For now you find yourself living beyond the Jordan, in the wilderness outside the land that God has promised. You do not yet see the milk and honey for which you hunger and thirst. Nor do you see or understand by any human intellect, wisdom or strength, what God is really like.
You hear words, which, in themselves, are simple and clear enough, and yet they make no sense; they don’t add up to your expectations. You have more questions than anything else, and the answers seem more confusing than helpful — until the Holy Spirit of Christ Jesus opens your ears to hear, your mind to comprehend, and your heart to believe His preaching of repentance and His forgiveness of all your sins.
Your mental picture of Almighty God and His awesome power is all out of whack, because you have known and experienced the might of His Law against you, and the world’s concept of power, too, which exerts itself against others in an effort to gain control: to dominate, to take, to punish and destroy.
You may at times forget your own sin, and that you deserve only punishment, and then you pray that God would rend the heavens and come down to punish and remove those who trouble you and trespass against you, who hurt you and rob you and put you to death.
Oh, if you only knew what you were asking! And what a threat it would be to you!
But He sends, instead, a voice in the wilderness — a preacher of repentance — to preach and administer a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He calls both you and your enemies to repentance, not to punish or destroy, but to forgive your sins and theirs.
No dominating power plays here, but a preacher who points out your sin,
and then points you to Christ the Lamb of God, who takes upon Himself and takes away your sins.
Do not be offended by the preacher and his preaching; do not despise his personal unworthiness, but hear and heed his voice, which makes straight the way of the Lord in the wilderness.
What is coming your way is the Christ, in whom the almighty power of God is made perfect through voluntary weakness, suffering and death, and manifested in His mercy toward you.
He comes and submits Himself to the demands of the Law, and to all its punishments, for you, so that His way is made straight for you through the waters of the Jordan into the good Land of God.
You pass through the Baptism of repentance — through His Cross and Resurrection — into His righteousness, life and salvation.
This is real power and strength, such as your old Adam and the whole world have never known and cannot understand.
But now He sends the preacher to preach, so that you might believe in the Lord Jesus through such preaching, and know Him through such faith in His Gospel, and finally see Him as He is in His Resurrection from the dead, when you shall be like Him in body and soul.
That is why I preach to you, and why I baptize in the Name of Christ Jesus, that you and your children and your children’s children may know Him who loves you, who is your Savior and Redeemer, who has such grace and mercy upon you, who forgives all your sins and iniquities and gives you life instead of death and grants you His Peace.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.