Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mark.1.4-11; The Baptism of Our Lord, January 11, 2009

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 don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Jordan River, I haven’t, except in pictures. It’s a crooked running little thing, and muddy too. When you look at the pictures its hard to understand why anyone would ever go there to wash to get clean. But this is where John the Baptizer was working. He stood out there in the muddy stream calling people to repent of their sin and when they did he baptized them, in that muddy, dirty water. It is an interesting picture don’t you think? If you looked at the river you’d have second thoughts about washing in it.

There’s another story from the bible that helps us to understand this picture. Way back in 2 kings there was a man name Naaman. He was the commander of the army of Syria. He was a brave man, but he had a problem. He had lepersy. There was an Isralite girl there who told him about the prophet Elisha. She said that if he lived where Elisha lived he could be cured. When word got to the king, he sent Naaman, with money and a letter to the king of Israel. The king wasn’t very happy with the situation. He thought it was a trap. But, Elisha told him to send Naaman on ahead. When Naaman got to Elisha’s door Elisha sent out his messenger.

“Go to the Jordan river and wash seven times and you will be clean.”

Now picture in your mind the river we described before. Here is a very proud man asked to bath in a very dirty, muddy river. Naaman isn’t too happy with the situation.

“I came all this way for this! The prophet didn’t even see me. He just sent his servant. I could just as well have washed in clean rivers at home!”

He began to leave in a rage. But Naaman’s servants convinced him that he should do what the prophet said. So he went down and dipped himself in the river seven times. He was completely healed. In fact, the Bible uses the word “clean.”

Now, if you had seen the pictures of the Jordan, or if you’ve been there, you wouldn’t think anyone could get clean in any way washing in that dirty little stream. But, John is doing just that. And people were going out to him in bunches. In fact:

...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.

A little bit like Naaman, the folks came to John, confessed their sins, dipped in the water of the Jordan River and were clean. They were baptized, that is they were washed, and John told them their sins were forgiven.

So, Jesus comes to the muddy water of the Jordan to be baptized by John. In this reading we don’t get any of John’s arguments about not wanting to do it. We just hear about what happened when it was all done.

And when [Jesus] 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 1:10-11, ESV)

The baptism of Jesus begins his public ministry. It’s a sort of job initiation. Here is where Jesus work really begins publicly. After he’s baptized, the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness, to be tempted by Satan. Jesus is off and running, doing what he’s been sent to do, and it all starts right there in the muddy water of the Jordan.

Actually, I think, there’s a very important phrase there in the text that helps us to really understand what’s going on here.

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

That’s right. I think it’s extremely important to take note of the fact that Jesus was baptized in the Jordan. Why? Well, just think about what John was doing there. People were coming from all over to be washed of their sin. They confessed, were washed and forgiven. It’s like all their sin was washed off into that muddy, dirty water. When Jesus stands on the bank looking in, what he sees is a sewer of sin. He doesn’t complain like Naaman. He doesn’t need convincing. He walks right in and is baptized. The difference between Naaman and Jesus, the difference between Jesus and all those people who washed there is that Jesus didn’t have any sin to wash away. Instead he sucks it all up into himself. He becomes the carrier of sin. John poured water on him and said God’s name and Jesus became the sin bearer.

From there Jesus walked and talked and taught and laughed and cried. From there Jesus carried sin to the cross. He was pinned to the cross with all that dirty, filthy, sewer of sin. And through his death he left it there. He rose again from death free from sin again.

Now look at that blue sheet in the bulletin again. This morning we began our service with a remembrance of your baptism. Listen again to just a few words from Luther’s Catechism.

What is Baptism?

Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God's command and combined with God's word.

What benefits does Baptism give?

It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

How can water do such great things?

Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this Word of God in the water. For without God's word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.

St. Paul writes in Romans, chapter six: "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)

All the promises that God makes to his people for washing away of sin is made true for you in Baptism. One part of the new service of Holy Baptism in the new hymnal is the prayer called “the Flood Prayer.” If you turn to p. 269 in the hymnal you can see it. There’s one phrase of it that is fit for today.

Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin.

You see it? Do you see the connection between your baptism and Jesus baptism? Here at this font you were washed for the forgiveness of sin. All your sin, the filthiness that is in your heart was washed into the water. I’m talking about your selfishness, your pride, your sinful desires all of it. That little bowl of water became a muddy sewer of sin, just like the Jordan River. And all that sin, all your sin, was sucked up into Jesus. He got rid of it for you, on the cross. His death is your death, to get rid of sin. His resurrection is your resurrection to a new and clean life; buried with Jesus in death, alive with Jesus in resurrection.

Your have a new life through Jesus Baptism and yours; free from the slavery to sin; free from the fear of punishment for it too.

And just so you get the point even a bit more, your baptismal connection to Jesus isn’t just a one time deal. No, you don’t have to come up here and dunk your head in the tank again. Martin Luther is well know for saying its not that we were baptized but that we are baptized. Every day live in the promises of our baptism. We are baptized, we have forgiveness, we are clean, we do live forever.

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

That describes our life as a Christian. Daily we bring our sin to the cross through our Baptism to be killed with Christ. Daily Jesus puts on us his perfect life, the forgiveness of sins. And daily in that forgiveness we live and serve our neighbor.

Baptized into Your name most holy,
O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
I claim a place, though weak and lowly,
Among Your saints, Your chosen host.
Buried with Christ and dead to sin,
Your Spirit now shall live within.

All that I am and love most dearly—
Receive it all, O Lord, from me.
Let me confess my faith sincerely;
Help me Your faithful child to be!
Let nothing that I am or own
Serve any will but Yours alone.


The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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