarpiece has hinges and then can open up and be changed to the Nativity and the resurrection.  Those so afflicted were being reoriented. We do too as we are found and do not get lost. Others are to be sought in this lost world for which He died and you are part of that world. The Lord has so that we may abide in His Word and point, Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  In the Orthodox Church the bread of Holy Communion is called the Lamb.  From the Lamb we receive His Body and His blood, fed the word of life.

 John’s vocation pointed by preaching and teaching the Word of God to the Christ.

The Lord, the Holy Spirit inspired men to write the Scriptures to point to the Lamb of God.

The Lord baptizes His Church, His Body to point to the Lamb of God, following Him,  abiding in His Word and so He feeds us His Word. IN the Name of the Father, and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


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St. Luke 3:

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His 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.”

 18So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done,20added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

 21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22and 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.”

The Lord sent John to baptize, a baptism of repentance looking to the Coming One Who would baptize for the forgiveness of sin.  John was humble.  Given his draw, many thought he might be the Christ.  No, he said, I cannot even do a slave’s work for the Christ and untie His shoelaces.  The Christ did do a slave’s work for sinners (Isaiah 53;   Luke 22: 24-27; John 13: 1-20;  Phillipians 2: 5-8).

First, John preached, He does the harvester’s work. I suppose many have not seen a winnowing fork.  In many parts of the world, I suppose it is still used.  The grain must be separated from the chaff, the husks.  The husks, the chaff are light.  The farmer with the winnowing fork tosses the wheat into the air and the breeze blows the chaff away, to be burned with unquenchable fire. Such is sin:  chaff, a husk, blown away.  It is an interesting picture of the true nature of  sin that so easily entangles and binds:  it is finally nothing.  And so the whole grain may fall for the harvest and be brought in.

 Second, John was arrested for his preaching.  What did he preach that aroused the ire of Herod Antipas and his illegal wife, Herodias?  Answer: the doctrine of marriage.  Herod Antipas, the tetrarch married his brother’s wife, whom Herodias divorced to be with Herod. 

“(Herodias) was the granddaughter of Herod the Great.   Her present husband, Herod Antipas, was a son of Herod the Great.  She had been previously married to Philip, another son of Herod the Great (Philip was also the half brother of Herod Antipas).  In other words, both of Herodias’ husbands were also her uncles.” (Note from the Lutheran Study Bible). 

When I told the Bible class at the Mayflower (a residence for the elderly), there was collective “yuck”.    Herod did many “evil things”.

 “Christ was born for this.”  More:  Christ was baptized into this, our world.  He was baptized for this so that we are baptized and be made the Lord’s own.  He did not need repentance for He was without sin, yet He was submerged into our sin. When He was baptized the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove in bodily form and the Voice spoke, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The Father spoke, the Son is baptized and the Holy Spirit descends.  This is the public revelation of the Lord God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Heaven is opened when this happened. “The Kingdom of Heaven is open to all believers” (Te Deum Laudamus, Matins or Morning Prayer).

 We cannot open up heaven.  We do not have the key.  The Old Adam has the lock:  sin, death and the power of the devil.  Jesus is the Key who has unlocked heaven and heaven is open to all believers. This all so passive.  Ever noticed in spell-check the green underline:  “passive voice, consider revising”. That can happen with many a Scripture passage!  We are acted upon because Jesus has acted and was Himself acted upon.

 John baptized and Christ Jesus is our Baptism:  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. (Romans 6: 1ff).  He opens up the baptism of our forgiveness so that in faith we cling to Him. Heaven is open to all believers.  There is no age requirement for His Baptism and His Kingdom, His reign.  From the newborn to the oldest, all can be reborn in Him.  When the disciples were preventing parents from bringing children to Jesus for His blessing, which means children are inheritors of His Kingdom, He said:  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” He then blessed them.  Still does and has for you and your children. 

His Name is upon the waters. The waters of Baptism are soul-renewing flood because the Lord His Word is there in the waters and a very special Word:  His Name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit (see St. Matthew 28:19). 

The downward descent of the opening of God’s reign in Jesus Christ upon the waters goes backward to come forward from the Old Testament.

  • Genesis 1: 1:  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Water is sign and reality of chaos and darkness and God said let there be light and the waters were parted.  We are 70% water.  In fact, all organisms are mostly water.  Most of the earth is covered with water.  Water is the only universal solvent:  dripping water on granite, over time, will wear it away.  By water and the Word sin is washed away and we are cleansed. The Lord knows what He is doing when He made water the sign and reality of rebirth in Him, after all, He created water and it was good! 
  • Jump ahead and the people of the earth were doing violence and God, by His strict judgment, decides to end all flesh…except for Noah and his family and representatives of all the animals.  Noah builds the Ark.  After the waters subsided, Noah sends a dove out who returns with an olive branch in it’s beak.  This is the sign of shalom, of peace.  The dove is not threatening but comforting and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove, shalom, peace is made through Jesus Christ.
  • Jump ahead in history and the people of Israel were freed from the house of bondage in Egypt and went through the Red Sea with unmoistened foot.  They were saved through the water.  As we head in today’s lesson from Isaiah:  Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Joshua 3: 11 Jesus Christ is the Ark of the new and everlasting Testament.
  • Then there is Naaman the Syrian.  The great general of the Syrian armies, held in dread (Syria is in the news), had leprosy. He had a Israelite maid who told him there was a prophet in Israel, that is the Word of God was being preached.  He could heal you.  So Naaman goes to Israel and Elisha tells him to wash himself in the Jordan River three times.  He tells  him that the rivers in Damascus are better than the Jordan (I have seen the Jordan River:  he was probably right!).  The Israelite maid tells the General, if the prophet had asked you to do something difficult to do, wouldn’t you have done it?  Naaman, reluctantly and not filled with faith, so washes and is cleansed. I call this a “time-conditioned sacrament”. God’s Word was in that water and today we have heard His Word, His Name is upon the waters of rebirth to wash us clean, till He comes again.

So the waters in His Word, His Name go for ward to this very day.  His baptism and our baptism is the pattern of our life in Him. We are baptized in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We fail. We sin. Confession always begins with the Invocation, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and we are forgiven in His Name.  Heaven is opened when we shut the door in our disobedience and rebellion.  We confess…and we can confess privately to a pastor, knowing the utter confidentiality of the confession so that you can hear in your own ears His forgiveness.

The first time I was asked to give an “invocation” at a public event, I was stymied:  you mean, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”?  No, of course not, they wanted something longer and maybe even boring.  Invocation and praying go together.  St. Luke, of all the Evangelists, is the only who reports that Jesus was praying after His Baptism. Baptism is our prayer to the Lord.  Luke, who also wrote Acts of the Apostles, the history of the early Church, knew the centrality of prayer in the life of the Church, Christ’s Baptized Body.  Baptized, confessing, invoking and praying and again by His Word of promise, heaven is opened to us.  Water and the Word go forward in His Name, IN the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 Additional Quotes:

From Saint Basil the Great, (329 or 330 – January 1, 379):

  •  “What makes us Christians?  ‘Our faith,’ everyone would answer. How are we saved?  Obviously the regenerating grace of baptism.  How else could we be?  We are confirmed in our understanding that salvation comes through Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Shall we cast away the standard of teaching we have received?”
  •  “If there is any grace in the water, it does not come from the nature of the water, but from the Spirit’s Presence, since baptism is not a removal of dirt from the body, but an appeal to God for a clear conscience. (1 Peter 3: 21) The Lord describes in the Gospel the pattern of life we must be trained to follow after the (baptismal) regeneration:  gentleness, endurance freedom from the defiling love of pleasure, and from covetousness. We must be determined to acquire in this life all the qualities of the life to come. To define the Gospel as a description of the what resurrectional life should be like seems to be correct and appropriate, as far as I am concerned.”

From Martin Luther’s Sermon on The Baptism of Our Lord:

  • “Heaven which before was closed, is opened by Christ’s baptism and a window and door now stand open for us to see through. No longer is there a barrier between God and us, since God himself descends at the Jordan. The Father lets his voice be heard, the Son sanctifies baptism with his body, and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove. Is this not a great manifestation, a truly great sign of how very precious baptism is to God, that he does not abstain from it?” 
  • “That is why this day is called Epiphany, the Festival of the Manifestation, because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit manifest themselves. 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.”

Holy Baptism by Fr. George Herbert (1593-1633)

As he that sees a dark and shady grove, 
Stays not, but looks beyond it on the sky 
So when I view my sins, mine eyes remove 
More backward still, and to that water fly, 
Which is above the heav’ns, whose spring and rent 
Is in my dear Redeemer’s pierced side. 
O blessed streams! either ye do prevent 
And stop our sins from growing thick and wide,

Or else give tears to drown them, as they grow. 
In you Redemption measures all my time, 
And spreads the plaster equal to the crime: 
You taught the book of life my name, that so,

Whatever future sins should me miscall, 
Your first acquaintance might discredit all.

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