The Baptism of our Lord
January 10, 2016
“Everybody Has a Story – Part 2”
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today as I continue this sermon series called “Everybody Has a Story” is Mark 2:13-17 which reads as follows:
[Jesus] went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
This is the text. My dear friends,
Nobody ever came to play with Vivian Keith. That statement of fact is always sad when it describes a child. It is especially so when you understand that two-year-old Vivian doesn’t have a lot of playmates because she is fighting cancer in the isolation unit on the ninth floor of St. Louis Children’s Hospital located very close to Concordia Seminary’s campus in St. Louis. Last February she was diagnosed with leukemia and has spent the long months of her short life in those antiseptic surroundings. Whenever we think of “The Big C” word – Cancer – it strikes us with memories of ones we have loved and lost to cancer, and also makes us feel sadness and remorse for those who deal with this dreadful disease, and especially so when children are afflicted. And what does a two-year-old do to pass the time in such difficult surroundings? In Vivian’s case, she watches the workers who are constructing another building outside her room near Forest Park. Yes, she watches and she waves and she makes faces. Greg Combs, one of the iron workers who saw Vivian and waves back to her, commented, “She was sweet and made us smile.” In August 2015, Combs and another fellow, Travis Barnes, decided to do more than wave. Wanting to brighten Vivian’s day they put up a girder, and on that girder they had written the words, “Get well soon.” Now, at the age of two, Vivian can’t read. Even so, when the workers’ sentiment was shared, she was made most happy. This was her girder, and those well-wishing words would always be there. Long after she had been released, long after the girder was surrounded by finished construction, the thought would remain: Get well soon! You know, the Lord has said the same thing to us. In that lesson I read earlier, Jesus calls Matthew into discipleship. Matthew…a despised, hated, lowly, miserable tax collector to be a disciple of the Christ! And if that wasn’t bad enough, then Jesus sat down and actually ate a meal with people like Matthew and even worse! Can you imagine! The scribes and Pharisees could hardly believe their eyes. This man, this Jesus, who had been preaching and healing so many people now having the nerve to sit and actually EAT with tax collectors and sinners! And when confronted, Jesus doesn’t attack the Pharisees nor does He defend Matthew and the other guests. Jesus addresses the issue of wellness. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” It is a perfect and brilliant response.
I wish I could say that our responses are always so brilliant and perfect. Oh sure, we feel plenty well when we berate the behavior of the Pharisees and the scribes, but are we much different? Don’t we also judge others by their behaviors? Don’t we judge God’s plan for our lives as “not right”? Don’t we look at our own sinful behavior and turn a blind eye while quickly looking down upon those who do the same thing? When you do a spiritual assessment – a REAL HONEST assessment – are you as healthy as you think?
The issue is not so much whether you agree with Jesus’ policies and practices. Instead, it is a reminder of the need for spiritual wellness. Your physical wellness breaks down every day because of sin. Your financial wellness changes on a regular basis. Your relationship wellness, well, do I need to go there? Your spiritual wellness, though, is of utmost importance. We are sick sinners. We need spiritual wellness. And that is what Jesus provides.
When the Lord said, “Get well soon” to you, He wrote it on a wooden cross and not on a metal girder. Having seen us in our lost and lonely state, knowing we were condemned by our sins and helpless to do anything to heal ourselves, He sent His Son to this earth to be our Savior. “Get well soon” was the message behind the song of the angels the night Jesus was born. To get us well soon is what Jesus was working for when He turned down the devil and fulfilled God’s Commandments. To get us well soon is what made Him endure the lies, the beatings, the whippings, and the taunts. When Pilate hung the sign which read, “Jesus, King of the Jews,” the Lord hung another sign. God’s sign, visible only with eyes of faith, said, “Get well soon.” The day Jesus died, one of the thieves saw that sign and ended the day in paradise. Since then, countless others have seen and believed that the Savior has rescued them. They have trusted the Lord’s grace which says, “I can get you well now!”
You know where else He says “get well soon?” In the waters of Baptism, and that’s what we commemorate today – Jesus’ Baptism. In today’s Gospel lesson at Jesus’ Baptism, the very voice of God said “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” God in Jesus is well pleased to love and forgive and save because that’s what He does. He loves you, He forgives you, He saves you now and forever out of love and grace.
I am comfortably sure that as you deal with your life issues and struggles of the day, week, or year, you probably may want to know when God is going to make you well. You want to know when you’re going to get relief or catch a break or see some resolution. My question to you is why are you fighting a fight that’s already been won? Why do you keep holding on so tight instead of being held in the loving arms and plan of God that he has for you? Why make yourself sick over things that, for the most part, are out of your control? When you’re feeling spiritually “sick,” remember the waters of your Baptism and remember just how well God made you in those life-giving, sin-forging waters.
Pray for Vivian. Pray for all those afflicted with Cancer. But also celebrate just how well we’ve all been made in and through saving faith in Jesus and your Baptism.