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The Baptism of our Lord, Matthew 3:13-17

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And 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; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The text before us is a text is a most amazing text. Jesus, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made,” this same Jesus came to John the Baptist for the purpose of being baptized by him in the Jordan river (Nicene Creed).

This is a most strange, yet wonderful, doing of our Lord.

It is most strange because John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).

John the Baptist preached the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:1).

Those who came to John to be baptized by him were repentant, that is, they were sorry for their sins.

They came confessing their sins, for they were sinners.

John’s preaching of repentance was a call to turn from unbelief to belief in the Lord and His word and promises.

This is what is strange about Jesus coming to John the Baptist to be baptized by him—Jesus had nothing to repent of.

Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  He had no need for forgiveness, for remission of sins, or for pardon.  Jesus had no sins to confess that were His own.  He was complete, whole, and without blemish.

It was not Jesus who needed forgiveness.  It was John himself and all who came to him who needed redemption, everyone else but Jesus.

For this reason, we might be able to understand John’s hesitation to baptize Jesus and why he said what he did when he said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

John knew and understood that Jesus was upright.  He recognized that Jesus was mightier, the greater, the Righteous (Matthew 3:11; John 3:30).

John understood that his baptizing was a baptism of repentance, a baptism for sinners.  Jesus was not a sinner.

Jesus needed no baptism.

This was the dilemma for John.

Jesus coming to him to be baptized by him did not make sense.

This is that strange thing concerning the text—Jesus, a non-sinner, comes to John to be baptized by him who baptizes sinners.

Fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness

As strange and incredible as Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him is, his coming to John to be baptized by him is also the wonderful doing of our Lord.

Jesus came to John to be baptized by him, not because He, that is, Jesus, had any sin of His person or because of anything that He had done wrong, did do wrong, or would do wrong.

 Jesus remained as sinless before His baptism as after His baptism.

Rather, Jesus came to John to be baptized by him because by doing so, He identified Himself with sinners and as a sinner, really, not only as “a” sinner, but “the” sinner.

By undergoing a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, Jesus identified Himself as THE ONE on whom all sin would rest—THE ONE on whom God’s judgment would rest—THE ONE who would stand in the place of a sinful people and be THE substitute for sinners, both in suffering their judgment for their sin and for fulfilling all righteousness by keeping God’s Law.

Jesus would be the one, who with John, would fulfill all righteousness: John, by baptizing Jesus; and Jesus, by being baptized by John as a sinner, though He knew no sin, even as St. Paul testifies, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

On the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid for your sins and mine.

By His being baptized, Jesus identified Himself as your substitute, even your righteousness, before God.

Jesus did not need to be baptized for Himself.

He had no sin for which to give answer.

However, for you was He baptized, that you not rest on your own doings for salvation, but on Him—and on Him alone—that you rest your hope and confidence in Christ and none other.

God the Father also testifies to this, for the voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

If Jesus’ baptism had not pleased the Father, the Father would not have said what He had said.

Nor would the Spirit have descended and rested upon Jesus.

The events of that day give evidence to God’s approval of His Son, and the approval of His work—a sin bearer and Savior for all of mankind.

John permitted Jesus to be baptized by him

John humbly consented to baptizing Jesus.

He did not refuse Jesus his request.

John did not resist Jesus’ Word because he didn’t understand it.

He simply let the Word of the Lord take the lead.

He permitted to be what the Lord had spoken.

Even though John was less than Jesus and Jesus the greater, John abided by the Word of the Lord, and, filling his office, he did according to the Word that the Lord gave Him to do.

This is no small thing.

It is the work of God that the sinner give in to God’s Word, believe it, and do it.

This is not the work of sinful man, but the grace of God to believe, even should one not know the reason for doing so—except that God say it.

Initially, John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized.  But at the Lord’s Word, he let it be.

This is what the Lord’s disciples do.

They let God’s Word be as it is—God’s Word—without equivocation, without misrepresentation, without falsification, and without reinterpretation.

They permit God’s Word to speak as it is, and on that alone do they rest their case, believe, and do.

The heaven’s opened—Jesus, the Spirit (as a dove), the Father (voice)—The Holy Trinity—The words of the Father–This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased

And then what do we see?

John permits Jesus to be baptized.

Jesus, so humbly, is baptized by the baptizer.  And the heavens are opened.  The Holy Spirit descends as a dove and rests upon Jesus.  There is a voice from the opened heaven.  And the voice of the Heavenly Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

What else can this mean but that Jesus is the one with whom the Father is well pleased?

What else can this mean but that Jesus, the one who “numbered” Himself “with the transgressors and…bore the sin of many,” who later “poured out His soul unto death, even the death of the cross” (Isaiah 53:12; Philippians 2:8) is your Savior, Redeemer, and deliverer from sin, death, and hell?

What else can these words of the Father about His Son mean than that in Jesus, you too, are well pleasing to the Father?

Christ, serving as your substitute, as the sinner of all sinners, means that all your sin is off you and on Him.

If your sin be on Him, your sin is not on you.

Therefore, that sin, your sin, is no more your judgement, for in Christ, that judgment is no more.

“He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:26-28), even your sins.

“He redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

All this means that the Father’s words about His Son now also apply to you—because of Jesus.

Because the Father is pleased with His beloved Son, and that Son fulfilled all righteousness and put to death your sins on the cross that they be no more, the Father is now pleased with you on account of Jesus.

No more trying to impress God or earn His favor!

Only believe Jesus, your Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Mediator (1 Timothy 2:4), and you have a gracious God.

Like John, permit this to be so.

Suffer the words of Jesus and the words of the Father.

Remember your Baptism, for as Paul 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” (Romans 6:3-4, epistle).

Since both Jesus and the Father looked highly upon the baptism of Jesus, so also are you to look upon Christ’s baptism for you, and even your own baptism, for you were baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God’s Name is no Name to minimize—it is the only Name to regard as High and mighty.

That Name is on you through water and Word.

Should you ever wonder God’s disposition towards you, should you ever doubt God’s favor upon you, should you ever be uncertain that your sins are forgiven, or should you ever find yourself questioning whether your sin is too great for God to forgive, look to Christ.

Hold fast to Christ’s Word, “You are forgiven.”

Be bold to say, “God’s own child I gladly say it, I am baptized into Christ,” for so you are.

Through Baptism, God calls you His own.  You are His.

Also be bold to say, “Christ was baptized for me,” for so He was.

This is just the kind of Savior that you have in Jesus, One who truly saves, in whom you can say with certainty, “I am His, and He is mine.”  Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in Holy Baptism, You made me Your own through water and Word.  Help me not to despise this, Your work, claiming it as my own, but to believe in your grace and favor to me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

“Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” Matthew 3:1-12

1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,

     “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

     7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

     11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

 

John the Baptist came preaching.

He preached a message of repentance.

He called his hearers to turn from their sin and to look for another who was coming.

In fulfillment of the prophecy made by Isaiah the prophet, John was that voice of one crying in the wilderness, crying out, “Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight” (Matthew 3:3 || Isaiah 40:3).

God sent John to prepare the way of the Lord, for the Lord was indeed coming.

The Apostles, too, preached a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus, after His resurrection and before ascending into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,  and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47).

Jesus Himself preached repentance, as did John the Baptist.

In St. Matthew’s Gospel, shortly after the account before us concerning the content of John’s message, and after John was put in prison by King Herod, Jesus “Began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 3:17).

Jesus preached what is right and true.  He preached what His Father in heaven had given Him to preach (John 14:24).

Not everyone appreciated His words, either because of what He said or even how He said them, but His words were true just the same.

Jesus spoke the truth concerning the human condition, concerning man’s corruption, even saying, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20a).

Jesus was bold to say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

In another place, Jesus says to Martha, distracted in doing and failing to be about the one thing needful “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Yes, Jesus spoke the truth, as did John the Baptist who prepared His way, and as did the Apostles after them, as we have recorded in the Gospels and in their Epistles.

They were carrying on the words spoken by the prophets, Jesus fulfilling them, Jesus who came, just as Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

The prophets of the Old Testament pointed to the One who was coming, Jesus the Christ, to save sinners from their sins.

They, too, preached repentance, a turning from their sin to the Lord, who does indeed have mercy and compassion upon those who call upon Him in truth.

Like them, and like those who have gone before, the servants of the Lord today still preach that same message of repentance, that hearers not die in their sin, but turn from their sinful ways and find in the Lord Jesus their comfort and their hope.

But pastor, does this include us, too?

As God’s people, you know that you are forgiven.

You know of God’s love toward you on account of Christ.

You believe and know, by God’s grace, that the Father sent His Son, Jesus, to die your death and to pay the penalty for your sin.

Certainly there is more for you, there is more for you than just repenting of your sin.

You have heard the message of repentance before.

You have heard the Law.

You know your sin.

Can’t we just hear something different?  Can’t we hear instead only of how good things are between God and us, and how much better we’re becoming?

Why all this ‘negative’ talk?  Why such a ‘downer’ about sin and our condition and how we are by nature?

The reason is this…never in this life on earth will we be able to say that we are without sin and have no need for forgiveness.

To say such is really to say, according to what is believed, that Christ is no longer necessary.

If we are holy and upright of ourselves, we don’t need a Savior.

Additionally, if left to ourselves, we try to find in ourselves our own ways and means to please God, not according to what God has revealed, but according to our own tendencies.

As long as we live in this corrupt flesh, we will always have the pull and the temptation to go against God, small as it might to us seem to be.

So St. Paul, even after being called by God to be an Apostle while on his way to Damascus, says in his letter to the Christians in Rome, “I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find” (Romans 7:18).

In another place, he writes, “All have sinned and fallen short of the grace of God” (Romans 3:23).

Here, St. Paul includes himself.

Quoting the Psalmist, he says, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10 || Psalm 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20).

And again does he say, even after his conversion, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God — through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

Alone and unto ourselves, we would believe, even as some do, that as Christians we have no need to repent, no need to change our ways, because, well, we’re Christians, saints of God.

Some even go so far as to say that as Christians, we no longer need to confess our sins, that we longer sin, that we, because we have a new nature and the Spirit within us, can easily and readily resist all temptation.

It is true, as St. Paul says, that “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

And it is also true, as he writes in another place, that “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).

With clarity God reveals that, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”  (Romans 5:1-2).

But the truth that God no longer counts your sin against you and that you stand forgiven before Him on account of Christ Jesus dying in your stead and paying the price for your redemption does not mean that you no longer need to repent.

All the more does this mean that you long to be free from your sinful flesh and to serve the Lord without hindrance.

But as St. John writes in his first epistle and as we confessed earlier in today’s service “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.   If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9).

John is not saying this as a heathen, a Gentile, or a nonChristian.

John is saying this as one who believes and trusts in the Lord alone for salvation.

If that was the case with him, with one of the Lord’s closest disciples whom Jesus loved, that he, John, still confessed his sin to God, how much also with us?

If Paul, miraculously called by God to preach and to serve Him unto death, if he acknowledged his unrighteousness and wickedness before his righteous heavenly Father, how also with us?

According to Holy Scripture, that message, that true and godly message, of repentance, calling the sinner to turn from his or her sinful ways, namely, unbelief in God’s Word and Promise, that message still sounds forth.

God’s people will hear.

They will hear because they know the words to be true.

They know the words to be true because God so reveals them to be true in His Holy Word.

“Through the law we is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

With the message of repentance is not only the call to turn from sin, but to believe in another, to believe in Him who alone saves from sin, Jesus the Christ.

Living the Christian life, living as a child of God, is not about being converted one day and that’s it, once saved always saved.

Living the Christian life, living as a child of God, is living daily in repentance, daily turning away from sin, and daily trusting in Jesus for salvation.

It consists of this, “drowning the old man and putting on the new,” as Dr. Luther notes in the Small Catechism.

The Christian life is that life where one’s Baptism, God’s work, is remembered, reflected upon, and not at all forgotten.

“When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7)

“By daily contrition and repentance the Old Adam, our sinful nature, should be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” as it is written,  ‘We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life’” (Romans 6:4) (Holy Baptism, 4th Part, Small Catechism)

The life of repentance, this is the life of the Christian, confessing our sins to God and trusting His mercy in Christ for forgiveness and life and salvation.

Therefore do we confess our sins to God, all of them, believing that in Christ, all are forgiven.

We do this because we are God’s people, who follow, not what we feel, or what we think we know, but because we believe wholeheartedly what God says, whether we agree with it or not, whether it makes sense or not, and whether the majority accept it or not.

If we confessed our sins before God with dependence on the sincerity or the intensity of our confession, comparing ourselves with others, or on how we feel at any given moment, we would be unsure that such confession was ‘enough’ and would therefore be unsure of God’s mercy.

As it is, God’s forgiveness is not determined on the merit of our confession, but only upon His grace in Christ Jesus.

If it were otherwise, we would always be wondering, was I sincere enough?  Did I confess all my sins?  Was I in the right state of mind?  Was I wholeheartedly serious?

Yet, the Psalmist comprehensively states, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults” (Psalm 19:12).

Instead of forgiveness being based upon our confession, forgiveness is of God, and has His Word and promise as the foundation, and not anything we contribute.

What’s left for you is to only believe His Word declared and announced, His forgiveness preached, and His mercy given.

It is yours.

God forgives your sins in Christ. In His Word, God’s kingdom comes to you. In Word and Sacrament, God’s very Means of Grace, your Lord gives to you what you cannot obtain for yourself, life and salvation, in Christ alone.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I repent of my sin against you.  Forgive me, and help me to live the life you have called me to live, by faith in Your Holy Word.  Amen.

 

 

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