Epiphany 0119 – “The Blessing in Baptism!” Luke 3:18-22

Epiphany 0119 – “The Blessing in Baptism!” Luke 3:18-22
Grace mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
The text for the sermon is from the Gospel according to St Luke the 3rd Chapter.

18So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
21Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22and 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.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

What a wonderful mystery God reveals to us through the Word and the water of Holy Baptism. All the ceremonial cleansings and animal sacrifices are bought to their fulfillment in this washing prescribed be God. The actions carried out by John, the words written by Luke and the proclamation given from heaven all convey there is something given by God as a blessing in this Holy Washing.

The readings we heard today all draw attention to what Baptism is and what it does. We would be blind of eye and hard of heart to deny what God so clearly reveals to us in His Word concerning baptism. Such a mystery was formulated in the mind of God even before the creation of the world. Such a mystery is revealed in time by voice of John and the actions of God recounted for us by Luke.

Moreover, as we read the words of Isaiah the prophet and the Apostle Paul, we gain insight into and understanding of what God works in and through the water of Holy Baptism. As dr. Luther wrote in his explanation to Holy Baptism: “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.”

“Baptism is not just plain water…” This is where the mind of sinful man stops short of God’s gifts. With sin-blinded eyes we will only look at the outside. We will only see the things that make sense to us. When things outside out of the realm of reason come to us we tend to discount and reject them. We think such things are impossible to exist.

Consider the Children of Israel when they faced their first test of faith in God. They we expelled from Egypt by Pharaoh. He had enough of their presence which brought much suffering to his kingdom. They leave Egypt and journey a short distance before Pharaoh changed his mind. Pharaoh pursues the Children of Israel and catches them trapped against the shores of the Red Sea.

What is it that the Children of Israel say? They despair of escaping Pharaoh. Yet, God promises them safety and deliverance from their enemies. God commands Moses to hold his staff out over the waves of the Red Sea. A strong wind arises. The waters miraculously part and expose a path of dry ground. The Children of Israel confidently cross this path and watch as the waters close in upon their enemies.     Did Moses part the waters? Did Moses’ staff part the waters? Did the east wind part the waters? It was the Word of God in and with Moses’ staff and the wind. God worked deliverance through water and His Word.

St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians of the Israelites being baptized into Moses as they passed through the Red Sea. He also writes in Romans of the Christians being baptized into Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. The word of importance is into. Those who are baptized are baptized into something or someone. What is associated with the person or thing now becomes identified with those who are baptized. For the Children of Israel it was the deliverance worked by God through Moses. For the Christian it is the deliverance worked by Jesus, the Son of God. For Jesus it is the Word proclaimed by John the Baptizer.

What did Jesus gain by being baptized into John’s baptism? Jesus gained nothing other than acknowledging that He came to fulfill the will of His Father in heaven. Jesus demonstrates and fulfills complete obedience in thought, word and action. Jesus is the righteous son of God who was long ago prophesied, and in time appeared to redeem the world lost in sin, the condemnation of eternal death and under the delusion of Satan. In Jesus’ baptism, there is benefit for the world.

The Christian receives everything gained by Jesus Christ. Luke writes of such benefits as he describes the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Son of God. Luke also proclaims the favor of God coming upon the ones baptized into Jesus Christ. The heavenly Father declares Jesus to be His beloved Son in whom He is well-pleased. As the Father is pleased with His Son, so also is the Father pleased with those baptized into His Son.

Why is this so? In other places St Paul writes of baptism being a washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit. Again when the water of Baptism is poured out upon the sinner there is something that is worked and working. What is worked is renewal of heart and mind to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is the one working such renewal and regeneration in the one baptized. As the sinner is washed in the water of Holy Baptism the Holy Spirit creates in him or her the necessary gifts to be called beloved of God.

What is the Word by which the Holy Spirit works these gifts? We confess in the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed these truths. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Through the Word of the Gospel the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Jesus Christ. By that same Gospel we are sanctified, made holy to stand before God redeemed and forgiven children of God. Therein God proclaims He is well-pleased with us who are washed in the water of Life.

Why is this so? Our Lord has hallowed us not only by submitting to baptism under John. Jesus has also hallowed us by being joined to Him in His death and resurrection. As St Paul teaches in Romans 6: “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

As I said before, now I repeat, in our baptism, we become identified with everything associated with Jesus Christ. Moreover, such gifts become our possessions and we become God’s possession. What Jesus did in His life is now worked in our life. What Jesus earned in His death is now applied to our life. What Jesus gained in His resurrection is now given to us in certain hope of our resurrection on the day of Jesus’ Return.

The Prophet Isaiah speaks so well to the blessing of this heavenly washing.

“1But 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.
2When 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. 3For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

The waters of which Isaiah speaks remind Israel of their walking through the Red Sea on dry ground as they escaped the hand of Pharaoh. The rivers remind Israel of their crossing the Jordan River in the same manner when they conquered the land of Canaan. The redemption of Israel foretells the work of God’s Son who redeemed the world from sin and death. The naming of Israel speaks of the name which God puts on His people when they are cleansed of sin and brought to faith in the Son of God.

Holy Baptism is our redemption event. In this washing with water and through the Word of God brings us from death to life. We were dead in trespasses and sins. We are brought to newness of life in Jesus Christ. In this washing God makes us His children and heirs of eternal life.

Today we had privilege of hearing this truth again. This little girl was brought to the fount of life and received the washing that gives eternal life. While we did not see with our eyes the blessings bestowed upon this small child, we trust the Word of God that His name now marks this little girl to be His child and heir of eternal life.

Such was worked in all who receive this holy washing. It is a guarantee of God’s presence and protection for all who are brought to God’s throne of grace in Baptism. God will be with us in the trials of life and in the joys of eternity. He will sustain His children and bring them to the goal of faith. He will raise them in Jesus Christ on the day of resurrection because they were buried with Jesus Christ in the water of Holy Baptism. God keep you in this blessing.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.