The Baptism of our Lord
January 8, 2017
“Listen to the Voices”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today for the celebration of the Baptism of our Lord is the Gospel lesson assigned for today from Matthew chapter 3.
My Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
What happens when you die? I asked my Ipone (“Siri”) that question and there was not much help, so I “Googled” that question instead and had 96,300,000 results. It’s the ULTIMATE question, right? What happens when we die? And how important is Baptism in considering that question? A GREAT MANY people think about the answer to the first question but not so much for others regarding Baptism’s role in the answer. I advocate that the answers are quite obvious as long as we listen to the voices that are so abundant in His Word. And today we have a series of voices that speak to us about the vital importance of Baptism. The answer is right there as long as we listen to the right voices.
First though…a qualifier. If you do not believe that the Bible is authoritative, then (#1) you’re in the wrong church, and (#2) the next 15 minutes will be a waste for you; you might as well listen to circus music in your head. But if you DO believe that the Bible is the inerrant, inspired, holy, and eternal Word of God, then listen to the voices. Listen to the voice of Holy Scripture.
For starters, listen to the voice of John the Baptist. In Matthew 3:2, John the Baptist provides a voice concerning the importance of Baptism. In verse 2 he said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (ESV). John also said, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry” (3:11, NIV). When Jesus comes to be baptized by John, John hesitates knowing that Jesus has no need to repent having no sin. Yet Jesus subjects Himself to baptism to provide a tremendous example for His people to follow: to be baptized for repentance and for the forgiveness of sins! Luther pointed out that once again Jesus is taking our place: in the Jordan, on the cross, in the tomb.
Well then…what happened? Why are more and more young families choosing not to have their children baptized? Why are so many waiting until the kids “decide for
themselves” whether or not to be baptized? Why? My theory is because they have too much access to too many voices – the voices of the world. Baptism is held in much lower esteem in our age because it is so low tech, it’s an old fashioned sacrament in a high tech world; Baptism has become a relic young parents do to make Grandma and Grandpa happy, but little more than that.
I can see why. Today people are plugged in, logged on, and downloaded like no other generation before in the history of the planet. How can a bowl/shell of water compete with Facebook and text messaging and Twitter and Snap Chat and Instagram and YouTube? Why should parents bring their children to church, have them baptized, and nurture them in the Christian faith? Isn’t there an app for that by now? The thing is…Baptism CAN compete and it SHOULD because Baptism is more than simple water. The challenge for the modern church is getting young people to hear that message.
St. Paul’s voice in today’s 2nd lesson about Baptism tells us “or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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 6:3-4). Baptism is about living and dying; NOTHING on Facebook is more important than life and death; it’s getting harder to convince young parents of that. Baptism is about dying to sin and living a new life, and this is only possible because of the work of Jesus Christ which began at His Baptism in the Jordan and ended with His cruel death on the cross at Calvary. Without that, Baptism would be a simple head wash. But because of Jesus’ sacrificial life and death on our behalf, and by virtue of our own Baptismal faith, we have received God’s promises: the forgiveness of our sins, the hope of salvation, and (here it come!) the gift of eternal life with Him. What happens when you die? Simple. The body – your “flesh Baggie” – stops working like all machines do and so we put it wherever you want: ground, urn, our Memorial Flower Garden. If you go 3 miles out, ashes can be placed in the Gulf of Mexico. Me? I want my remains compressed into golf balls and handed out so I can keep playing even after death. J BUT BY FAITH, THE UNIQUE THING THAT MAKES YOU YOU – YOUR SOUL – LIVES ON FOREVER IN HEAVEN BECAUSE OF YOUR BAPTISMAL FAITH.
Still not sure how all the pieces of life fit? Listen to the voice of God Himself. In Jesus’ Baptism, we see all three persons of the Holy Trinity physically present – the only time in biblical history this happens: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all physically manifested at the same time. God the Father speaks, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
If the Holy Trinity is physically present and God Himself speaks at that moment, do you think this is a key moment in human history? It is. It is the moment that Jesus began His messianic ministry. It is the moment that Jesus began His work to fulfill all righteousness and prophecy. It is the moment that God established Baptism as a means by which He delivers what He promises to give to His people who repent and believe: the forgiveness of our sins, salvation, and eternal life.
Unsure about Baptism? Looking for the answer to life’s ultimate question? Listen…listen to the voices. Listen, believe, be baptized, be forgiven, and be saved eternally.