Here at the waters of the Jordan, God the Father in heaven speaks to you in Christ: “This is My beloved Son; and here is My Holy Spirit, who is poured out upon you in Him, unto eternal Life.”
The Lord God, almighty and all-merciful, is with you, and He loves you, in the waters of Holy Baptism. Here He has opened heaven to you. Here He has anointed you with His Holy Spirit, in order to give you His divine, eternal Life in Christ Jesus. Here He has declared Himself for you. He has named you with His own Name, to be His own dear child. He Has granted you His Peace.
If you would discern whether you are a Christian, do not try to fathom what is in your heart, and do not try to fathom what is in your head. Do not look first of all to your good works and actions. But consider your Baptism into Christ. Consider what God has said and done for you there. For your Christian faith and life are found entirely there in the waters of Holy Baptism.
And if you would consider whether your neighbor is a Christian, do not try to guess what is in your neighbor’s heart or head, either; and do not pass judgment on your neighbor’s outward actions. But consider what God has said and done for your neighbor in the waters of Holy Baptism. And then, as needs may be, call your neighbor back to the gracious Word and promises of Baptism.
And you, likewise, return to your Baptism. Know that your life is there, because your God is there.
Christ Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God in the flesh, has fulfilled all righteousness in Baptism. He says so Himself.
The people from all the surrounding area were coming to John, confessing their sins and being baptized. In this the Kingdom of God was at hand. But it all hinged on this One, the Lamb, the Son of God, who also comes to John at the Jordan. He has no sins of His own whatsoever, but He comes confessing the sins of the world. He comes confessing your sins as though they were His.
He comes confessing your sins and the sins of the world, and for all of those sins He repents. He submits Himself to John, and to God the Father who sent John to preach and baptize. He submits to the Law and to the Prophets, and to all that God has said. All of this He does for your salvation.
It will all come down to His Cross and Passion. That is already what His Baptism means. For already here and now, the Lord Jesus buries Himself in the watery grave of the Jordan. When He steps into those waters and says to John, “Permit it now,” He is already committing Himself to suffer and to die. He willingly takes upon Himself the sins of the world and bears the curse and consequences of those sins. He trusts the Word of His Father, and He goes to His death in faith, in the confidence of the Resurrection, in order to save this world of sinners in His love for them.
This is what His Baptism means for Him. And this is what Baptism means for you, also. This is what repentance looks like: To be drowned and die with Christ Jesus, and so also to live with Him.
This is what it means to entrust yourself to God, to live by faith in His Word and promises. And this is what it means to love your neighbor; to do for your neighbor what your neighbor does not deserve and cannot do for himself, but you do it for him in love.
This is what it means to live unto God, to go in the way that He has given you to go, and not to protest or argue that it’s not fair, but to go in peace, in faith, hope, and love. This is what it looks like to be and to live as a child of God, as a beloved son of God in Christ your Savior.
Repent, therefore. Hear and believe the Word of God, and love your neighbor as Christ loves you.
Baptism in itself is the good and gracious work of God. It is His free gift. Your Baptism, then, is perfect and complete. There is nothing lacking there: Not in the Word of God; not in the water administered with God’s Word; and not in His Name, which certainly is holy in itself.
But as for what your Baptism means for you, what it means for your daily occupation and life, that is not a done deal. That is not a day once-upon-a-time in the past. It is an ongoing engagement. It is a daily call to repentance. It is a daily call to die and rise with Christ by His Word and Spirit.
Baptism has not made repentance unnecessary. No, your Baptism has made repentance possible. Where previously you could not do this — you could not choose to repent; you could not turn yourself around, away from sin and back to God — now Christ, by His Baptism, even unto death on the Cross, He has opened the way of repentance to you and to all who are baptized into Him. And in this way, by His Cross and in His Resurrection, He has opened heaven to you and to all.
Repent, therefore, and live henceforth in Christ. As He has fulfilled all righteousness for you and for all people, and as He has established justice for the nations, so you also live righteously and godly in Him, even in the midst of this present evil age. Do not live any longer in your sins, but live unto God. Think of your neighbor as Christ Jesus thinks of you and of your neighbor. Speak to and concerning your neighbor as Christ Jesus speaks to and concerning you and your neighbor.
Live as a child of God, for so has the Father spoken of you by His Son and through His Spirit in the Gospel, in the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism. He has named you as His own, and so you are His very own. Live, then, as His child. Live in the righteousness of Christ.
What does it mean to live as a child of God? How is His Name kept holy in your life? It depends first of all on hearing what He speaks, on giving attention to His Word, on living to hear His Word. Listen to what He says. Believe it, and confess it. Speak what is true because God has spoken it.
Confess what is true concerning yourself and your sin. And confess what is true concerning Christ and His Salvation. Confess it with both your words and your actions, in all that you say and do.
Do not be true proud or too ashamed to confess your sins, which the sinless Son of God has confessed in your place, taken upon Himself, and borne in His Body to the Cross in order to get forgiveness for you. Confess your sins because that is the truth. And confess your sins in the sure and certain confidence that, for Christ Jesus’ sake, the Lord your God forgives you. That is what it is to live by faith. That is how you live in Christ.
Speak also what is true concerning Christ, His Cross, His Resurrection, His Baptism in the Jordan River, His preaching, His miracles, His Holy Sacraments, and His Church. Confess the Word and work of Christ, because He is true, and His Word is the Truth. Confess it because your neighbor needs to hear it in order to live. And, confessing it, so also live according to it in your own life.
In your Baptism you have died with Christ Jesus, and your life is now hidden with Him in God. You have died to yourself, to your sins, and to the world, but you are raised up with Christ through His forgiveness of your sins. Return, therefore, to your Baptism, and to the significance of your Baptism, through contrition and repentance, through confession of your sins, and through Holy Absolution. And thus returning to your Baptism, dying with Jesus each day, and rising to live with Him each day by faith in the Gospel, so live in Him.
Do not cling to your life in this world, as though this life were all there is. Do not cling to your life in this world, as though it were your treasure and your god. Rather, sacrifice yourself entirely unto God, your body and your life, as a living sacrifice — that is how St. Paul describes it. Place yourself entirely into the hands of your Father who loves you, in the hope and confidence of the Resurrection and the Righteousness of Christ. And living in Christ, pour yourself out for others.
You need not be afraid. Your Father in heaven will vindicate you. He has already raised you up in Christ Jesus. He raises you again, day after day, by the Spirit of His Son through the Gospel. And on the Last Day He will raise you and all believers in Christ to eternal life in body and soul.
You are free to love and serve those whom God has placed around you, even those who don’t love and serve you. For you are free to forgive and gladly to do good to those who sin against you.
Do not worry that you will be used and taken advantage of, and that you may lose everything in this body and life. In truth, the world may put you to death, as much for your righteousness as for your sins and failings! That is what it did to Christ, though it never did have the upper hand on Him, who laid down His life and gave Himself willingly for the salvation of sinners. And that was not the end of His story; nor is it the end of your story in Him. If you perish, you perish, so be it. But as you die in the faith of Christ, yet shall you live in His Resurrection from the dead.
It is to faith and love that your Baptism into Christ daily calls you. Your Baptism does not live in the past, but you live in it now and ever, in the hope and promise of the future, in the neverending Day of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. So, then, return to your Baptism each day.
Go out to the preacher and baptizer of repentance whom God has sent to you. Confess your sins. Be forgiven. And live in the Holy Absolution of Christ, your Savior. For He remains steadfast and certain for you. He has taken His stand with you in the waters of the Jordan, and His feet remain there planted until all of Israel has gone through the water into the Promised Land.
He will not run away and hide. He will not abandon you. As often as you fall, He lifts you back up again, out of the waters of death, into the Resurrection and the Life everlasting.
Heaven is still open to you in Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit of God is still poured out upon you abundantly through His ways and means of the Gospel. He comes to you and rests upon you, not in the form of a dove, but in water with the Word of God; in bread and wine, which by the Word of Christ are His Body and His Blood. The Spirit rests and remains upon you in the Body of Christ. And He is breathed into your body and your soul through the words of a man, upon whom God has laid His yoke, that He might speak to you in love and thus forgive you all your sins.
The Lord Jesus Christ is your permanent foundation. He is faithful and true. It is in Him that you live; in Him that you are beloved of God; in Him that you are well pleasing to your Father in heaven. Hear what He says to you today: This is My Body. It is given for you. This is My Blood. It is poured out for you. Eat and drink, and know that your God is here with you and for you.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.