In the beginning, the Holy Triune God created the heavens and the earth. He brought all things into being out of nothing by His Word. Then the Father spoke forth His Son and breathed His Holy Spirit into His Creation, in order to give His own Life to others outside of Himself, to shine His divine Light and to share His holy Love with His creatures.
He began with water, the great cosmic deep over which the Spirit hovered and moved, and into which the Son was spoken, “Let there be,” and it was so. So was the earth formed out of water and by water with the Word of God. And already the Lord was catechizing the world He had made in the New Creation that He would bring about through the water and the Word of Holy Baptism.
All of this was very good, because it was and is the Word and work of the one true God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And to this day, even to the close of the age, He still preserves and provides for His Creation, which He upholds and sustains by His almighty Word until the final judgment. All this He does out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, for the sake of man, male and female, whom He created in His Image, body and soul, for eternal life and holy communion with Himself.
This divine purpose of God has not been thwarted, nor shall it ever be. Yet, you are well aware from the Holy Scriptures and from your own experience that life in this world is presently marred by sin and death, which are the symptoms of unbelief and separation from the Lord and His Word.
From the fall of Adam and Eve into doubt and disobedience, not only man but all of creation has been under the curse of God’s judgment and subject to the futility of man’s selfish pursuits. It is not that God has changed His mind or given up His intention to bestow Life, but neither does He force His gifts of grace and mercy upon the children of men. He calls them rather to repentance, to despair of themselves and their legacy of death, and to live instead by faith in His Word.
He is patient and long-suffering, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Even in the midst of sin and death, His Word and Holy Spirit preserve a faithful remnant in the world, according to His good and gracious will. He does not desire that anyone should perish. But there does come a day of reckoning for those who harden their hearts and refuse to repent, as, for example, when God brought the righteous judgment of the Flood upon all the sons of disobedience in that day.
Those waters, too, were a type of Holy Baptism and a sign of the great salvation that the Lord our God would bring about by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus. For the Flood was not only the dying of the idolatrous and unbelieving world, but also the rescue and raising up of faithful Noah and his family, and a washing of regeneration. It brought about the new birth of Creation in the promise and hope of the coming Seed, who was preserved in the loins of the Patriarch.
In due season, when that promised Seed had been conceived and born of the Woman, St. Mary, He subjected Himself to the righteous wrath and divine judgment of the Flood when He came to St. John and submitted Himself to the Baptism of repentance in the waters of the Jordan. There He was drowned in the sins of the world. He was baptized into His own death, in order to give birth to the New Creation in the Resurrection of His Body from the dead.
The old and perishing world was put to death in His Body on the Cross, in order that you and all people should be made new in His crucified and risen Body. So it is that, by your Holy Baptism in His Name, your old Adam drowns and dies in the waters of the Flood, but you are born again as a child of God, raised up from death to life in Christ aboard the Holy Ark of Christendom.
Really, everything in the Old Testament and throughout the Holy Scriptures, from the foundation of the world to the giving of the Law and the sending of the Prophets and Apostles, even to the final judgment, is all about this one Lord, Jesus Christ. It all depends upon Him, on His coming in the flesh, and on His Cross and Resurrection, for its meaning, its purpose and fulfillment.
The Exodus from Egypt and the sojourn of the sons of Israel through the wilderness to Canaan is realized for what it truly was in the Exodus that Jesus accomplishes for the salvation of the world by His innocent suffering and death in Jerusalem. He is the Firstborn Son who is put to death to set you free from Pharaoh’s satanic bondage. And He is the Passover Lamb who is sacrificed in your stead, whose flesh feeds you for life, and whose blood covers and protects you from death.
It is the wood of His Cross that parts the waters of the Red Sea, that you should pass through the water out of slavery into freedom, out of death into life. In this again is the promise of Baptism. Indeed, you cannot speak of Christ Jesus rightly without speaking of His Baptism, with which you also are baptized, so that you should enter with Him through the Jordan into the Promised Land.
To speak of His Baptism is to speak of His sacrifice upon the Cross, by which He has atoned for your sins, conquered your death, defeated the devil, and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to you and all who believe and are baptized into Him. Thus, from His Cross He feeds you on the journey through the wilderness with His own Body, which is your true Manna from heaven. And from His wounded side He pours out the water and the blood to cleanse you and refresh you on your way.
It is by your Baptism into Christ that you follow Him on this journey up to Jerusalem, to the Cross, in the sure and certain hope of the Gospel. For His Resurrection is the promise and guarantee of the new heavens and new earth, the home He has prepared for you, where righteousness dwells.
It is by your Baptism into Christ that you are a beloved and well-pleasing child of God, and that God is your dear Father in heaven. And it is by your Baptism into Christ that you are anointed by the Holy Spirit, who sustains your faith and life in the desert by the forgiveness of all your sins, and who guards and keeps you against the devil’s temptations by the Word of Christ. For He has gone to the Cross in holy faith and has sanctified the Father’s Name in the sight of all His people.
Because you are baptized with His Baptism, you also share the suffering of His Passion, the dying of His Cross, and the new life of His Resurrection. Not that you make atonement for your sins, but that you share His Atonement, His Redemption, His Righteousness and Holiness. You die to this dying world, and you no longer try to live by it, but you live with Christ by faith in His Gospel.
What difference, then, does your Baptism make in your day-to-day life and in your relationships? What sort of person should you be? Given that the world and everything in it is perishing, and that your hope and your salvation are in Christ Jesus alone, how should you be living in the world?
How shall you treat the Lord as holy and sanctify His holy Name in all your words and actions?
It is in repentance that you are called to the waters and enter into the Baptism of Christ. And it is in repentance that you live from your Baptism in the righteousness and holiness of Christ Jesus.
Day by day, you die to yourself, to your sin, and to the world with all its false and empty promises, by disciplining yourself to do without the lusts of your flesh, by refusing to compromise the truth, and by doing your duty and bearing the burden of your office and station in life. And you live as a Christian, baptized into Christ, by faith in Him who loves you, who has given Himself for you, who has died for you, for all your sins and sorrows, and for this whole wide world of sinners.
It is His Word that puts you to death in the waters of your Baptism and in your daily repentance. So is it also His Word that raises you to newness of life, a new creation, by the daily forgiveness of your sins. Thus, it is by His Word that you live from the waters of your Baptism to your death and to your resurrection from the dead. He is the One who sustains you through the wilderness.
He is the Rock who has been struck by the Rod of Moses, bearing the sins of the world and the judgment of the Law against all unrighteousness. But so also, by His Word, as He has given His servants to “speak to the Rock,” He pours forth the rivers of Living Water like streams in the desert from His wounded side — to fill the font and cleanse you within and without, to quench your thirst and refresh you with His Holy Spirit. Not just once upon a time, but throughout your life on earth.
And with the water also flows His holy and precious Blood, with which He fills His Chalice for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation and communion with God in Him.
Thus, by His Baptism and His Cup, you share the Glory of His Cross and Passion; you are raised with Him in His Resurrection on the Third Day; and you live with Him in His Kingdom, seated with Him at His Table, here in time and hereafter in eternity.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.