The Lord Jesus connects His authority to the Baptism of John: Not simply as a trump card to the trick question of the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the people, but because His authority to preach the Gospel has been received through His Baptism by St. John.
For here we do not have in view His raw power and authority as the Son of God, which is always His by right, by His own divine nature. But here at hand is the authority of the Gospel, which is the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of sinners, the justification of the sinful and unclean.
This is the authority that has been given to Him, in heaven and on earth, because He has become the Author of Salvation. It belongs to Him as the incarnate Son, the Lord’s Anointed, the Lamb of God who has taken upon Himself the sins of the world and borne them in His own body.
He has, in fact, gone so far as to become sin, and has suffered the curse of sin and death, in order to do away with all of that, to resolve the problem in Himself, and to reconcile the world to God. Therefore, the Judgment of the Law has been laid upon Him, in order to be fulfilled and satisfied in His flesh and blood. And in His Resurrection from the dead, He and the world are justified.
St. John the Baptist was sent by God, to preach and baptize as a testimony to this same Lord Jesus Christ. In this respect, St. John himself has been authorized to preach the Gospel, whereby he points to Jesus and declares: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!”
But there is more to St. John’s office and role than even that beautiful Word. For he is a prophet, but also more than a prophet, in that he goes before the Lord to prepare His Way. To that end, he preaches a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; which does prepare the people for the coming of the Christ, by calling them to faith in Him.
And yet, even St. John is caught by surprise when the Lord Jesus comes and submits Himself to that Baptism of John: to that baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins!
It was, St. Luke writes, when all the people were baptized — when all the publicans, prostitutes, and other poor, miserable sinners were baptized by John — that Jesus also was baptized. In doing so, He not only took the sins of the whole world upon Himself, but He also subjected Himself to repentance for all of those sins, on the world’s behalf.
Which is really to say that He committed Himself to the Cross, to His innocent suffering and death. Because, in submitting to the Baptism of John, the Lord Jesus placed Himself under the authority and judgment of the Law, in order to accomplish and fulfill all the preaching of the Law and the Prophets, for the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of sinners.
Thus, in the waters of the Jordan, by the Baptism of John — as Joshua the son of Nun was once ordained by Moses — so now Jesus, the new and greater Joshua of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, has been anointed by the Spirit of His God and Father, and ordained to preach the Gospel, which He Himself authors by His Cross, and His Father confirms by His Resurrection.
He goes ahead of His people into the waters administered by St. John the Baptist — the waters included in God’s command and combined with His Word — and, by doing so, Jesus goes ahead of you, through death into life, through the Cross into the Resurrection. He crosses the Jordan ahead of you, in order to lead you and bring you out of the wilderness into Canaan, out of this vale of tears into the great eternal Feast of Paradise: to eat the finest of wheat and sweet honey.
That is the authority by which the Lord Jesus has also sent me to preach His Gospel here to you, to forgive you all your sins in His Name and stead, and to feed you with His Body and His Blood.
This Ministry of the Gospel is from God in heaven, even here on earth among men, that you might hear this Word of forgiveness, and so believe and trust in Him, and open up your mouth to be fed by Christ Jesus, to live with Him in body and soul, both now and forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.