January 13 – The Baptism of our Lord
by Pastor Pete Scheele
Read Luke 3: 15 – 22
Grace and peace to you as you remember your Baptism, from God, our Father, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Who is John the Baptist? Why does the evangelist Luke spend so much time talking about John’s birth and life? We learned from the Gospel of Luke that John the Baptist is a cousin of Jesus and that he was the final prophet sent into the world to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, who would save the world from their sins and make the world ready for the coming of God into our lives.
So why does the Evangelist Luke tell us the date of the birth of Jesus through the rulers of the time and then a chapter later tell us again the rulers of the time about the time for the start of John the Baptist mission in this world? To show us that there has been about 30 years gone by since the time that we last heard about the actions of Jesus. Last week we celebrated
the coming of the Wise Men to give their honor and gifts to the Christ child and we hear that Jesus with Mary and Joseph had to leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt. After a few years in Egypt Herod died and God called Joseph, Mary and Jesus back to the land of the Israelites and Joseph took up residents in Nazareth. At that time, Jesus was very young maybe 2 to 4 years old. Luke tells us about only one thing that happened during Jesus boyhood and that was we when He went to the temple with His parents when He was 12 years old. We now jump from the time when Jesus was 12 years old to now when He is 30 years old, the time when a man in line for a priesthood would begin His priestly duties.
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, (Lk. 3:15).
Why were the people expecting the Messiah to come at this time? They had seen the star that had brought the Wise Men to give tribute to the baby Jesus to be the King of Kings, but John the Baptist spoke and preached like no body they had ever heard. In fact, John the Baptist, through the Holy Spirit, working in him, was bringing large crowd of people together in
the wilderness of the Jordan river and that hadn’t happened for more than 400 years. John the Baptist was the final prophet of the Old Testament. He would proclaim and preparing the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah but he would not see the fulfillment of all the promises that God would proclaim through him and through God’s words found in the Old Testament.
Some would say that John the Baptist was a fire and brimstone preacher, and I’m sure that he was. He needed to get the people ready for the coming of God in their lives and the judgment of their lives. The result of that judgment would be the fires of hell for all those who did not accept Jesus as the true Messiah. John the Baptist knew his place in the events of this world and that’s why John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Lk. 3:15 – 17)
Why did John the Baptist baptize with water? Here is where you have to know the Old Testament accounts of God appearing to His people. When God was going to show Himself to the people of Israel at Mt. Sinai he told Moses to prepare the people by washing themselves in the water and put on their best clothes. How many of you may have thought that it was your mother who made up that rule washing and put on you Sunday best. Well your mothers and fathers were doing the same thing that all the prophet of the Old Testament where doing, getting us ready for the coming of the Lord in our lives. So, are you ready for the coming of the Lord in your life?
You are if you really meant what you said earlier this morning, “Most merciful God, we confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean. We have sinned against You in though world and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not love You with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We justly deserve Your present and eternal punishment.” That’s right when Jesus comes again we all deserve to be burned with the unquenchable fire of hell because of our sins. That’s why we go on to ask for God’s mercy as we say, “For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways to the glory of Your holy name. Amen.” (LSB pg. 151)
John the Baptist wasn’t to wash away their sins in his Baptism, but to get the people ready for the coming of the one who could wash all their sins away and would judge the just from the unjust, God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. So why did Jesus have to get Baptized by John the Baptist? He didn’t have any sin because He was perfect in every way and had not committed a single sin? Jesus came to be baptized just like a priest would be baptized before he would enter into the Holy of Holy in the temple to do the work that God had called Him to do. What had God call Jesus to do in this world? To lead a perfect life so that He could exchange His perfect righteousness for our sins and then pay the payment for our sins by his life.
Jesus was now 30 years old and it was time for Him to begin the ministry that God had called Him to do. To proclaim the truth about God’s love and to take all the sins of the world to the cross of Calvary to make the full and final payment for all our sins so that we can be gathered to God in the heavenly home He has prepared for us to live with Him for all eternity.
The Good News, the Gospel that is what Jesus came to fulfill for us and that was what John the Baptist was proclaiming to the world at his time. Luke the evangelist tells us, “So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.” (Lk. 3:18-20)
Proclaiming the Gospel is not what the world, our sinful nature or Satan wants to hear and yet that is just what we are bound to do because we have been baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Our Baptism was not just the water to get us ready for God to be in our lives, like the people of the Old Testament, it includes a covenant that God is bound to us. We are Israel, God’s people of the New Testament because, as the evangelist Luke tells us, ‘Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened,22 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.”’ (Lk. 3:21-22)
Jesus has come to accomplish for each of us what only God can do for us and that is to wash away all our sins by the blood of the perfect life of Jesus Christ so that we can have the perfect righteousness He has accomplished for us. Because of what Jesus has done for each of us now the Holy Spirit can live in us and God, our heavenly Father says to us, “You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Because Jesus has lived in this world a perfect life for us and has died on the cross of Calvary, suffering hell for us and has risen from the dead to live and reign for us, we are given a new life in our baptism. In our baptism, we are washed of all our sins and given a new life just as Jesus rose from the grave for us. In that new life, the Holy Spirit has come to dwell in us to bring us to faith and to keep us in that faith through His Word and Sacraments. YES, God by the water and the Word in our Baptism has bound Himself to us always, because of what Jesus Christ has done for us by His life, death and resurrection.
We are now bound to God by the water and the Word to reach out into our world and proclaim the Good News of all that God has done for us in the past, in the present and will do for us in the future. We are the John the Baptist of today, because we are preparing the people of this world for the coming of Jesus again. Jesus through His life, death and resurrection has already baptized us with the Holy Spirit and has purified our lives with the fires of hell that He has suffered for us so that we don’t have to face them ever. That baptism into the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit also gives the task to preparing the World we live in for the second coming of Jesus. For when Jesus comes again, “His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Lk. 3: 17) Where do we want to see our friends and family?
Jesus gives us our marching orders as He says to us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20) God has bound us to Him through His Water and His Word so that we can go out into the World a proclaim the Good News of God’s love, peace and life given to us to share with others so that they will never have to feel and know the unquenchable fires of God’s wrath in hell for eternity. God is bound to us by the water and His Word so that we can share this Good News of His love, peace and live with others now before it is too late. Amen.