Let us pray: Dear Savior, today we want to thank You for making us Your children, heirs of heaven itself, through our baptisms. We marvel at the thought that simple water, coupled with Your powerful Word, could remake and rebirth us. But, because You command it and have given Your Word, it has and it does! May we never forget our baptisms and always see in its simplicity the profound nature of Your love. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE FULFILLER OF ALL RIGHTEOUSNESS!
TEXT: Matthew 3: 13-17
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What is the most over-looked and under-appreciated event in your life? What’s the one thing that has happened to you, which totally changed your life for the better, and yet is also the one thing you seldom think about? It is your baptism. The reasons behind most of our disregard for our baptisms are many.—It happened a long time ago. Or, I don’t remember it. Or perhaps, since you’ve never known anything else, being baptized as an infant, you merely take it for granted.
Today in our Gospel lesson we are given a picture of what occurs in baptism. And if we zoom out and look at our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles our view is broadened even more. And then our baptism starts to become real, full, and rich in meaning. It becomes a living reality in our lives, a reality that we’re aware of and can find comfort in. So, this Sunday, I poise this question to each of you:
YOUR BAPTISM: A ONE-TIME EVENT, OR AN ONGOING REALITY?
Jesus has reached the Jewish age of maturity. He is 30 years old and is ready to begin His public ministry. So, what’s the first thing He does? He seeks his cousin John out in order to be baptized by him. John knows his God-given task is to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He knows he is but the forerunner of the Messiah, his cousin, Jesus Christ. He knows Christ is the very Son of God. And so, humble John says: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus has a ready answer for this. He reminds John of the many prophecies about Himself and that He must fulfill every one of them. He reminds John that He came to place Himself under God’s holy Law in place of sinners and to keep and fulfill that Law perfectly to save our souls. Thus His answer: “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” And so, John consents.
Most of you know that the word: “baptize” means to apply water. You can do that in one of three ways: pour it on another, sprinkle it on another, or immerse them in it. John’s custom was to immerse. And John uses that form here. “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’”
Christ was baptized only once, just like you and me. And when the water and the Word were applied to Him, something amazing happened! First, God drew aside the curtain separating His reality, the heavenly reality, from our own. Yes, in Christ, that curtain separating us from God is torn down, just as it was later upon His death when the great curtain of the temple was ripped down by God’s mighty hand. Then the Holy Spirit descends upon Christ and the Father speaks His words of loving approval on His upcoming ministry. Again, this is a reminder that at our baptism God joins Himself with us, personally, intimately, and with His unconditional love.—That’s the message of those words: “whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” All that directly applies to you and me, to all who are baptized into the Trinity, because Jesus did this “to fulfill all righteousness.” He did it for us.
In today’s 2nd lesson, St. Peter is at the house of the Roman centurion, Cornelius. Cornelius was an important Roman leader, a rich man, and one who hungered after Godly truth. God knew of his struggles. He knew of the longing of his heart for real truth and real forgiveness for his sins. So, God sent Peter to instruct him and his whole household in the way of salvation.—That household probably numbering around 100 people of all ages, including slaves and their children. And after preaching the message of total forgiveness for sins in Christ; after showing Cornelius that God’s love for us is undeserved—note Peter’s words: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism”; after recounting the Spirit’s power and its results that came upon Christ after His baptism; after all that, Cornelius asks to be baptized, too. And Peter does so. In fact we’re told that the Apostle baptized the entire household—men, women, and children.
For these Christians, just as for us, baptism was a wondrous blessing. It washed away their sinfulness, their moral dirt. It made them new creations. It implanted faith in their hearts. They were given the Spirit’s power and comfort. How can I say all of this? Because Scripture says it! Listen to these passages: Acts 22:16 where Ananias of Damascus says to the newly converted Paul: “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away.” Or how about I Peter 3:21: “Baptism now saves us.” And let’s not forget John 3: 3&5: “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God…Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And finally, Peter says this during his great Pentecost sermon: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
So, now I ask you: Is your baptism a one-time event, or an ongoing reality? In truth, it is both! For when you were baptized, just like Christ the shroud between you and God was lifted, torn aside. At that moment the Spirit came to you to implant, in the case of infants, or to strengthen, as in the case of adults, your God-given faith. Likewise, at your baptism heavenly reality became your reality and the gifts of the Spirit were poured out on you. That was a one-time event, wasn’t it? And yet the blessings of your baptism continue. They live on in you every single day because God’s call to you and faith in that call live on.
Because you were baptized, God never gives up on you, even though at times you might give up on Him. He has put His seal upon you, marking you for the day of final redemption, and so, in spite of your sins, He still calls, draws, and works on bringing you back into His gracious arms. You know, everything in life can be taken away from you. Even baptized believers can renounce their God-given faith thus divorcing themselves from God. But, but, baptism is the one thing that can never be taken from you. And some of you sitting here today are living proof that because of your baptism, God has not and never will forget about you! For although you gave up on God for a time in your life, because you were baptized, God didn’t give up on you!
Today we celebrate Christ’s baptism which makes holy our baptisms. For remember He did all things to fulfill all righteousness for us. But, on this day, we also celebrate our baptisms. That day was the most important in our lives. For on that day God’s reality of never-ending love became ours, too. Amen