INI + AMEN.
Today shows us the scandal of the Gospel. It really is scandalous. It’s not just scandalous in how salvation is won for you, for me, for the whole world. It’s scandalous also in how salvation is delivered to you, to me, to all. The scandal is in how Jesus appears in our text. Because of what Jesus did at the Jordan you can start to say things about God that you never could before. The sinless Son of God gets into the water. He gets in sinners’ water! Water where sinners had been, their sins were washed off there. John’s Baptism, as we’re told earlier in Luke, was one “of repentance for the remission of sins.” Jesus doesn’t need that. What’s He doing here? But Jesus goes where the sinners are—real sinners, true sinners, with big, nasty, horrible sins. So there’s Jesus standing in sin-filled water, having them washed over Him. God the Father made Jesus “who knew no sin to BE SIN for us,” and it all starts here in the Jordan river. Jesus numbered with sinners. Jesus bearing sins. Jesus being sin, being sinner for us, as Paul continues, “that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” What’s ours becomes Christ’s. It must be so, or we’re damned, lost forever. But here Christ appears, manifests Himself, He epiphanies at the Jordan to be baptized by John, fulfilling His Father’s will to save you. It’s what Jesus wants. He’s come for this.
JESUS IS MANIFESTED IN THE WATERS OF HOLY BAPTISM.
(I. In John’s Baptism)
“It can’t be this way,” we say! God is holy and just and good, and He is all those things. But here’s your “Lord and God” Jesus receiving a Baptism that’s meant for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. He’s where the sinners are! This is what the Christ was to do. It’s why He came. And as Christ, as anointed one, well, Jesus must be anointed. Anointed in a way that’s scandalous, not at all in a way we expect. Anointed in John’s Baptism. Manifested there not just as the Christ, but as the Christ for sinners. He must be manifested in John’s Baptism as Christ because John wasn’t the Christ. He flatly denied it: “He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John was a prophet sent from God, but He was no Christ. John prepared the Lord’s way, the Lord’s Jordan way that Jesus would be anointed as Christ in a baptism for sinners to show that He’d come to save them from their sins. John the last prophet anoints Jesus at the Jordan. John bore witness that he himself wasn’t the Christ, but he’s not the only one bearing witness. When Jesus is baptized, the Spirit and the Father bear witness. The Spirit attests that Jesus is the Christ, that He’s anointed with the Holy Spirit, even as He was conceived by Him. The Spirit bears His witness by descending “on Him in bodily form, like a dove.” The Father also bears witness that this Jesus isn’t just Christ but He is the eternal Son of the Father: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The mightier One, the Anointed one, the Son manifests Himself. Jesus is washed as a sinner. He is this for you. As Paul declares, “For God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And elsewhere: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’).” This is what Christ has done for all humanity at the cross, but it all began here at the Jordan. “He was numbered with the transgressors,” as Isaiah foretold. Standing among them, baptized as one of them: “When he [John] was baptizing all the people,” Jesus was baptized because He was there with them and for them. He was there FOR YOU too. Taking on your sin to die for it that He might wash it away in your baptism. That’s right. Jesus isn’t just manifested in John’s baptism. He’s manifested in your baptism, too.
(II. In your baptism.)
In your Baptism Jesus bears witness. He bears witness that He was and is Christ for you. His birth for you, His death for you, His resurrection for you save you from your sins. God be praised! The sins you do daily and much are all forgiven. His baptism then is a reflection of your own. What is washed over Him is washed off of you. The sins that would damn you are washed in His water with the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Your not living as the son or daughter of God that you are is forgiven and washed away. What does it mean to not live as a son or daughter? To live as if God did not matter and as if you mattered most. To forsake your duty to love your neighbor and think ill of her, to gossip about him. They too are people for whom Christ died. To live as if you somehow need to keep yourself in the kingdom. Surely God got you there, but now it’s up to you. To live that way is to not live as a son or daughter. But Jesus get’s in that water FOR YOU. His Father calls Him “beloved Son,” the Spirit comes upon Him, heaven is opened. You too! You are a child of God. That’s what Baptism has done for you. It’s given you the Spirit. It’s given you forgiveness. It opens heaven for you. It gives you Christ’s own righteousness instead of the sin that’s yours. It gives you His death and resurrection. It’s given through water! The Scriptures attest to this all over the place! But for our text today we have: Washed over Christ, washed off you. And there’s more in our text for you! You wouldn’t stay son or daughter unless Christ had stayed in that water for you. He is “beloved Son,” and so are you. You can’t have a better Word, more powerful Word than what God Himself has spoken.
Jesus is baptized for you. It’s scandalous! God baptized as sinner! “Numbered among the transgressors.” God dies for you. “Curse” for you. “Sin” for you. Sheds His blood for you. Rises for you. It all starts here at the Jordan. Jesus is baptized and carries it all the way through to death and tomb. Jordan must conclude with Calvary and the empty tomb. It’s the way of things. So also for you. Death and resurrection are yours. Christ is yours! The whole triune God is yours! Don’t forsake your baptism. You have new life! New life to love God and your neighbor. Baptism is given you by Jesus to carry you from font to grave and to resurrection to eternal life. “Our Baptism abides forever. Even though someone should fall from Baptism and sin, still we always have access to it. So we may subdue the old man again. But we do not need to be sprinkled with water again. Even if we were put under the water a hundred times, it would still be only one Baptism. Repentance, therefore, is nothing other than a return and approach to Baptism….The ship of Baptism never breaks, because it is God’s ordinance and not our work. But it does happen that we slip and fall out of the ship. Yet if anyone falls out, let him see to it that he swims up and clings to the ship until he comes into it again and lives in it, as he had done before.” (LC)
Today shows us the scandal of the Gospel. It’s manifested, Jesus is manifested in the waters of Baptism: His and yours. It really is scandalous. It’s not just scandalous in how salvation is won for you, for me, for the whole world. God takes on sins! Is numbered amongst them! Counted as one of them! Dies for them! FOR YOU! It’s scandalous also in how salvation is delivered to you, to me, to all. Washed over you at the font. Yours forever! Even as God said to you that day: “You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased.”
INI + AMEN.