January 10, 2016

Rev. Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; 1 Samuel 16:1-13

Epistle Lesson; Titus 3:4-7

Sermon Text; Luke 3:15-17, 21, 22

The text we will look at for today is taken from Luke, chapter 3, selected verses, and reads as follows in our Savior's name.

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” Now when all the people were baptized, and 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.”

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


Here is my driver's license. My driver's license is very unique to me. It has my own little, (well actually, it is not little), it has a big, long, driver's license number. It has my name. It has my address. It has my date of birth. It has my height, my weight, the color of my hair, and the color of my eyes. It is very unique to me.

How many of you have a driver's license? Your driver's license is very unique to you. It has your picture. It has your name. It has your height. It has your weight. It has your driver's license number. It is separate and unique to you.

My driver's license gives me certain privileges. My driver's license gives me the right to get into my car, and drive down the street. I can use my driver's license, to identify myself, so I can write checks, and to apply for certain things. It is very unique to me, and it gives me certain rights and privileges.

While your driver's license is very unique to you, it gives you the same rights, and the same privileges that mine gives me. It gives you the right to drive your car. It gives you the right to identify yourself in various places.

In a way, it is similar to our baptism. If you have been baptized, your baptism is very unique, and distinct to you. When you got baptized, it was your name that was spoken. Probably first, middle, and last name was spoken. Nobody else's, but yours.

The circumstances of your baptism were different than other people's circumstances. For example, here at Holy Cross, I have baptized an eighty year old woman in her home, in a wheelchair, with just her daughter, and her little dog there. Very unique to her.

We have baptized people who were laying on their deathbeds, with their family around them. At the last moment of their life, they came to faith, and wanted to be baptized. And so, their name was spoken, and their baptism was very unique to them.

I have baptized little, tiny, tiny babies in little incubators, with doctors and nurses all around, ready to get to work. I spoke that little baby's name, and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Unique to that little child.

We have baptized little babies up here, who were screaming at the top of their lungs. Maybe you have witnessed some of those.

We have baptized little babies that were as silent as could be.

We have baptized little babies who when the water went on their head, put their little arms out.

We have baptized first graders, and second graders who went through class here at school, learned about baptism, went home, and told Mom and Dad, “I want to be baptized.” They were baptized here.

We have baptized adults who have gone through our Adult Information Class, and want to be baptized.

The point is, your baptism is very, very unique, and distinct to you. And while your baptism is unique, and distinct to you, and it was your name that was spoken, our baptisms give us the same privileges, all of us the same privileges, as we stand before God. And, that is what I want to focus on today. I want to do that by focusing on the baptism of Jesus.

It is traditional in liturgical churches that on the first Sunday after Epiphany to talk about the baptism of Jesus. So, we have gone in just a couple of weeks from the birth of Jesus, to the naming of Jesus, to the Jesus as a twelve year old in the temple. And now, here we are at the baptism of our Lord, Jesus.

As we look at the baptism of Jesus, I want to look at three things.

       -Number one. There was a church father who once said, “The baptism of Jesus is the point at which He became the Christ.” What does that mean? The baptism of Jesus is the point at which He became the Christ.

       -Number two. Jesus' baptism is like a mirror image of our baptism. It is kind of the reverse of our baptism. It is like a photograph and it's negative. Jesus' baptism is like the negative, and ours is like the photograph. I want to talk about that.

       -Thirdly, I want to talk about this. One of our boys, whenever we were by a pool, he was in it as much as he could. My wife and I would say about him, “He could live in the water.” I want to talk about “living in the water”.

So, what about that church father who said, “Jesus' baptism is the point at which He became the Christ.”

What does that mean? Pastor Tweit, on Christmas Eve, preached about the name of 'Jesus'. Jesus was officially given His name eight days after He was born, which was Jewish tradition. At that point He was given the name the angel had commanded be given.

He shall be given the name


The name 'Jesus' means, 'He shall save His people', 'Savior', 'One who saves people'. Of course, Jesus came to save us from our sin.

Jesus is known as 'Jesus Christ', or 'Jesus the Christ'. In fact, our text even says some people wondered if John, the baptist was the Christ.

What does the word 'Christ' mean? It is not a name. It is a title. It is an office. It is a position one belongs in. It is a synonym. The word 'Christ' is a Greek word. It is a synonym for a Hebrew word. The Hebrew word it is a synonym for is the word 'Messiah'. So, 'Christ' and 'Messiah' mean the exact same thing. If you were to translate them, what they mean is 'The Anointed One'. So, when we talk about 'Jesus Christ', we are talking about 'Jesus, the Anointed One', or 'Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Anointed One'.

What does it mean to be 'anointed'?

And, what happens when a person is 'anointed'?

In The Old Testament, when a king was anointed, oil was poured on him, and he was then ushered into an office, or a position. That was the position of becoming a king. And so, 'to be anointed' means 'something was poured out on you and then you enter this position, this office'.

The Bible tells us, first of all, Jesus, (speaking about Himself, when He stood up in Nazareth, at the synagogue), read this passage from The Old Testament. He said,

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon


because the Lord has anointed


to bring good news to the poor.”

Jesus then sat down and said,

“Today this scripture is fulfilled

in your hearing.”

He was claiming to be The Anointed One.

When was Jesus anointed, and what was He anointed with? Listen to what the Bible tells us in the book of Acts.

“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth

with the Holy Spirit,

and with power.”

So, the Bible tells us this anointing of Jesus was the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on Jesus.

When did it happen that the Holy Spirit was poured out on Jesus? John the Baptist said that he did not know who the One to be the Christ was, but the Lord had given him a sign. The sign was,

“The One on whom you see the Holy Spirit descend and remain,

He is the One.”

On what day did that happen? That was the day Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River. The Bible tells us the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove, and remained upon Him. The Bible tells us Jesus has received the Spirit without measure. Speaking of Jesus in Isaiah it says,

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse

and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him.

The Spirit of wisdom and understanding.

The Spirit of council and might.

The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

And so, we believe at His baptism is when Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, without limit.

Now, of course, we know Jesus is God.

       -He is the second person of the Triune God.

       -As God, He is One.

       -As the Son, He is one with the Holy Spirit.

But, we believe His human nature, now at the Jordan River, receives a full, unlimited outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So that now, He steps into His full office as The Anointed One. He is now anointed to carry out His work as

       -Prophet, and preach the Word of God.

       -Priest, be the One who sacrifices for our sins.

       -And King, the One who will be our King for all eternity.

The Bible tells us that after He was baptized, He was “filled with the Holy Spirit. He left the Jordan. And led by the Spirit, went into the wilderness to be tempted.” He is filled with the Holy Spirit.

After His temptation, the Bible tells us He returned to Galilee, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, began to teach and preach.

And so now, Jesus, at His baptism, receives the special anointing of the Holy Spirit in His human nature.

But, something else interesting happens at Jesus' baptism. When the children were up here for The Children's Sermon, I said there is one requirement to be baptized.

Baptism is for sinners.

John the Baptist preached a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The Bible says,

“Be baptized

and wash away your sins.”

So, when Jesus came to the Jordan to be baptized, John, who said, “I am not even worthy to untie His sandals”, knew Jesus is God in the flesh. He knew Jesus had, for thirty years, lived a perfect, holy, sinless life. And so, when Jesus came to be baptized, John, recognizing Jesus is sinless said, “I don't need to baptized you. I need to be baptized by you.” In other words, he was saying, “Jesus, you don't need to be baptized. You don't have that one requirement. You are not a sinner. This is for sinners.”

And so, we believe that when Jesus was baptized is the point at which He was now identifying Himself with sinners.

He was claiming your sin as His own.

As He walked into that water, the sinless One, He now assumes your sin, and He is going to carry that sin all the way to the cross. So at Jesus' baptism He comes as the sinless One, and now He identifies Himself with sinners, and He claims your sin. By this, we say, “He sanctified the waters of baptism”.

So now I want to take you to your baptism. What happened at your baptism? Here we let scripture speak for itself. We say Jesus received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at His baptism upon His human nature. We believe the same thing happens at your baptism. We believe the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Triune God, is poured out upon you at your baptism.

Why do we believe that? It is, because that is what scripture says. The Bible says,

“Be baptized and wash away your sins

and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The promise is for you and your children.”

And so, there is the promise that we receive the Holy Spirit at baptism. Jesus, speaking to Nicodemus said,

“Unless a man is born again of water

and the Spirit,

he cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We believe the Holy Spirit connects Himself with the Word and water of Baptism, and the Holy Spirit is poured out on you at your baptism. You are anointed with the Holy Spirit.

There is a passage in Titus, chapter three. We read it as our Epistle Lesson. It says,

“He saved us,

not because of the works we have done,

by us in our righteousness,

but according to His own mercy,

by the washing of regeneration,

and renewal of the Holy Spirit,

whom He poured out on us richly,

through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

There again is the washing of the Holy Spirit.

And so, we believe in your baptism, when your name was spoken, and it was unique and individual to you, just like a driver's license, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon you.

What did the Holy Spirit do? We believe the Holy Spirit took what Jesus won for you. Jesus won salvation on the cross for the whole world. The Bible says,

“He is the atoning sacrifice

not only for our sins,

but the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus won your salvation. The Holy Spirit personally took that, and distributed it to you. Your name was spoken, and here is what the Bible says.

“Don't you know that all of us

who were baptized into Christ Jesus

were clothed with Christ Jesus?”

       -Jesus came to baptism sinless, and

       -He walked out of the water with our sins.

               -We go to baptism as sinners, and

               -we leave clothed with Christ,

               -covered with the holy life of Christ,

               -covered with the forgiveness of sins!

The Bible says,

“Be baptized

and wash away your sins.”

We believe the Holy Spirit personally distributes to us what Jesus won on the cross.

       -And through those words, in the heart of a little infant, He can create saving faith.

“Faith comes from hearing the message,

and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

       -In the heart of an adult who is a believer, He strengthens that faith.

So we believe that while your baptism is very individual and personal to you, your name was spoken, perhaps your parents or somebody else held you. The circumstances were different, but the privileges are the same. The privileges are that you are now a child of God. The Holy Spirit lives in you. The Holy Spirit has created faith in your heart. The Holy Spirit has personally distributed to you what Jesus won for you.

So, I told you we had a son who, whenever we were at a pool, he would be in that pool. It didn't matter how cold the water was, or how long we were there, or how wrinkled his skin got. We would say, “Boy, he could just live in the water.” I heard a pastor once say that about baptism. He said,

“You should live in the water.”

Some of you were baptized a long time ago, like I was. Some of you were recently baptized. But, we believe our baptism, no matter how long ago it happened, has daily application to us. We want to live in the waters of baptism. Our catechism says,

“What does such baptizing with water mean?”

“Such baptizing with water means the old Adam should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drown and die with all sins and evil lusts, and a new man daily come forth and arise who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”

Then the question asks,

“Where is this written?”

It says,

St. Paul writes Romans 6:4 “We were buried with Christ by baptism into death, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

So, we believe that the life of a Christine should be a daily living in the water of baptism, living in what happened at our baptism. At your baptism, you were brought to repentance over your sin, and faith in Jesus. That is what the daily life of a Christian is.

       -I repent of my sin.

       -I run to Jesus as my Savior, at His promise that my sins are forgiven.

       -Then, I strive to live for Him.

I want to talk about what can happen, when we don't live in the water. Last night Sherri and I happened to be watching a special on CNN. It was about the life of Steve Jobs. It was very intriguing, and fascinating. Steve Jobs was the founder of Apple Computer. He was just a genius, when it came to technology and really revolutionized the world when it came to the whole issue of IT. He had his flaws, and some pretty deep flaws, which were talked about in this special.

As we were watching it, I said to Sherri, “Did you know Steve Jobs was baptized, and confirmed as a conservative Lutheran? And then, he fell away from the faith, and he became a Zen Buddhist, at least for a time.”

She looked at me, and said, “Really?”

Out of curiosity, I started to Google, and found an article written by a pastor out in California who knew the pastor who confirmed Steve Jobs in the Lutheran Church. It was in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which is a conservative, Lutheran Church, where Steve Jobs had also been baptized. (This pastor's brother even attends this church where Steve Jobs was baptized and confirmed.)

Listen to what he said. “What many people don't know is that Steve Jobs was baptized in a Lutheran church. He was catechized in the same Lutheran congregation my brother now attends, by a pastor I knew, before he died.

“What makes me really sad, is that he didn't stick with being Lutheran. This would have been really cool. Imagine Steve Jobs as a Lutheran, going to the same church as my brother! I might have met him.”

But then, he goes on and says this. He starts to personalize it. He says, “I don't understand falling away from faith. I understand we don't come to faith by our own reason, strength, or decision. I know the Holy Spirit calls us to faith by the Gospel, and that faith is a gift from God. I understand that, and I believe that. But, what I don't understand is how someone falls from the faith. This is a great mystery to me. How is that someone can be baptized, and catechized, and then turn away from Christ, and His church? In my nineteen years of ministry this is what puzzles me the most. There are many sons and daughters of our congregation who have gone that way. I grieve over them much more than I do the death of Steve Jobs. I baptized them. I taught them. And, I will have to give an account for their souls.”

Then he really personalized it. He asks, “What about me? What makes me immune from falling in the same way?”

Then, listen to this. “I think falling from faith happens slowly, and introspectively. It begins with that Sunday soccer game, or basketball tournament, the Boy Scout event, a part time job that forces you to work on Sunday morning. And then, the next time you volunteer to work. Or, the late night party on Saturday that leaves you too tired to get up for church, the hectic calendar, the family concerns, the business, the house, the investments.

“You discover that you can skip church for weeks, maybe even months. Nothing bad happens. Your hair doesn't fall out. Your teeth don't turn green. Your children are no worse, or maybe even a little better, now that you don't have to fight them in the pews. You get a little more personal time. You might even get promoted. You might start your own company. You might invent the I pod. Pretty soon, you cease to worry about how it is with you and the Lord. Like a relative you have long forgotten.”

Then he says, “Then one day, the dimly flickering light of faith simply goes out, like a little candle in a puff of wind. You don't even notice. Faith doesn't die with a shout, or a protest, or a clenched fist in defiance. It simply withers away like a dry, untended plant.”

Then he closes, “I sincerely hope that everyone in their last hour gets to hear, 'Come onto me all you who labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest', from the Savior who died for them. That is what all of us sinners, great and small, clever and dull, extraordinary and ordinary need to hear.”
You have been baptized. You have been anointed with the Holy Spirit. He has brought you to faith in Jesus, as your Savior. Live in the waters of your baptism through daily, daily repentance over sin, and faith in Jesus, striving to live for Jesus, so that one day you hear His voice say to you,

“Come onto me.

Come unto me

all you

who labor, and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest.”