Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord, January 9, AD 2021

1 Corinthians 1:26-30; Matthew 3:13-17

JESUS comes to John in the wilderness to be baptized by him. John refuses.  He has been giving a baptism for repentance of sins. John knows that Jesus has no sins to repent of. John knows that Jesus has no reason to be washed clean. Jesus is already clean. In comparison, John is the one who is sinful and unclean. They should switch places. Yet Jesus answers him, “Let it be so now, for this it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus’ mission is fulfilled in taking the place of sinners. Jesus humbly is baptized like all those sinners because he must stand in their place. In baptism, he begins his ministry in our place, doing what we should have done, fulfilling the law, without sin. This will ultimately lead to the cross where He takes our place in punishment. At Jesus’ baptism, God gives His approval of Jesus’ ministry by opening heaven, the Holy Spirit descending as a dove a resting on Him, and the voice of the Father from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Now since Jesus has fulfilled all in the place of sinners, even to be crucified and rise from the dead, there can be a blessed exchange between Him and you. As Luther says in the baptismal rite, though the baptism of Jesus, God “sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.” Since Jesus took the place of sinners in the water to begin his humble suffering on earth, when sinners take baptism, they receive all the benefits of Jesus. Yes, the very Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are present at your baptism, working in a hidden way, but just as present as when Jesus came up from the Jordan.

This is what baptism indicates, that in baptism we give our sin and death to Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, and He gives us righteousness and life. Do not think that baptism because it only happens once is just a one-time thing that does not leave you changed. How can such a work of the Holy Trinity lose its power? For the life which you are given in baptism is not abstract. The forgiveness is not temporary. In baptism, you are made into a new creature, a new man, who loves God and loves to do what God commands.  You baptism, that you are baptized, means that you can know and love God. When you repent and trust in God your old sinful self dies and your new man rises and is strengthened. That back in forth continues when you suffer with sin in this life, but the life of resurrection has already been begun in you.

Jesus took your place, the place of a sinner, in baptism. He became humble and low. Just like the people who heard John preaching “REPENT!” and were sorry in their hearts, Jesus joined that line. Because of Jesus’ humility, God exalted him – you see the glory of the Holy Trinity there. That’s what God does, he chooses the humble, low, and disregarded things to show His glory. This is the power of your baptism.

So you may say, “I am baptized, but I don’t feel that great. I don’t think I am a great Christian or a great person.” That may be true regarding your feelings, but it is not true regarding the Word of God. For in your baptism you have been regenerated. You have not just been fixed or given a booster of forgiveness, but you are a new, resurrected person, in the image of Jesus Christ. God did this not for your glory, but for His glory. He saved you and made you new in Christ to show how great He truly is.

This is what St. Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians. Look around you. How many of you here are great intellects and academics known over the world? How many are able to control whatever you’d like in even local politics? How many come from great world-renowned families? Not many. If you were, you might boast in yourselves. You might think that you were something great of your own. You might think that being a member of St. Paul’s Evangelical Church means you are really someone.

Yet not even the wisest man on earth can know God without the Holy Spirit. Not even the greatest political leader can seize the kingdom of God. Not even being from the more noble royal family in Europe adopts you as a Son of God. Your baptism does.

Do you think then that any great power in heaven or earth can overcome your baptism? Can any power overcome Jesus? Can any power overcome the Holy Trinity?

Think of how the Lord made Adam, out of dust and the breath of God created a completely new creature. What God has done to all those who have been baptized is even greater. He has taken things which are not, and made things which are. The unwise and unknowing He gave wisdom and knowledge of God. The unrighteous He made righteous. The unholy He made holy. Those who were lost to the devil, the world, and sin, He made His own. All this He has done through the work of Christ, which is given to you in your baptism. And He did it for His sake, for His glory, because it is the greatest joy for Him if you are saved.

So if in baptism you have been given such great things, what does this mean for your priorities? How does a baptized eternal person live differently than who are great in the eyes of the world? If God has freely given you something so valuable in baptism, what is there to seek in the world of greater value? What is there to fear losing in the world?

Yet some do not see the value and reject their baptism. No one can overcome baptism, but one can reject Christ. And maybe you know someone, a relative or friend, who is baptized but seems to have rejected or grown cold to it. They don’t go to church, they don’t want to hear God’s Word, they are just disinterested. If they continue without turning back, they may be lost. Yet remember – it is the Lord who made them new to begin with. It is the Lord working through their baptism who can make them new again. Pray, speak the Word of God to them and call them to repentance. Do it knowing that the Lord has made them new and can do it again. The Lord is doing the work, and wants to save them for His glory. He loves them more than you ever can.

For only He has taken their place, the place of sinners. First at baptism, then at the cross. He made himself the least of all to make us the greatest of all – his co-heirs of the kingdom of God, immortal, resurrected, righteous people. He even sends His Word and Body and Blood to strengthen us in that reality. Jesus will continue to see us through. God wants to save you. He wants all His children to live eternally and boast with Him of the glorious salvation His Son has accomplished. Amen.






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