12 January 2011

Baptized and Beloved

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As the Boy Jesus submitted to His earthly parents in obedience and love,
so does the Lord Jesus submit Himself to St. John the Baptist, the preacher of repentance.

No one is more surprised by this than John himself, who tried to stop Him.

The people who came to be baptized by John, came confessing their sins. But Jesus has no sins of His own to confess, nothing to repent. He comes, however, confessing your sins and the sins of the world, as though they were His own, as though He had committed all of them Himself. He confesses all your failures to do what you should, and all your wickedness in doing what you should not. He confesses your murder and adultery of thought, word and deed; your theft and false witness; your gossip and greed; your covetous idolatry and blasphemous speaking and acting.

For all of these sins, which He takes upon Himself, His repentance is His Cross and Passion, His sacrificial death and Resurrection. That is the work He begins to do in the waters of the Jordan.

He submits to St. John’s Baptism in order to fulfill all righteousness for you and for all sinners, to reconcile the world to His God and Father; to set all things right, as they should be; to repair what has been broken; to revive and refresh what has been bruised and bent; and to establish a good and right relationship with God, that is, a friendship of faith and love, and a true sonship of peace.

In order to accomplish such great things for you, St. John’s fierce and fiery preaching of God’s Law is here set upon Jesus, so that all the righteous wrath and judgment of God against your sins, and all the punishment of your sins, punishes Him. At the same time, He also takes up all the just demands of the Law — all that pertains to faith and love toward God and love for all His neighbors (including you) — in order to complete and establish everything in Himself, in His flesh and blood, in all of His relationships, vocations and stations in life. This He does for you and for all: for your sake and for your benefit, in your stead and on your behalf.

In doing so, He puts not only His body and life on the line for you, but His divine eternal Sonship. In flesh and blood like yours, He weathers the curse and consequences of sin and death, under the Law, in order to give you His body and life and bestow His divine Sonship upon you by grace.

All that is yours becomes His,
in order that all that is His would become yours.

Thus, the Law’s fire and brimstone fall upon Him, but so does the Holy Spirit descend upon Him, in bodily form as a dove, to rest and remain upon His body of flesh and blood. Therefore, the fire does not consume you, but it purifies you as silver and gold are purified by fire, and the same Holy Spirit that descends upon Jesus is poured out generously upon you, to rest and remain upon you, to sanctify you in body and soul, and to give you life in both body and soul, both now and forever.

As Jesus went into the water for you, and came up out of the water, so do you drown and die to sin in the waters of Holy Baptism, and emerge and arise from that watery grave to newness of life. By the water, Word and Spirit of Christ Jesus, you are a new creation. You are a Christian, anointed by the Spirit of Jesus, the Christ. You are a beloved and well-pleasing son of the Father, just as He speaks from heaven: concerning Christ Jesus and all those who are baptized into Him.

Heaven is now opened to you, and it shall not be shut in your face again, because all your sins have been washed away and you are clean. All the righteousness of God in Christ is yours. Because His Baptism is not only for you, but it has been given to you, and it is yours. His repentance, His confession and forgiveness are yours. His Cross and Resurrection are yours, not only once upon a time, but once and for all, and every day of your life on earth, by His grace through faith in Him, by His Word and Spirit, until your Baptism is fully completed in the death of your mortal flesh and in the resurrection of your body to the life everlasting, immortal, imperishable, and all-glorious.

Your Baptism is the beginning of that good work in you, which the Lord has already accomplished and completed for you by His Incarnation, by His Nativity and Holy Baptism, by His Life and Ministry, by His Cross and Passion, and by His Resurrection and Ascension — the good work that He is bringing to completion in you by His preaching of repentance and His daily forgiveness of your sins, unto the day of His glorious appearing for the final Judgment. Then the righteousness which is already yours by the Gospel, shall be openly declared before the face of all people, and in the presence of all your enemies, in the face of sin, death, the devil and hell.

Just as surely as Jesus came up out of the water and out of the tomb, so surely are you justified and sanctified in Him, and it is most certainly true that you shall be raised from the dead at the last and live forever and ever with Him and all the faithful, in both body and soul.

Every day, it is true, your sins are putting you back into the ground, returning you to the dust of the earth from which your first father was taken. With every covetous and hateful thought, with every false and hurtful word, with every selfish and abusive act, old Adam buries you.

But your sins do not bury Christ Jesus, nor put Him back into the ground. Having died once for all, and having risen from the dead, He will never die again. Death no longer has any mastery over Him. Nor does death have any lasting hold or power over you, since you have already died with Christ in your Baptism, and sharing His death you also share His Resurrection. For the life He lives, He lives for you, before God in righteousness, innocence, blessedness and purity forever.

As often as the old Adam in you, with all your sinful lusts and desires, puts you to death and buries you in the tomb, so often and even more decisively does Christ Jesus, the New Man, put your old Adam to death and rise in you, Himself, unto His God and Father in heaven. His Voice and Spirit descend to where you are, even to the depths of Sheol, to raise you up and make you brand new through the forgiveness of all your sins.

Your sins put you to death because they separate you from God, but the Father has reconciled you to Himself in Christ Jesus, the beloved Son, and He has anointed you with His Spirit, adopted you as a dear child and heir by His grace, and bound you to Himself with His own Holy Name.

Your sins are deadly, but they cannot destroy you in Christ. Death is brutal and devestating, but it does not have the last word concerning you; it cannot keep you. The devil is cunning and powerful, but he has been robbed of all his weapons against you — for Christ has fulfilled and satisfied the Law, atoned for all your sin and overcome your death; He has risen from the dead for your justification, and ascended to the right hand of the Father for your glory.

This same Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and St. Mary’s Son, crucified and risen in the flesh, has been baptized for you. Therefore, your Baptism into Him avails for you at all times and in all places. What this means for you is that even sin and death must serve the purposes of God, instead of the devil, by driving you to repentance, unto Christ and Him Crucified.

The death of your body in this wilderness of tears does not mean the end of your life with God, but only the end of sin and every evil. Until then — though you daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment — the Jordan River of Holy Baptism is constantly washing your sins away and preserving you with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.

His mercies are new every morning, and from the waters of your Baptism, day by day, He makes of you a new creation. The same waters that put sin and death to death in you, also lift you up and save you within the Holy Ark of Christendom. They stand as a mighty wall, a tidal wave, against all your enemies, threatening proud Pharaoh with all his chariots and horsemen, keeping them at bay, while opening before you the way out of Egypt — through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus — into the good land that God has promised and given to you in His dearly beloved and well-pleasing Son. Holy Baptism stands for you at the foothills of the Lord’s Mountain, on the cusp of the wilderness and the threshold of heaven.

The new and better Joshua has entered those waters ahead of you, to make the way for you, and He has established Himself in the midst of the Jordan until you and all His chosen people have passed through the water into the life everlasting. He shall not be moved.

The waters that would have dashed you against the rocks and swept you away, have swept over Him and swallowed Him up — and when it seems as though He has been drowned and died forever, His body never to be recovered, He rises from the water and lives. In that sacred bath, in that washing of Jesus in the Jordan River, which you share with Him by water with His Word and Spirit in His Name, in that Holy Baptism is your repentance, forgiveness, faith and resurrection.

When Jesus, the spotless Lamb of God, came to St. John, the son of a priest and more than a prophet, and submitted to his baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, He was humbling Himself before God, putting Himself under the Law, and obeying His Father in perfect faith by submitting Himself to suffering and death, even death upon a cross.

Already in His Baptism, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ began putting Him to death for the sins of the world — for all of your sins — until this Baptism which He undergoes for you and for all would be fully kindled in the fire of His Passion and finished in His atoning sacrifice.

God put Him to death for your sins, beloved.

And God raised Him, who died for you, from the dead.

That is your Absolution, your righteousness and holiness, and your resurrection, both now, and every day, and forever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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