Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Baptism of Our Lord

The Baptism of Our Lord (B)
January 11, 2015

Text: Mark 1:4-11

            “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness” (Mark 1:4; ESV).  The people, all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem, were going out to the wilderness to be baptized by John in the River Jordan (v. 5).  They come to the wilderness, to the wild, to the place of nothingness, to the place of death.  They come to the place where the only water is the dirty, stinking, rancid water of the Jordan.  But they come in their thirst.  Their physical surroundings serve as vivid testimony to their own spiritual reality.  They are parched.  They are dying.  They are dead.  Sin has done this.  Sin has separated them from God, the Lord and Giver of Life.  Sin has turned them into dirty, stinking, rancid corpses.  But John comes to this place of death with a Word from the living God.  John comes into the wilderness “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (v. 4).  It is a Word of life in the midst of death.  It is water in the dessert, water pure and clean, refreshing and life-giving.  The gift brought about by this Word is nothing less than the resurrection of the dead, and everlasting life. 
            With what eagerness the people of Judea and Jerusalem sought this refreshing and revivifying Word, because they knew they were in the wilderness.  What about you?  Do you know that you, too, are in the wilderness, the wild, the place of nothingness, the place of death?  The unbelieving world, the fallenness of creation, the fallen nature of your own sinful flesh, these are the marks of the wilderness.  I think somewhere deep down in the subconscious of every person there is some knowledge of the emptiness and thirst of the human soul.  That is why all of us humans, Christians included, are constantly striving to fill ourselves and slake our thirst with the stuff of this world.  We always want more money, more possessions, more power, more pleasure.  We always seek the approval and accolades of men.  We always seek new experiences of the world.  We have our bucket lists, the things we want to do before we die.  Now, not all of these things are bad in and of themselves.  But we think these things will fulfill us.  We think these things will slake our thirst.  We seek salvation in the stuff of this world.  And this is like slaking your thirst in the wilderness by drinking sand.  But it is even worse than that.  Because in seeking your fulfillment from these things of the world, you reject the living, life-giving water of God.  You reject His Spirit.  You reject Jesus.  And that is like preferring to drink sand when a man is holding out to you a skin of pure, clean, life-giving water.  It’s madness.  But that’s the blindness of our sinful flesh.
            But there is good news.  Your Lord Jesus comes right into this wilderness, this place of nothingness, this place of death, to be baptized by John in the River Jordan (v. 9).  He comes to the place where sin has been repented, confessed, washed away in Baptism, forgiven, absolved.  Now of course Jesus, the sinless Son of God, does not need Baptism.  He does not need to repent.  He has no sin to repent of.  But He wades into the dirty, stinking, rancid waters of the Jordan, and He soaks up all the sins that had been washed away there, sloughed off in Confession, scrubbed away in repentance.  He soaks it all into Himself, the sins of the people baptized by St. John, the sins of the Baptized in all generations, the sin of the world, your sin.  Your death.  Your condemnation.  And He leaves in its place all the benefits of Christian Baptism.  His righteousness.  His life.  His salvation.  By His Baptism in the Jordan, our Lord Jesus, as Luther prays in his Flood Prayer, “sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin” (LSB 269).  He is baptized into you, that you may be baptized into Him.  And what happens to Him at His Baptism becomes your blessed reality in your Baptism.  Heaven is torn open.  You have free access to God and an eternal home with Him in His Kingdom.  The Holy Spirit descends upon you and dwells with you, hovering over the face of the baptismal waters, sanctifying you and preserving you in the one true faith of Jesus Christ.  And the Father says of you at the font what He said of Jesus in the Jordan: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (v. 11).
            Yes, God is well pleased with you.  He calls you “son,” and puts His Name on you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He bids you call on Him as your Father, and He hears, and He answers.  Because you are in Jesus.  You are baptized into Christ.  So you are no longer empty.  You are no longer enslaved to sin and death.  You are no longer condemned.  You are filled with Christ and His righteousness.  You are alive in Christ, who died for you, and is risen from the dead.  He has opened heaven, and no one can shut it.  Not even your sin.  Because you are baptized, a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  Your sin is gone. 
            Your Baptism into Christ is life-giving water in the wilderness.  You are still in the wilderness, but you are no longer of it.  You are in the wilderness as long as you live in this fallen world, as long as you live in your fallen flesh.  And because you live in this wilderness, you will still be tempted to slake your thirst, to be filled with all that is not your Baptism, with all that is not Jesus.  You will still be tempted to gulp down the sand.  And because you still have the old sinful flesh plaguing you, often you will take a big swig of wilderness soil.  You still sin.  But when you do, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, who has filled you with Himself.  You are still baptized.  So you return to your Baptism.  You repent.  You confess.  You are absolved, forgiven, refreshed, set free.  You live each day in the wilderness of this world under a new reality.  God sustains you and fills you with the water of life. 
            And you will live, forever.  And you have new life in Christ already, now.  You live in thanksgiving and praise for all that God has accomplished in Jesus’ Baptism, and yours, in the Great Exchange that takes place by Baptism, whereby all that is yours Christ takes upon Himself, and all that is Christ’s He gives to you, freely and graciously.  You live to love and sacrifice for your neighbor, to be a little christ to him.  The old you is dead.  The new you in Christ is risen and living.  For “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, on 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. 6:3-4).  That newness of life is the Christian life, the life lived in the wilderness sustained by the baptismal water of life.  It is the new creation in Christ.  It is the life filled with the Holy Spirit, as a child of the Father.

            The Lord sends you out into the wilderness, but He also sends His man there, your pastor, to preach, to proclaim a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to pour out upon you and into you the water of life.  The world will never fill you and it will never slake your thirst.  But Jesus will, here in His Word and Sacraments.  “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Ps. 42:1).  The Lord hears your prayer, and He answers.  The voice of the Lord is over the waters (Ps. 29:3).  The waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert (Is. 35:6), for God has spoken.  You are baptized.  You are His.  And you are full.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.             

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