1st Sunday after the Epiphany
Baptism of Our Lord
8 January 2012
St. John's, Chicago
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There he was, the LORD God Himself, speaking, doing great things for you, with the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters and directing attention to Christ. But wait, are we talking about Creation, or the Baptism of Our Lord? In a word, "yes."
The Apostle John declares in his opening chapter that Jesus is the Word made flesh. He is the Word that proceeds from the Father. And so when the Father speaks, "Let there be..." Jesus is that very Word coming from the Father, and causing things to be created. And the Spirit is there, attending it all, comforting and helping creation in receiving the Father's Word.
As the Lord God creates, watch what He does. And hear it too! Out of nothing, He makes the waters of the deep. And together, His Word and those waters are used by the Lord to create the world -- indeed, the universe. How about that?! God acts in water and Word to bring forth life.
Right there, in the very first words of Sacred Scripture, you hear of the Holy Trinity. And then again, at the Baptism of Christ Jesus, you see and hear the Holy Trinity plainly revealed, as Jesus takes on your sin.
There at the Jordan, the Holy Spirit was leading people to confess their sin, and through John the Baptizer, He was washing it away. But then, here comes Jesus. He had no sin. And that is what confuses people. Baptism is to "give forgiveness of sins, rescue from death and the devil, and give eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare."
Yet Jesus needs no forgiveness. He rescues, not needing to be rescued. And Jesus saves, He does not need to be saved. That is the typical thought here. The doubting of God's Word. Jesus doesn't need this! You think you know better than Christ, or His heavenly Father, and are ready to dictate to God what He should be doing. Really?! Do you know better than the Lord? Repent of such arrogance!
What's more, you have times when you think that you yourself need no forgiveness. It is always the other person's fault. "How dare he!" "Can you believe what she did!?" and if you take any time at all to hear the Word of the Lord, you know that isn't true. You have the problem of sin, just as every other man, woman, and child does.
So what is going on? The pure and holy Christ came to John, and was washed into your sin to absorb it all. He confessed to crimes He did not commit. But He is not telling lies. He is taking legal responsibility for all your sin. He is becoming the responsible party, who ends up paying the price for your guilt and shame and corruption.
In Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, you may recall her talking about bath time. The Ingalls, like many 19th century families, would heat bath water, and then the father of the house would take his bath. Without emptying the tub, the mother would simply take the next turn. Then, each of the children would follow with a turn, the water becoming filthier with each person.
With our improved knowledge of health and germs and so on, it is rather unthinkable for an entire family to share bath water in our time. You end up sharing dirt, not being cleansed at all. It would seem ridiculous for the later people to even enter the water, much less wash in it.
Jesus, however, in His baptism, is like that last person. He steps into the water of the Jordan and all the filth and stain of every single person clings to Him. He is like a divine sponge, soaking up your sin, and the sin of the world. But this is not because He is some child who doesn't know any better. Jesus Christ knows full well what He is doing as He enters the baptismal waters to absorb your sin, and then go to the cross to pay for it.
And when Jesus enters that baptismal flood of the Jordan, what happens? The Spirit of God hovers over the face of the waters, and then lands on Jesus, as the Father declares, "You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased."
Now, the Lord has worked a miracle in your life too. When you were baptized, the Spirit of God hovered over the waters, and entered the water, with the Word of God. And at the speaking of His Divine Name, the Lord cleansed you and made you His child. There, at His font, on account of Christ, the Father said of you: "You are My beloved son, with you I am well pleased."
Dear baptized children of God, the Lord has claimed you as His own. He used that hovering Spirit to call you by the Gospel and bring you to this saving, lavish washing away of sin. Whether He prompted you as an adult, of had your parents bring you to His font as a child, He draws you to the water He has drawn for your holy bath.
And when you enter this bathing water, it is not the filth and muck of billions of people that you enter, it is the pure and crystal clear water of cleansing salvation. Jesus has absorbed all of the wretched filthy features in that water. So when you come in, you cannot help, but be purged and cleansed by Him and His water with His Word!
Living in the 21st century, you have a clear understanding of water filters. Filtration systems in the home, whether in a pitcher, or attached to the faucet, serve you to remove impurities and harmful things that do not belong in your water.
In Jesus' Baptism, He acts as the ultimate water filter. As He is baptized, He pulls all those impurities to Himself, which would later be removed from you at your Baptism! Thanks be to God, for filtering, purifying, and cleansing through the sacred washing of Holy Baptism!
Rejoice, dear friends in Christ! Jesus has revealed Himself, indeed, the Holy Trinity showed Himself clearly, at the Baptism of Our Lord! The Epiphany Lord has come for you, and made you His own through this Sacred Washing. Amen.