Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord 2016
It’s the big question: Who am I? More on that later…
The Feast of the Epiphany came and went quietly this last Wednesday. The magi from the East traveled a long way to find that Child who was born King of the Jews. They saw Him in His mother’s lap, and then fell face down to worship Him; because, despite appearances, they knew that the Child with the wet diaper God in the Flesh, worthy of their gifts, praise, and adoration.
And then, they went home by another way. For those astrologers, who had spent their whole lives gazing and guessing at the meaning of the stars, the heavens above them had lost their charm. There was no longer any need to look up; not when Heaven had come down to earth, and received their worship with smiles, squeals, and gurgles. That was the end of Christmas, but it was the beginning of this season of revelation.
This is the time in the Church year when you and I are enlightened, lit up; we are, if you would, epiphanied, as God reveals His Son to us – first in the manger, then in the worship of the wise men; and now, today, all grown up, in the waters of the Jordan.
What’s funny is that if you wanted a story with Jesus and water that showed Him to be Divine, the most obvious choice would be the account of Him walking on the water and calming storms. At least, that’s a story everyone knows. But this is different. This is Jesus getting in the water, and in a way that shows us who He really is, and what He has come to do.
Jesus has come to get dirty. He doesn’t go into the Jordan for His own sake. He goes in for you. That river is part of a fallen creation. And quite recently, it’s been polluted with the sins of Israel, of you, and of me. Folks have heard John’s preaching, and, like us, would like to start the New Year fresh. So they’ve gone to repent, and send their sins downstream. But since He has none of His own, Jesus comes to the water to fulfill all righteousness.
As the water covers Him, Jesus is immersed in the filth of this world. Even now, Jesus steeps in the grief, sorrow, and bitterness of our failure, and begins to carry all of that with Him; from the Jordan, and toward the cross.
This is proof positive. Jesus has come as one of us. He was, as the hymn goes, numbered with sinners. He has enlisted Himself into our cause – identifying with us, and going in to fight for us. That is, by the way, why He goes right from here to do battle with Satan in the wilderness. All of that isn’t clear yet, but one thing is: this is a creation story.
In the Jordan this morning, there is a rehearsal of Genesis 1. The Father is speaking; the Spirit is hovering; the Son is moving into action. And so something new and wonderful happens.
What happens is that Jesus makes clean what was dirty. As He soaks up our sin like a sponge, he purifies the water, and everyone that water touches. As we say in Luther’s Flood Prayer:
“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.”
When I say that this is a creation story, it is because this is a re-creation story. When the Father spoke, when the Spirit hovered, when the Son touched you, when God’s Water and God’s Word covered you, then He made a new creature. In your baptism you’ve been buried with Jesus, raised to new life in Jesus. It’s all there in the Epistle for today. You were dead, and now you’re alive. How can you still live in sin?!
You are new, and clean, and alive, because Jesus Himself has made you so. For you, at the font, the heavens were opened. Jesus reached out and grabbed you as the Father spoke and put His Name on You, as the Holy Spirit hovered over the water and descended to make His home in you.
That’s why the answer to your failures, your doubts, and your death is not that you werebaptized, but that you are baptized. You have been washed with Water that does not come off, purified with the Fire that is the Holy Spirit, and given a Name that cannot be revoked. It’s why we start the service in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. That Name is your rebirth right.
And so, as we learned at Christmas, there is now nothing to fear. It is just as we heard from the Prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament reading today:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”
You have been redeemed, purchased, won. You are His. You are not your own. You have been bought with a price. And so what goes for Jesus goes for you as well. His righteousness is your righteousness. His death is your death. His resurrection is your resurrection. His Father is your Father.
His Kingdom is yours: here, now, today. Even His own Body He would not keep from you. And so the same Jesus who bathed in the Jordan, who was crucified, and raised again, is yours, here in His Supper.
Who are you? You are those whom Jesus has touched with Word and Water, and Name. You are those in whom the Holy Spirit lives and works. You are those of whom the Father declares, “These are my beloved Children, in whom I am well pleased.”