THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD (EPIPHANY 1, C) – January 10, 2016

 SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:15-22

 

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.” Luke 3

 

Yesterday I was texting with a friend of mine in Cincinnati, as I will be there next week visiting my mother. She told me, “Pray for the Bengals tonight!” I said, “Well, since God loves everybody, including the Steelers, I won’t pray for the Bengals, but I’ll be watching and hoping they win.” She responded, “God loves the Bengals. Satan loves the Steelers.” “Gee, I’d better brush up on my theology,” I replied. “Out here (at least, in my house) God loves the Pats.” “Boo, hiss…” was her response.

 

I learned something important from this conversation – besides not messing with football fans! Theology, like politics, is local. God is seen to be concerned, and will be called upon, when He is seen to be local, to be present with you and for you.

 

Today we see God as present, as local; and, it’s in connection with Christ’s baptism. In that event each of the three Persons of the Triune God is involved.

  • God the Father speaks from heaven.

  • God the Holy Spirit comes in a visible form.

  • God the Son is involved as an intentional, purposeful participant.

    This is the only event in Christ’s life in which Scripture mentions each Person of the Trinity as visibly, or audibly, present and involved. What is God saying by this? He is telling us that Christ’s baptism was a very important and significant event; and for you, not just for Him.

     

    Christ’s baptism was not unique, you see. “When all the people were baptized, Jesus also was baptized,” Luke tells us. His baptism was the same as everyone else’s. He didn’t come to be different but to be one of them, to be one with them; to be one with us all. This means that Jesus’ baptism is your baptism, and your baptism is Jesus’ baptism. What God said and did in Jesus’ baptism He also said and did in your baptism. In baptism God is local. Take this to heart!

     

    So, what did God say to you in your baptism? He said: “You are my beloved child; with you I am well pleased.” Oh, how we need to hear this and believe this! It will humble you when you are focused on yourself, and raise you up when you are low.

     

    If you think, for instance, that God should be pleased with you and bless you because you are trying to be good, or because you’re at least not a bad person; well, consider your baptism – especially if, like most, you were baptized when you were a baby. It was then that God declared that He was pleased with you and took you as His child. What had you done for Him? Let’s see: you had pooped; and thrown up; and cried at all hours, sometimes even distracting others in church and keeping them from hearing His Word! Now, I’m sure you were cute; but you were also full of selfish desires and cared much more about yourself than about God or anyone else. In fact, it was only through years of careful instruction and discipline that your parents were able to turn your focus to others and not just yourself! God didn’t love you and take you as His child because of any good in you, any more than your parents chose to take you home because of this. You are a sinner who causes a lot of grief and work for God, as babies do for their parents! He loves you and chose you because, as He says in Is. 43, “I created you; I formed you; I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” God redeemed you. This means that He assumed the role of a parent. He took responsibility for you and so sent His Son into the world to live and die for you to save you from being eternally condemned for your sins. He then called you by name and put His name on you when He baptized you. You had nothing to do with it; it was all His work. So, don’t ever think that God should accept you and bless you because of your goodness. If you think this way you deny Christ and anger God. Humble yourself! Confess yourself to be a sinner, and your only hope to be Christ: His life and death for you, and His joining Himself to you in His baptism and your baptism.

     

    But, when you are low – when your sins trouble you and you feel terrible about yourself because of what you think, what you do, and how you feel; or, when you are lonely and hurting because of others and their sins against you – listen to what God is saying to you in your baptism. He is your Father who is pleased with you, who loves you, and who is with you always! Jesus has joined Himself to you, and His Holy Spirit came down upon you! “You are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you,” God says (Is. 43). This is all because of Jesus, the eternal Son of God, because you have been made one with Him in your baptism.

     

    Your life is different now. You belong to the eternal God! In your baptism God put His name on you and set you apart as His child. His holy Word 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.” (Rom. 6:3-5) And so, we are not just remembering Christ’s baptism today. We are celebrating our new lives in Him!

  • They are lives that are set apart. God is with you. He sees what you do and how you live. Rejoice in this, and don’t be afraid! Think of how loving parents look on their children. Sure, they see the wrong things they do, and so they discipline them – but out of love, to help them learn and do what is good. God does this even more as He disciplines us, His children. But, parents especially see and boast of the good things their children do. So does God! He not only sees your good works; He brings them forth from you. Rejoice in this!

  • And, rejoice that the new life you have is a life that is eternal. In your baptism you were joined with Christ in His death and His resurrection. He lives and will never die again! This life is yours now.

     

    Victory is yours, then, and never defeat. Win or lose in this life, in baptism you are “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6) And so: the Bengals lost again? Five playoff defeats in a row? Well, this only confirms to me that God is with them. He does His best teaching through suffering! You can be even more sure of this in your own life; for you are baptized, and in your baptism you have been joined to Jesus, the eternal Son of God, and made an eternal child of God!

     

    Rejoice, you children of God! “We were buried with Christ 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” – to the glory of our heavenly Father and in the power of His Holy Spirit. Amen!