Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” (Mark 1:4–11, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I’ve been read this text over and over again wondering what it's really talking about. Is it about who John the Baptist is? Yep, it surely talks about him, camel’s hair coat and all. We’ve already talked about him before Christmas… It’s interesting that he shows up again here so close after. Is it about the people who came to John, confessing their sins? Sure, it’s important to see that these people came to be baptized, but first they confessed their sins. They knew their place before God. They knew they were sinners needing forgiveness. Is it about the beginning of Jesus earthly ministry? Yea, this is the turning point for Jesus, up until now we’ve heard precious little from the gospel writers about Jesus was doing from the time he was 12 years old. But, now everything is different. Jesus Baptism is where the story really gets going. I’d have to say that this text is surely about that too. This text about Jesus coming to John to be baptized is about all those things. And it’s about something else too. It’s about relationships. There are lots of relationships described here and they’re not as confusing as this is:
76-year-old Bill Baker of London married Edna Harvey. She happened to be his granddaughter’s husband’s mother. That’s where the confusion began, according to Baker’s granddaughter, Lynn.
“My mother-in-law is now my step-grandmother. My grandfather is now my stepfather-in-law. My mom is my sister-in-law and my brother is my nephew. But even crazier is that I’m now married to my uncle and my own children are my cousins.”
From this experience, Lynn should gain profound insight into the theory of relativity.
Our text today speaks about several much simpler relationships. There’s the relationship between John and Jesus. They’re cousins, and yet John knows something more about Jesus, the one whose “sandals he’s not worthy to stoop down and untie.” John knows that God has sent Jesus and that he is the one who will deliver God’s people from their sin. “He will baptize with the Holy Spirit,” says John. And yet Jesus comes to John to be baptized. We read earlier that John’s baptism had to do with repentance and forgiveness. So why is Jesus there to be baptized? According to the writer of Hebrews Jesus is without sin: he was “…tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (4:15) Clearly he doesn’t need to confess his sin and be baptized. So just what does John think he’s doing? Well, he isn’t giving Jesus forgiveness he doesn’t need. Jesus is acting in accordance with God’s plan, and John is simply helping Jesus to do just that. Jesus baptism has everything to do with his relationship to God the Father… and to us.
And that’s the relationship we want to look at next… Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for forgiveness, but we do. Jesus is acting on our behalf. He came to be a God’s servant to people, he didn’t come to be served by people. Jesus said it himself; “… the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 That was his mission. Just like John served Jesus by baptizing him, Jesus serves us by being baptized. You see, no way can God look at us and say, “with this one I am well pleased.” We are sinful people, born into sin because of the sin that came to us from our parents. As soon as we were conceived we were out of relationship with God, and actually object of his wrath. (Eph 2:3) Very often don’t want to follow God’s will for our lives; we want to be in control ourselves. How many of you guys have a hard time letting your wife drive? You may think it’s with good reason… even your wife knows she’s a better driver. But that’s kind of the way it is with our relationship with God. Most of the time we want him along as we speed through life. We want him to call out and tell us what’s ahead to keep us from having an accident. We want to know what’s over the next hill, and where to find the smoothest road. But most of all we want to decide where the car should go. We want to have a hold of the wheel. If God’s way gets a little rough we start looking for that little red button that says, “ejection seat,” so we can get back on a smother road. It’s God’s will bent to our own, instead of our will following God’s.
“You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased,” said the Father of Jesus. Jesus followed God’s will, even though His road was going to be very rough. Jesus followed God’s will even though it meant that people would hate him and try to kill him. Jesus followed God’s will even when it meant that He would have to suffer… even when it meant he would have to die. Instead of going the way that we often do, Jesus went the way of God. He was the perfect servant to you and me. He lived the life that we cannot live, and he died the death that we dare not die. He was perfect but died for our disobedience. We are disobedient but we receive forgiveness because He earned it for us. He earned it by living his life perfectly in the will of God the Father. He let God drive. He also earned it by dying in our place and suffering the punishment that we should have suffered. And God was so pleased with his son that after he had died, He gave him life again, and Jesus rose from the dead. That’s what Jesus relationship is to us. That’s what his baptism was all about, taking our place and being our servant.
You know, that’s what your baptism is about too. It’s about what Jesus Christ did for you. It’s about what Jesus Christ did for your relationship to God the Father. St. Paul wrote that: You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 To be baptized is to become a “son” that God loves. It is to be once again in a relationship with God. To be clothed with Christ is to be seen by God as the Father saw Jesus, a beloved son in whom he is well pleased. That means that God looks at us differently. We are wearing Jesus’ clothes. God sees us like he sees Jesus.
So what exactly does that mean? Well it’s like this. We’ve been driving along minding our own business. Everything seems to be going very well. Suddenly out of nowhere there’s a bump in the road. It’s more than a flat tire; it is actually deep muddy path. At first we think we can get through it. So we press on the gas a little bit more. But the mud cakes up the front end and we can’t steer. Finally, the car comes to a halt buried half up the door in a muddy mess. We’ve made a wrong turn somewhere and gotten into a big mess. We’re buried deep in the mud and there is no way out. That’s when we realize that we’ve left God out all together. We’ve been driving ourselves. We’ve been ignoring his direction because the road seemed to be much easier this way. “God!” we say. “I’ve done it again! I’m stuck in the mud again and I can’t get out. I should have listened to you.” God doesn’t look at you and say, “It serves you right for not listening to me. I ought to just leave you there to suffer on your own.” Instead he says. “You are my beloved child, whom I love. I forgive you. I’ll help you.” He does it because of Jesus. You see, our relationship, the one that was made by Jesus, means that when we sin we can turn to God for forgiveness and he will forgive. Not because we deserve to be forgiven, but because Jesus earned forgiveness for us, and he has given it to us in our baptism.
There’s one more relationship we should talk about today. It’s the relationship we have with everyone else. It has to do with being baptized into Christ Jesus, and being clothed with Christ. Remember how John was a servant to Jesus? And Jesus is a servant to us? Well, being a child of God means that we too are to be servants. We can be servants to others because Jesus Christ is a servant to us. Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that we aren’t servants of others already. We do lots of great things right now. Because of Jesus, we are servants to people right here, where God has placed us. Time and time again this church has proved it can do anything it decides to do. I’d like to challenge you to do something special for this community. Something new! Not something to gain new members. But something to show people the love of Jesus Christ, weather they know him or not.
“You are my beloved Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” The Father said to Jesus. Jesus had seen the sign, and now he heard it. He knew what God’s will was for his life, and he followed it. That was his relationship to God, the Father. Everything Jesus did he did for us: his life, death and resurrection. He did it all to make us God’s children, too. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ, Jesus. Amen.