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Epiphany 1 Sermon — Luke 3:15-22 (LSB Epiphany 1C)

January 10, 2010

January 10, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA



Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”



“All the people were baptized.” That is what the Evangelist tells us. They came to the Jordan to hear John the Baptizer’s preaching. They came to have their faith in the prophecies about the coming Messiah revived, to have their trust in the Lord God’s mercy strengthened. Their longing for what the Lord God had promised had led them to be in full expectation, even wanting to know if John was the one: “all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ.”

But John was not the Christ, not the fulfiller of the divine promises. He is very explicit about this: “John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.’” His baptism was a way to prepare the people for the Christ’s arrival.

Yet, you heard that when the Christ arrived, He underwent John’s baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized . . . Jesus also had been baptized. . . .” Jesus is numbered among those who came to the Jordan and received the sign of repentance from John. But for Jesus, this baptism was not to admit any guilt or to receive forgiveness. No, it is an act undertaken as He delivers salvation to repentant sinners. Jesus is baptized, so that those who had believed John’s words concerning the Christ would believe that He is the “mightier One.”

Jesus’ identity is confirmed at His baptism. Recall what happened at that time: “when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.’” Testimony about Jesus is given. In a visible way, the Holy Spirit comes to Him. In an audible way, the Father speaks well about Him. These signs show that Jesus is much greater than John, that the Baptizer’s statement about the Christ stands true: “the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

The appearance of the Holy Spirit is how Jesus becomes the Christ—“the anointed One.” He is anointed from heaven itself, not with oil, but by the Spirit. The statement spoken about Jesus by the Father shows Him to be the substitute for Adam and all Adam’s descendants. Standing in the Jordan as true Man, Jesus receives the divine endorsement that no person had received since humanity’s fall into sin: “with You I am well pleased.” In His baptism, Jesus is shown to be the One that the Old Testament prophecies—from the promise to Adam to the words of Malachi—were all about.

It is essential to know that. If you hear the divine message spoken by the prophets, including John the Baptizer, you will know the guilt that you possess. You heard John’s message during the Advent Season. He called you to repent, to admit your sin, to state with the Lord God that you are guilty of breaking His Law. You are called to recognize and confess that the Lord God is not well pleased with you, and rightly so. There will be no questioning in your hearts that you are deserving of curse and condemnation for what you have done.

But what about the divine message spoken by the prophets, including John the Baptizer, the message that promised someone to deal with your guilt? With that message, there also should be no questioning in your hearts. You are not meant to be left in the state of John’s audience: “all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ.” But John was not the one through whom salvation would come to the fallen, sinful world. No, that salvation comes through the One of whom the Father said: “with You I am well pleased.” It comes through the work of Jesus who makes up for Adam’s sin and your sin through His perfect life and His sacrificial death. You are called to recognize and confess that the Lord God is well pleased with Jesus, and rightly so.

As Jesus offers Himself for you, He becomes the perfect substitute for all your errors, for all your shortcomings, for all your transgressions. In His baptism, you see Jesus’ identity confirmed for you. In the anxiety that considering your sin and its deserved punishment brings, the knowledge that Jesus has been anointed by the Holy Spirit and endorsed by the Father brings you confidence that He is your promised Redeemer. You can say with certainty that the Father was not well pleased with me, but He was well pleased with Jesus, so whatever Jesus does for me is good and beneficial, worthy of salvation.

This is especially so with the sacrifice that Jesus makes for your salvation. He dies, so that the Father’s wrath may be assuaged. But He also rises to life again, showing the effectiveness of His sacrifice and becoming the source of your own life. This death and resurrection of Jesus is what St. Paul writes about. But not only does St. Paul say that Jesus died and rose again, he also testifies that you have participated in it: “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, 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.”

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the One anointed by the Holy Spirit and endorsed by the Eternal Father, is the source of your salvation. And in Holy Baptism, you have been connected to that source. It is the most intimate of connections, so that you may rightly say that in Holy Baptism you have died and risen with Christ: “For if we have been united with [Christ] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” Through Holy Baptism, everything that the Father found displeasing with you has been replaced by what He found pleasing with His Son.

This is the divine message of salvation given and fulfilled for you. The Lord God speaks that it will be so, and He acts to fulfill His words. He promises you a Redeemer and makes good on that promise. He does not leave the identity of that Redeemer a secret, but in a most public way shows who He is. That is seen in the Baptism of Jesus. Similarly, the Lord God shows in a most public way that you have received this redemption. That is what you see in your baptisms and the baptisms of all Christians. You hear the Lord God declare to you that you are well-pleasing to Him because of His Son’s work done for you.

The Psalmist declared: “The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. . . . The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.” That powerful and glorious voice was heard over the Jordan River, as it boomed down from heaven about Jesus: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” That same powerful and glorious voice was heard above the baptismal font, when the Lord God said the same about you, declaring you to be His children and heirs of everlasting life.

In the midst of your sin and imperfection, the Lord God says to you: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” He says that His divine promises have been fulfilled for you—fulfilled as He became flesh and dwelt among us, laying down His life and taking it up again. John prophesied: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” But you need not fear this, for with you He is well-pleased. And so He promises: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Before dying and rising with Christ in Holy Baptism, you had everything to fear. But since He is the beloved, well-pleasing Son, Jesus’ death and resurrection means that you need not fear His wrath. Instead, you are recipients of forgiveness, life, and salvation. You need not fear, for the Lord God says: “I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . . Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.” Not only does the Eternal Father give, but the One that He gives is His Beloved Son. Giving that, He will not withhold anything good for you. For by baptism, you have been connected to the One baptized in the Jordan, crucified on Calvary, risen from the grave, and seated at His right hand. Precious in His sight, you are His children with whom He is now pleased.



T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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