A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Baptism of Our Lord

Rev. Dr. Les Martin

Baptism of Our Lord
Rev. Dr Les Martin
Mark 1:4-8

In the name of the living God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Why was Jesus baptized? We read about it at least once a year. But do we really think about it? I mean, what was his baptism for? What’s your baptism for? Doesn’t seem like that would apply to Jesus does it? Maybe.

John asked what Jesus was doing. In Matthew, chapter 3:14, the cognate verse two, the one we’re reading in Mark, when Jesus shows up at the river, Jordan, John’s not so sure about this, he refuses at first, he says, I need to be baptized by you. And yet you come to me. Jesus replies, in the following verse, “Let it happen now for it is right to fulfill all righteousness.” Now, sometimes, we choose to kind of reinterpret what John’s doing to make this more comfortable for us. And we say, well, John’s doing what he’s doing with the people who are coming out to see him. But Jesus is doing something else. And yet Scripture is clear, John’s baptism. This is in Mark, one four that we just read is a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. And this is what Jesus is deliberately seeking a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. Now it’s getting real weird, isn’t it?

This is messing up everything we’ve ever thought about. He shows up. This is the same guy that John has been saying, “Look, there’s the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He shows up for what’s on offer. What’s on the menu is repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus says, “I’ll have some of that.” And John says, “No, this dish isn’t for you.” And he says, “Oh, yes, it is.”

I hope by now you’re really feeling uncomfortable with what I’m saying? What was his baptism before? Was it just play acting? Do to do? Was it modeling for others? We’re gonna look at it. But the answer to those questions is no. And John only had one thing to give a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. And the son of God, who takes away the sin of the world. freely chooses a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins.

Sometimes it can help us to set a scripture in context. You know, I do that a lot in place of scriptural context where I like to place it in context today, as a way to begin to understand this is in not the narrative of the Bible, but the narrative of the church here. We are now post-Christmas. The 12 days have passed. The king showed up and left. And now here we are, at the River Jordan. Post-Christmas Epiphany is part of the Incarnation cycle, in the story. Incarnation means in the flesh actually, if we’re a little bit creative, Karna you know, carne asada. incarnation is actually in the meat. dog gets in the meat. Emmanuel, God with us.

Epiphany is part of remembering that God is with us. Epiphany means a sudden light or revelation. A substance Out of that Theophany what this day the day of the baptism of Our Lord has called in the east, specifically is a manifestation of God. So let’s put it all together. Whatever Jesus baptism, for the forgiveness of sins is about. It’s about the sudden and dramatic manifestation of the God who is with us. And for us, in the meat in the flesh. Epiphany is the revelation of Emmanuel extended from Jesus infancy and childhood into his adult life and ministry, beginning at the River Jordan. Well, that helps a little. But still, the question remains, why? The baptism of our Lord.

Speaking to Joseph in Matthew 1:21, the angel announces she Mary will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. Emmanuel, God with us who Jesus is, Jesus means God saves what Jesus does. Who Jesus is a manual what Jesus does Jesus. All that’s left we have the who and the what is the habit? How Martin Luther refers to it as the great exchange. St. Athanasius states, he became what we are, that we might become what he is, you see, much later than the River Jordan on the Holy Cross of Calvary, God Himself in Christ dies for the sins of all.

The final word on the relationship between God and man is reconciliation. Atonement, literally “at one meant,” is made. Now, if that’s the main picture, the cross of Calvary, Jesus baptism can be thought of as the frame around the picture. It’s a necessary precondition for Jesus to do his work. And the necessary result for sinful humanity. Gonna say that again. Jesus, baptism is a necessary precondition for him to do his work upon the cross. And it’s a necessary result for sinful humanity. Some of you may have been there. Some of you may have seen pictures, but the place in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized is not the kind of postcard you want. Because frankly, it’s not that impressive of a site.

The traditional place in his baptism, we might picture the Clinch River, or somewhere down near Fort Loudoun to lay you know, mountains and smooth, clear water. Place where Jesus was baptized is a little trickle of mostly mud. It’s small and sluggish, and full of dirt. And that’s perfect. You know why? Because that’s just what our lives are like. Look around you today. I can’t even watch the news. I don’t like listening to it on the radio. I made the mistake because a friend recommended it and it was so interesting. I did it for a week and say it’s an experiment. I looked at Facebook reels. Don’t ever do that. Because it’s nonsense, and then after the nonsense comes the paranormal stuff. And after the paranormal stuff comes the conspiracy stuff and it gets dark and ugly. real quick. Just look around us.

We’re careening forward in a world out of control. If that’s not enough, just look within yourself. I say look within yourself because I don’t want to judge you. I’ll judge me. Look, look within yourself as I have done and ask yourself what you find in there. Is it gorgeous? Like the rivers and lakes of East Tennessee? What you see on the inside and your unguarded Guardian moments? Or is it kind of a trickle of muddy murk?

The Jordan, where Jesus was baptized is not an impressive style site. But Jesus goes and kneels in that dirty, tepid, slow moving water and receives the baptism of repentance and forgiveness. Now he doesn’t need to repent. He has nothing of which to be forgiven. But we do.

He’s not so much kneeling in the dirty water but in the weak, dirty trickle that human life has become. And too often still is. He begins in the Jordan his work, not as a baby but as a mature man. At the start of his ministry. He begins his work of identifying with us not in some rosy picture of how we should be if we were just good enough. No, he kneels down right where we are.

Just as the circumcision in the temple. Enable Jesus to identify with the law keeping Jews Yes, I’m one of them, in order to set them free. Jesus receives a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, to identify when to begin the work of repentance on behalf of fallen humanity. You know how Paul says he’s Adam 2.0? Well, in the water, he begins to correct the original. Why would he want to repent for our sin? St. Gregory names the answer this reminds us that that which is not assumed, is not redeemed. That which Jesus does not take on himself cannot be transformed. It’s not so much again.

As I said Jesus is not play acting. No, like the scapegoat. In the Jewish rituals. The sin he repents of his hours, but it becomes his I’ve never heard that. That sounds like heresy. Yes, you have. It’s in Second Corinthians 5:21. God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us. That we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus, I don’t need to baptize you. Oh yes, you do because I’m about to take a load on me. And it’s got to be washed clean. So that righteousness may be fulfilled whose righteousness?

Jesus is already righteous whose righteousness ours so that we might become the righteousness of God. The sin that Jesus takes on himself the sin that Jesus turns from in the Jordan, the sin that Jesus pays for on cross we all know it’s not his. But maybe we’ve never thought about how intimately He lovingly chose to identify with ours. Do you not know that as many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. Therefore we who have been buried with Him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of God the Father so we may to live a new life” as Paul reminds us in Romans 6:3-4.

Christ identifying with with us in our sinfulness Christ’s repenting of our sin goes into the waters and receives not His forgiveness, but ours. Again, he doesn’t need it. But we do. He repents us. Now you don’t normally think he used the word that way. So I’m gonna say it again. “He repents us.” Through his work on the cross. We receive forgiveness.

What does that forgiveness look like? Well, coming up out of the water, he hears the great affirmation of who he is. And of the work he is beginning. “You are my dear son, in whom I take great delight.” The Father says this of Jesus who has just repented of our sin, not his own and just received a forgiveness he didn’t need. The Father says this of Jesus and His work and because we are reunited with him through baptism. He says this to every one of us as well. I asked you to look inside. To that little muddy, dirty trickle that is your life. Picture it if you will feel it feel it if you can.

And then hear these words spoken over. You are my dear Son in whom I am well pleased and whom I take great delight

I asked you to hear it and you didn’t. You didn’t I know how I wish we could hear that. All of us in every way. It’s so much easier to focus on the dirty water of our lives. We are distracted from the is finished constantly. We are distracted from the with you am I well pleased.

Many of the patients I work with day in and day out at the hospital still fear death. And it’s not what we want to hear you know, we can say I understand if a 23-year-old fears death. I understand if an atheist feels fears death, but I’m talking about the 82-year-old woman who never missed a day of Sunday School at a Baptist church. And she’s fearing death. It’s understandable, but unnecessary.

As Peter Lighthart reminds us, we need to believe what baptism tells you. Christians don’t live toward death. We live from death. Death. Christ on the cross and baptism lies behind us as it gives the gift of dead. Baptism gives us an open future but we can’t really hear the affirmation. We may remain discouraged and hindered by our sin and brokenness. And friends they do remain real but they are are no longer definitive. See, for us, baptism is not a time limited event. Baptism has a beginning. But no end.

Luther would get up every morning and pray that God would continue to drown him in the waters of his own baptism. Think about a traditional depiction of Christ on the cross. Think about what Scripture tell us what flowed from his side, water and blood. We returned to that water from his side daily to die. We eat Christ’s death and our life via the sacrament of his body and blood. We can if anxious received the ongoing assurance through that extension of baptismal grace that is confession and absolution. Even the anointing prayers and oil we will receive today are full of that grace of a restored and healed life with God. Oh yes, sin may still whisper in our hearts. But as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 3:21, baptism now saves us by the appeal to a good conscience. Not on our conscience, our conscience is looking at that little dirty trickly water. Baptism now saves us by the appeal to a good conscience. The conscience of God weighed down by sin. Christ simply is not and in him, neither you.

We just can’t hear it. In you I take great delight. We also think if we’re all honest, that it’s just all too easy all too cheap. Father less than selling you a bill of goods. Now we can’t really believe it’s too easy and too cheap. If we consider Christ’s passion and death, the death of God for you. But it’s still mag status, doesn’t it? We are a pull yourself up by your bootstraps kind of people. So we say Isn’t there something I should do? Shouldn’t I work harder? What about our life of discipleship? Come on, Lord, I don’t want free grace, I can do something.

In answer to this, I can do no better than to quote Fr Robert Farrar Capon, the 20th century Anglican priest and theologian. He reads it he writes this, the rule of the life of grace. Please listen to this. The rule of the life of grace. Your part is just to make yourself available. Not to make anything happen not to achieve any particular intensity of subjective glow, certainly not to work yourself up to some objective standard of performance that will finally con God into being gracious. Only to be there and to be open to your lover who without so much as your buyer leaves started this whole affair. And your attendance upon him can include literally everything you do, because he has accepted it all in the Beloved.

All good acts, because they are vindicated in him all rotten acts, because they are reconciled in him and even all religious acts because in him they have ceased to be transactions and become celebrations have something already accomplished. So why was Christ baptized for sin? Ours not his that we might receive the forgiveness he will accomplish. That we may hear applied to us, not just him. You are are a beloved son you are a beloved daughter in whom I take great delight. Why was Christ baptized? Well as with everything he did, the answer is the same for you


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