The Baptism of Our Lord | Mark 1:4-11
Things aren’t always what they seem;
And our world is full of examples that make that point.
Someone who appears to be healthy may actually be quite ill;
A successful hedge fund may actually be a Ponzi scheme…
An outwardly happy marriage may be full of animosity and fear.
The list goes on and on, and you can add to it many examples of your own.
Things are not always as they seem.
It’s true for us, and it is especially true for Jesus.
Consider that just two weeks ago, we celebrated Christmas –
The fact that the infinite God has come to us as a little Child;
That’s something that seems impossible.
I mean, really…God: a Child?!
He looked like any other baby.
But things aren’t always what they seem.
That’s why yesterday, on Epiphany, the Magi made their big trip;
Their eyes perceived an ordinary toddler,
But by God’s grace knew Him to be the LORD’s Christ.
It must’ve looked crazy.
Important men from a foreign land, on their faces worshipping a poor, dirty, Child. But things aren’t always what they seem.
Likewise this morning:
Jesus does not look mightier than John, His older cousin.
By all observations, He has been rather quiet up until now.
But by submitting to John’s baptism,
Which is a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,
It would seem that Jesus has something to repent of.
But if He doesn’t, then why all the fuss?
Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan isn’t for Jesus.
Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan is for you.
Jesus goes into the water this morning because things aren’t what they seem.
Jesus goes into the water for you because you’re not as you seem.
You’re not the people you look like on your Christmas cards and college applications You’re not really the bright, shiny people you try to look like on Sunday morning.
Behind your smiles hides a great deal of pain that others, frankly,
Might not find very attractive.
Some of it’s your fault;
Some of it’s caused by others;
And some of it’s just the result of living in a fallen world.
All of that, we know, comes from sin.
But knowing doesn’t make it any better.
So we self-medicate.
It’s all the normal things we do to feel better:
Drunkenness, and gossip, and stuff –
All the things we do to help us ignore the problem and put on a happy face.
But happy faces don’t make happy people.
Things aren’t what they seem.
Water, for example, looks like plain water.
And yet, joined with God’s Word and promise, water is something else entirely.
In the beginning, God showed us that He actually used water for creation.
That’s what the Holy Spirit was hovering over before the Word spoke a word.
Later on, God used water of the Red Sea to save His people from captivity.
And through the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan,
God sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood
And a lavish washing away of sin, as we say in our baptismal prayers.
Through water, God creates, saves, and even re-creates.
Water kills and makes alive!
I know it doesn’t look that way, but things aren’t always what they seem.
It’s there in the Epistle reading for this morning:
“We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Because of what Christ has done in His life, death, and resurrection,
Because He has baptized you into His Name, what goes for Jesus goes for you.
At Jesus’ Baptism, God the Father says,
“You are my beloved Son, in You I am well pleased.”
Because Jesus has made His Baptism your Baptism,
When God the Father looks at you He sees is His beloved Son,
In Whom He is so very pleased.
Some days that’s not so easy to see,
Because some days things are exactly as they seem.
We live now in a world where planes disappear, children get cancer,
And shooting massacres are forgotten after a news cycle.
That is why Jesus’ path from the Jordan does not go straight to heaven,
but to trial, temptation, and cross.
Jesus’ path reminds you that in this live you will bear crosses as well.
There’s every chance that this may cause you to despair.
But there is no need.
There’s no need to despair because you’ve not only been baptized into Jesus’ death, But His resurrection as well.
This means that sin and death and pain do not have the last word in your life.
It means that because Jesus was raised from the dead, so will you be.
Until then, you and I, and all of us together now live and die in our Baptism
And under the cross, as people with a future.
It means we live lives of joy – not hiding from the pains of this world,
But sharing in the sufferings of our neighbors.
It means we are freed from the lies we’d tell about ourselves,
And freed to live in this Truth:
That because of Jesus, God is very pleased with each and every one of you.
To strengthen us in this new life,
Jesus this morning adds one more blessing in His Holy Supper.
By now you know that things aren’t always as they seem.
So as you approach the altar, let your eyes see what your ears hear –
That you receive here exactly what Jesus has said:
His very own Body and Blood, into your mouth, for the forgiveness of all your sins.
John’s Baptism of Jesus and Jesus’ Baptism of you means you belong to God.
You are His own beloved Child in whom He is well pleased.
And so you depart today, as Pastor Luther says,
“To be little christs to one another.”
You who have been made and re-made in the image of God, who bear Christ’s Name, You bring Him out into a world full of people who know Him not, or love Him not –
People still pretending they can save themselves, if they need saving at all.
You depart here today to love all of them as God has loved us.
You depart here today full of the Holy Spirit,
Pointing to and proclaiming the Son,
Who will Himself rend the Heavens once more,
And Himself bring all of us to the Father.
To this Lord Jesus Christ be all glory now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.