Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

The Baptism of our Lord

To Jordan Came the Christ, our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

January 12, 2014

We're told that John the Baptist was in the wilderness, "baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." John was pointing the people to the coming One whose sandals he was unworthy to even to untie. Since Jesus was the One John was awaiting, and if baptism is for sinners who need forgiveness, why was Jesus baptized?

Matthew 3:13-17. 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."

When the time for His public ministry arrived, Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. When Jesus came to John for baptism, John resisted. He realized as a sinner, he was in need of baptism by Jesus not the other way around. Nevertheless, John yielded to Jesus. After He was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus in the form of a dove to anoint Him with power to carry out His Messianic office. The voice of the Father affirmed the Son. While all of this is indeed wonderful, it doesn't answer our question, "why was Jesus baptized, anyway?"

There are two good answers to this question. What is an inauguration? It is a public ceremony held to officially install an elected official into their office.

In Old Testament times, priests and kings were also formally inducted into their offices. They didn't have a swearing in ceremony as we do. They were, however, brought into the midst of the gathered people. Oil was poured over their heads to inaugurate them into their office.

After years of living quietly in Nazareth working as a carpenter, Jesus came to John the Baptist in the wilderness of the Jordan. At His baptism, Jesus was inducted into His office as the promised Messiah. His anointing was not with oil but with water and the Holy Spirit. He was affirmed in His office not by a presiding Supreme Court justice but by the Lord God Himself.

Why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized so He could begin His public ministry among us. He would now call His disciples to come and follow Him. He would preach the Good News, heal the sick and begin His journey to the cross.

There's another reason why Jesus was baptized. This is one we don't think about very often but it, too, is important. John the Baptist was baptizing people in the wilderness for the forgiveness of sins. John's fiery preaching brought many to repentance. They came forward confessing their sins. John offered them God's forgiveness in the washing of the waters of baptism.

As John was baptizing Jesus came to him. Yet, Jesus was different from the others who came. Jesus didn't come to confess His sin. What would He confess to John? He had no sin. If baptism was intended for repentant sinners and if Jesus had no sin, why was Jesus baptized? Since He didn't need forgiveness, He didn't need baptism.

To Jordan came Christ, our Lord. So, why was Jesus baptized, anyway? Think of it this way: if Jesus didn't need baptism then baptism needed Jesus. When Jesus came to John requesting to be baptized, He came to give baptism the power to forgive sins. When the water of baptism flowed over Jesus as He stood in the Jordan, He imparted to that water the power of forgiveness of sins.

The Small Catechism asks: "What is baptism?" Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's Word.

Being a typical sinner, you might ask yourself, "so, what's in it for me?" The Catechism asks this question: "What benefit does Baptism give?" It works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

Here's another good question. "How can water do such great things?"

Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God's word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.

You could wash, hose down, dunk or splash water on people all day long but without the Word of God there is no baptism. Jesus comes to baptism to give it power to forgive sin. Too many Christians think of baptism as nothing more than a pious ritual that indicates their decision to dedicate their lives to God. They make baptism something they do rather than a gift God is giving to them.

Why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized so that we might receive forgiveness of sin in our baptism. This is God's gift. When you plant a seed in the ground this spring, you don't expect to see a mature plant the following morning. The seed needs to germinate, sprout and grow. It needs nourishment, sunshine and rain. Eventually, it will blossom and bear fruit. The Lord works in our hearts and lives so that we might mature in His love, blossom and bear fruits of faith.

To Jordan came Christ, our Lord. Why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized to officially begin His work as the promised Messiah. With Lent approaching, we will now follow Him from the Jordan to the cross. We will see Him suffer for our sin. We will see Him placed in the tomb and hear the joyous announcement given to the women, "He is risen!" By God's grace the Holy Spirit lifts the blinders from our eyes to behold Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Jesus gives the waters of baptism the power to forgive our sins. In baptism, Jesus makes us children of God. That's why Jesus was baptized. Amen.


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