Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Baptism of Our Lord

The Baptism of Our Lord (A)
January 12, 2014
Text: Matt. 3:13-17

            As our Lord steps into the Jordan River to be baptized, like a divine sponge, He soaks up all of our sin and wretchedness, our disease and death, our pain and sorrow.  He takes it all into Himself, into His flesh, into His soul, to be borne to Calvary.  And in exchange, He has given us His righteousness, His healing, His life, His joy, His heaven.  He has left it to be found in the water joined to His Word.  By His Baptism in the Jordan River, He has sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin (Luther’s Flood Prayer).  So you see, here in Baptism a great exchange takes place.  In His Baptism, Jesus takes upon Himself all that belongs to you and makes it His own.  In your Baptism, Jesus gives you all that belongs to Him and makes it your own.  Luther called this the “happy exchange.”  Jesus stands in your place and takes all that is yours, that you may stand in His place and take all that is His.  
This is what it means that Jesus is your substitute.  He takes your place.  He stands under the Law for you.  He fulfills it for you.  Where you have failed, He succeeds, and you get the credit.  Where you have not feared, loved, or trusted in God above all things, He has, for you.  Where you have misused God’s Name and failed to call upon His Name in every trouble, to pray, praise, and give thanks, He has kept God’s Name holy, for you.  Where you have despised God’s Word and preaching, He sat among the teachers in the Temple as we heard last week, joyfully soaking it all in.  For you.  He honored Mary and Joseph where you have despised your parents and other authorities.  He did this for you.  Where you have hated your neighbor, murdering him in your heart, He gave His life for your neighbor, and for you, to give you both life.  Where you have been unfaithful, full of lust and greed, envy and covetousness, where your tongue has come unbridled and done damage to your neighbor’s reputation, He has been faithful, generous, self-giving, self-sacrificing.  And as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth to speak evil (Is. 53:7).  He did this for you.  And what He has done counts for you.  When God looks at you, He does not see the evil you have done, or the good you have failed to do.  He sees the perfect righteousness of Jesus.  He sees the sin atoning death of Jesus.  He sees you covered in the holy, precious blood of Jesus.  Because you are baptized into that.  You are baptized into Him.  And your sin?  It has not simply been ignored or swept under the rug.  Jesus took it all from you in His Baptism in the Jordan.  He took it and He stood in your place, was nailed in your place on the cross, suffered your hell in your place, was your substitute in death.  All of God’s wrath for your sin was poured out there, on the cross, on Jesus.  He was baptized into your sin, that you may be baptized into His righteousness.
            So now you stand in the place of Christ.  That means that all that God gave Jesus in His human nature at His Baptism, He now gives you in your Baptism.  As the heavens were opened to Jesus in His Baptism, so now heaven is open to you in your Baptism.  You will not die, but live.  You will be in heaven with Jesus when you die, and on the Last Day, Jesus will raise you in your body from the dead.  Baptism marks you for resurrection.  As the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove in His Baptism, so you are anointed with the Holy Spirit in your Baptism, who brings you to faith in Jesus, your Savior.  The Holy Spirit comes upon you to dwell with you and in you.  You are a temple of the Holy Spirit.  He brings you to His Church and makes you a member thereof.  He opens your ears to the Word of God.  He gives you trust in Christ as a gift.  He fans into flame within you a love for God and your neighbor.  He moves in you to pray for yourself and others, to praise God, and to give thanks.  He strengthens you for life in this fallen world.  He grants you repentance, that you daily put to death your fallen flesh.  And as the Lord and Giver of Life, He raises you daily to new life in Christ as God’s own new creation, so that your love flows forth in good works of service and sacrifice.  And as the Father declared of Jesus at His Baptism, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” (Matt. 3:17; ESV), so He says of you in your Baptism: “You are my own child, and I am well pleased with you, not because of anything you have done or left undone, but because of Christ, my Son, who now covers you in Baptism.  I love you.  I have claimed you for myself, purchased you with the blood of Christ.  My Name is written upon you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as one chosen and precious.  You are mine.”
            Well, that makes all the difference in the struggles of this earthly life, and even in the face of death.  Because the worst that can happen to you is that you die.  But see, Christ has made His death your own in Baptism.  And that means that you got your death over with already at the font.  Sure, you’ll have to physically expire one day, physically die, experience the separation of your soul from your body, which is the theological definition of physical death.  But though you die, you live.  Because you’ve already been given new life in Baptism, Christ’s life.  How do you know you’ll go to heaven when you die?  Which is just another way of asking, why do you believe you’ll go on living after you take your last breath?  Because you’re baptized into Christ!  And that means His death is your death.  You died on the cross, with Christ.  And if you died with Christ in that way, what does St. Paul say as a result in our Epistle?  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” (Rom. 6:4).  That means that you already have eternal life.  You have it right now.  It’s just hidden.  Your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).  It will be hidden to us when you physically die.  But not to you.  You will see.  You will live.  In Christ, the risen Lord.  And what is true spiritually already now, will be true physically then, on the Last Day.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Rom. 6:5).       
            Now, imagine that you are on your deathbed.  It is not a pleasant thought.  In addition to whatever physical ailment you may be suffering, there is a certain sadness at the thought that you are leaving your loved ones behind.  So also, all the pleasures of this earthly life are at an end.  You may be anticipating a certain relief from your suffering.  But you were created to hold tenaciously to God’s gift of life.  And so, even though you know and believe you have a merciful God who has forgiven all your sins and given you eternal life in Christ, you also have a certain apprehension about how it all will happen, what you will experience, what you will see, what it will be like to stand before the judgment throne of your Maker, and what exactly the rest of eternity holds for you.  Now imagine that I as your pastor come and visit you on your deathbed, and I pull out the Holy Scriptures, and imagine that I could prove to you from the Holy Scriptures that, even though you will have to experience death, in one hour, the Lord Jesus will call you back to life, free from pain and sickness, free from sin, your body made into a perfect resurrection body.  Well, that wouldn’t be so bad, now, would it?  Unfortunately, I can’t promise you that you will come back to life after only one hour.  But except for that one little detail, all the rest of the promises are absolutely true.  Whatever the amount of time, the Lord Jesus will call you back to life in your body, a perfect, resurrection body, free from sin and pain and sickness, to live forever with Him.  For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16).  So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Cor. 15:42-43).  Christ “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21).  (A)nd so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17).  How do you know?  Because Scripture says it here.  Because your own ears have heard the living voice of Christ say so in preaching.  Because you have died with Christ in your Baptism, and so have been raised to new life in Him, and how can that new life have any other result than your own resurrection from the dead?  Because you have held and tasted the risen and living body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Supper, which forgives all your sins and nourishes you for eternal life. 
            You see?  In Baptism, all that is Christ’s is yours.  And all that is yours, all that is evil and dying and dead, has been taken by Christ in His Baptism and borne in His flesh to Calvary.  He is risen, and you are His, for you are baptized into Him.  That makes the difference in absolutely everything.  When despair used to grip Luther in the midst of the Reformation, he would recall the Gospel reality, “But I am baptized,” and so he would be comforted.  So you sing: “Sin, disturb my soul no longer: I am baptized into Christ!… Satan, hear this proclamation: I am baptized into Christ!…  Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!... Though my flesh awaits its raising, Still my soul continues praising: I am baptized into Christ; I’m a child of paradise” (LSB 594).  And it’s true.  It’s all true.  Christ was baptized into you.  You are baptized into Christ.  And nothing can separate you from the love of God for you in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


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