Sermon – Matthew 3.13-17 (Baptism of Our Lord – 2020)
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, You manifested Yourself, with the Holy Spirit, in the fullness of grace at the baptism of Your dear Son, and with Your voice directed us to Him who has borne our sins, that we might receive grace and the remission of sins: Keep us, we beseech You, in the true faith; and inasmuch as we have been baptized in accordance with Your command, and the example of Your dear Son, we pray You to strengthen our faith by Your Holy Spirit, and lead us to everlasting life and salvation; through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him.
14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
There is so much talk about identity today. There’s identity politics. People talk about gender identity, sexual identity, and so on. There is so much confusion about it in the culture, but when you disregard the facts of creation, it is no wonder that there is confusion. And even worse, when God is not taken into account, this talk about identity goes radically haywire.
But it is such an important question. In fact, it is one of those essential questions of our existence. Who am I?
We are created by God, and thus we cannot truly understand ourselves apart from God. And what does God say about us? We are not who He created us to be. We fall short of His glory. Sure, just as the heavens declare the glory of God, so do we as creatures give God glory, in that the complex biology of our bodies, the capability of our minds, all the workings of our bodies make us wonder at the incredible Creator. However, we are corrupted. We lost the original righteousness which was the image of God. That image glorified God. But now we fall short. Our original sin, and all that comes forth from it is an offense to God.
We put other things in the place where only God belongs, we fear losing the acceptance of the world rather than fearing the displeasure of God. We put our trust in our own efforts rather in the wisdom and loving care of God. We hold our earthly possessions more dear to our hearts than God and His Word. We take God’s name in vain, and do not call upon His name in trouble. We lack compassion for our neighbors. We are self-serving rather than self-sacrificing for the good of others. We get tiresome of others when we must sacrifice our energy and attention on them rather than on ourselves and our own interests. In these ways and in every other possible way that we sin each day, we show our identity as sinners, enemies of God, separated from Him, cursed, and condemned.
But now turn your attention to Jesus in our text: Who is He? He is the Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father. He is almighty, infinite God. But there He stands in human flesh, as a Man, and the Father confirms that this is His own Son. But the baptism does something. Through the baptismal waters He enters into the office preordained for Him from before the foundation of the world. He takes on the identity for which He had been sent into the world. He becomes the sin-bearer. John knows who He is. He calls Him the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And for eternity He shall be known as the Lamb who was slain, which is confessed in the song sung by all the hosts of heaven! He becomes our Substitute, our substitute under the Law that He may keep it perfectly in our place, and our substitute under God’s judgment for our sins, taking it upon Himself upon the cross. He becomes the Mediator between us and God, that by the forgiveness He earns for all people, He reconciles you and all the world unto Himself. Jesus was baptized for this purpose.
And Jesus instituted baptism to save us from our fallen condition. He instituted it for us, because we cannot do it ourselves. Many will deny baptism’s saving effects. Our change in identity from being alienated from God to becoming reconciled to God, they say, is something that we can effect. As though it were simply a decision that we can make. But we cannot. It must be God’s doing.
And thus Christ has established baptism. The water is plain water, but the water connected to God’s Word and used according to God’s command makes this baptismal water, a life giving water. So the pastor applies the water, and speaks the words Christ gave us to say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And there God works through the water, He is the true Baptizer, regenerating you and renewing you.
And think of those words the Apostle Paul speaks about baptism, it does things our human will cannot do. He says, “It is a washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” To the Romans, he writes that baptism joins us to Jesus death and resurrection, that with Him we die and rise to newness of life. Jesus says that it is through baptism that we are born again, a birth not of the flesh, but of the Spirit.
And so through baptism, you become something different, you are born into something new. You have a new identity that corresponds to what Christ became when He was baptized. He became the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and you became the one who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and an heir of life eternal who will be among the choir singing praises to the Lamb who was slain! He became your substitute under the Law and under condemnation, and you are credited with His righteousness, and there is no wrath of God over your sins, for your sin was paid, and you are no longer under condemnation, but under the favor and grace of God. He became your Mediator, and you have become reconciled to God, having the fullness of peace that all has been made well between you and God. In baptism, you are restored to that life which we lost in the fall. You again are made God’s children, new creations in Christ.
All these things are yours given you in baptism and received by faith. All these things are summed up with the phrase, “I am baptized.” That is who you are, “I God’s baptized child.”
This defines who you are. Remember it every day. When we get confused in life, wondering who we are and what place we have in this life, we start here, “I am God’s baptized child,” and then we look to God’s word for further answers and clarity to life.
And as God’s baptized children, we will not wish to sin, for this is contrary to who we have become. Instead we seek God’s will, we live according to His commands, we live in humility, and in love toward our neighbor for the glory of our Father, who has so graciously restored us to Himself. Our identity as God’s baptized determines the direction of our thoughts, the words that come from our mouths, the way we spend our time, our energy, our gifts, our money and possessions. And in every trouble, we go to the truth that we are God’s baptized children from our comfort.
Of course we fall, we sin. We are new creations in Christ by means of our baptism, but we still have that original sin in us that causes us to stumble.
There are many who will reject their baptism, reject their identity given them by God, and hold on to their sins and deliberately choose to be a sinner instead. But may God keep us from this. And we pray that God will restore those who have fallen away. For there remains for us His baptismal grace to which we may return when we stumble and when we fall. And He has an abundance of forgiveness for us.
We do not need another baptism, but that forgiveness and righteousness of Christ given you in baptism is given you again and again through the gospel. Through the gospel, you are preserved in your baptismal life. I pronounce to you the words God has given me to say to you, “I forgive you all your sins name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” And blood of the Lamb covers your sins again. His righteousness clothes you. You have peace with God. He gladly claims you as His own. And our faith is strengthened that we may say confidently, “I am God’s baptized child.” Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.