Baptized and Beloved
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 3:15–3:22
The Baptism of Our Lord
January 9, 2022
“Baptized and Beloved”
“Dearly beloved” – these are words that conjure in our minds a formal wedding ceremony or a funeral service because these are the occasions where we usually hear them. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here…” We hear similar words today as Jesus goes down into the waters of the Jordan River and there is baptized by John as we heard in the Gospel lesson: “…when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21b-22). Here at Jesus’ Baptism, we see all three Persons of the Godhead – the voice of the Father, the beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Through the redeeming love of Jesus, God’s own beloved Son, we also are the Father’s dearly beloved sons and daughters through our own Baptism in Jesus’ death and resurrection. On this first Sunday after the Epiphany we give thanks to God for the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ and our own Baptism into Christ. “Baptized and Beloved” is the theme for today’s message. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
That fiery figure from the Advent season, John the Baptist, is back today. Standing on the banks of the Jordan River, he had to do some clarification and correction for the crowds who came to him. Because there had not been a prophetic voice within Israel from some 400 years, when John burst upon the scene, people mistook him for the promised Messiah himself. But as the angel Gabriel told John’s father, Zechariah, he would go before the Lord “in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:17). John fulfilled the prophecy that Elijah would reappear before the coming of Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 3:4, 11:14), and now he points people away from himself to the One who will “baptize not with water, but with Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3:16). As John himself said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). With Jesus’ baptism, John’s ministry of preparation gives way to God’s beloved Son who came to fulfill all righteousness.
Jesus did not need to be baptized as we do, for the forgiveness of our sins. As the sinless Son of God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), Jesus had no need of baptism. And yet, Jesus submitted to baptism, not for his sake, but for our sake. Jesus underwent the same baptism that repentant sinners did who came to John, and in so doing, Jesus identified himself with sinners like you and me who need what only God’s beloved Son can give: righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Jesus’ baptism by John at the Jordan River marked the beginning of his public ministry, and this would lead to his own suffering and death upon the cross (Mark 10:38; Romans 6:3). The fact that all four Gospels report the baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:32-34) makes clear that this is something very important. As Luther writes: “[Christ] accepted it from John for the same reason that he was entering into our stead, indeed, our person, that is, becoming a sinner for us, taking upon himself the sins which he had not committed, and wiping them out and drowning them in his holy baptism” (Luther’s Works, AE 51:315).
Paul the apostle’s words in today’s Epistle lesson (Romans 6:1-11) remind us that through our own Baptism, whether as an infant, young person, or adult, we have been united to God’s beloved Son. This means that through this water of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5), everything that Jesus has done – his life of perfect obedience to the Father’s will, his innocent suffering and death as payment for our sins, his glorious resurrection from the dead – all of these things and much more are now ours through faith in Jesus. And so because of Jesus and what he has done for us, we are now God’s beloved sons and daughters. When the Father looks upon us, he sees only the righteousness, innocence, and blessedness of Jesus. We are covered with the robe of Christ’s own holiness that covers all our sins. This is the new life that we have been given through holy Baptism. The words of Isaiah in today’s Old Testament lesson (Isaiah 43:1-7) remind us how much we are loved: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” Those wonderful, blessed words, “Fear not,” were spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel as he announced to her that she would be the mother of the Savior (Luke 1:30). These same words were spoken by the angel to the shepherds on that first Christmas night: “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy” (Luke 2:10). In our own lives, when we feel like we are going into some deep water that’s going to overwhelm us, or dealing with something that’s not just going to burn us, but consume us entirely, the promise of the Lord is that he himself is with us. We belong to him. He has made us his own beloved children in Baptism, and nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).
The new year that’s only a little over a week old signals a fresh start; a new beginning. But why wait a whole year for that new beginning? Our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection means that each day is a fresh start and a new beginning! Daily, we are called by God’s grace to die to the old sinful self that says, “Me first!” and “I’m #1!” God calls us to something different; something better. Daily, we are called to take off the tattered, filthy rags of our old sinful life, and daily clothe ourselves in the robe of Christ’s righteousness first given to us in the cleansing waters of holy Baptism. As God’s baptized and beloved children, each and every day means that we die to sin and rise to Christ, walking in newness of life (Romans 6:4b). My baptized and beloved fellow believers, may this new year and this new day signal a new beginning, a fresh start, for each and every one of us. God help us to do this for Jesus’ sake. Amen.