INI + AMEN.
Our Lord says, “Let the little children come to Me” because He lifts up the lowly, the nothing. He makes the strong serve the weak. That’s what our dear Lord’s about. What His Kingdom, His reign, His rule is all about, too. That’s even what St. Michael’s Day is all about!
It’s white today—not to rejoice in the purity of angels, their might, their greatness. It’s white to point us to a purity more pure than the angels have—the purity, holiness, and righteousness of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The righteousness—His righteousness that He gave you at the Holy Font in Holy Baptism.
And so He says, “Let the little children come to Me.” And so He says in our Gospel text today: “Whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me.”
((3. Holy Baptism makes the least great.))
Jesus’ name is given in Holy Baptism—along with His Father’s and the Spirit’s. Holy Baptism makes the least the greatest. He lifts up and exalts the lowly, the least, the nothing. In and through Baptism He makes even infants the greatest in the kingdom! You, too—you’re Baptism into Jesus made you greatest in the Kingdom.
Jesus doesn’t praise children because of their innocence, cuteness, or whatever else. They’re praised because they’re nothing as far as the world’s concerned. Back then they weren’t even considered people! So Jesus is saying, “Be nothing, and you’ll be the greatest.”
All this is the opposite of how pretty much everything else in the world works. Coaches who don’t win, don’t coach. There’s no promotion if you don’t meet expectations. Fs aren’t praised. Winners are praised not losers and losing. Strong minds, character, and bodies are all sought after.
So we like angels. They’ve got power in the kingdom, right? It’s why the false idea that people become angels after they die is comforting. As if that’s a better existence than being a human being. Move on to a better place, move on to being a better being without this icky body with its sinful passions, desires, and sins.
But that’s not how it is in Jesus’ kingdom. The Son doesn’t become and angel. He lifts up human beings by becoming one—embryo, baby, toddler, all the way to being a grownup. And the Almighty God becomes nothing, dead for the least, the nothing, the sinner, the damned—you.
Then He uses water and Word to make the least the greatest in His Kingdom. And so, before Holy Baptism, isolated item, condemned, guilty, child of wrath, hell bound. After Holy Baptism, fellowship with God, forgiven, innocent, child of God, heir of eternal life.
((2. Outside the kingdom we’re isolated items.))
So, what’s the problem? “Temptations to sin.” Now these are simply stumbling blocks to Jesus, things that keep you from Him. To prevent a child’s old Adam from being drowned at the font—well, a mill-stone and depth of the sea would be a better fate. If your goal-kicking foot, or whatever else keeps you from Jesus, His Word and Gifts, cut it off! If your hand pulls back from receiving His body and blood, cut it off!
It’s better to enter eternal life with whatever in your life that keeps you away from Jesus altar cut off than to cling to that thing, that person, that event, that obligation and end up in hell. “That’s not going to do that Pastor.” And why not? Jesus says it will.
But we think it’s not all that bad because we live out our Chrisitanity as a matter of being, doing, getting better—progress! I’m doing better than before or better than them, so I’m good. I’ll get the promotion—eternal life. We may have the right answer (“That’s not how it works”), but we still act like it.
((1. The Kingdom is far bigger than you can see.))
We really do have nothing but Jesus. It all comes down to Him, His Baptism. He brings you into the Kingdom inspite of you. No qualification. If you want something else besides Him, well, you’ll get that. He’ll let you gain the whole world, and let you forfeit your soul, if that’s what you desire. And you only act a certain way because you desire to.
But He brings you into the Kingdom. There there’s no being, doing, getting better. No progress or progression. There’s Him. His holiness and purity yours from the Font. The redemption of His blood in the cup for you.
There’s angels, too. Yeah, I didn’t forget about them. Jesus’ Kingdom is far bigger than you can see. You’re not just united to Christ, to His Father, to the Spirit in and through Baptism, in and through Jesus’ body and blood. You’re also united to all your other brothers and sisters in Christ by the Font and Cup.
But you’re also in fellowship with the holy angels. As a child of God, He commands His angels concerning you, to guard and protect you from danger and from the devil. He makes the strong serve the weak. They’re here today. We sang their Bethlehem song with them. We’ll sing with them in a few moments—with angels and with archangels—as we gather to receive the Holiest of things: Jesus’—God’s!—body and blood that are given out for you.
JESUS USES HOLY BAPTISM TO BRING YOU INTO HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM.
In this Kingdom Jesus makes sinners saints, the lowest are given the highest, the dead are raised, the nothing are given everything. That’s how Jesus’ Kigdom works.
It’s not how the world works. It’s not how we work either. There’s always something else to bring or keep you in the kingdom besides Jesus. We’re always trying that other angle, chasing after something else. And He’d give it to you.
It truly is a heavenly kingdom, though—angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, Michael, Gabriel. But you won’t become them. That’s a step down. God didn’t become an angel. He is a man for you. He’s your eternal Life who died for you; your Resurrection raised for you. Body given; blood shed.
That’s Jeus’ Kingdom. A Kingdom of free gift—of free and full forgiveness, life, and salvation. And JESUS USES HOLY BAPTISM TO BRING YOU INTO HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM.
INI + AMEN.