January 08, 2017

Pastor Bernt P. Tweit

Old Testament Lesson; Isaiah 42:1-7

Epistle Lesson; Acts 10:34 - 38

Sermon Text; Matthew 3:13-17

The Word of God we focus on for today is taken from Matthew's Gospel, chapter three, looking at verses 13 through 17. In Jesus, our Savior's name:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from Heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This is God's Word.

       -There once was an Ethiopian man who was sitting in his chariot. He was reading a portion of scripture, from the book of Isaiah. This is what he was reading, from Isaiah 53.

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter.

And as a lamb before the shearer is silent,

so he did not open His mouth.

In His humiliation,

He was deprived of justice.

Who can speak of His descendents

for His life was taken from the earth.”

After he read that portion of scripture, the apostle, or prophet Phillip, was standing near by. He went up to speak to that Ethiopian man. The Ethiopian man asked, “Tell me, who is this talking about, the prophet himself, (Isaiah), or someone else?”

Phillip was able to explain to that Ethiopian man that it was referring to Jesus, who had just died, risen, and gone to Heaven. After Philip had connected all of those dots, explaining that what was written seven hundred years previously was connected to Christ, they came upon some water. That Ethiopian man asked, “Why shouldn't I be baptized?”

Right then, and there, Phillip baptized him. He had heard about Christ, and he wanted to be connected to Christ.

       -A number of years ago, there was a couple who gave me a call at home, on the weekend. They said, “Pastor, our child has been born prematurely in the hospital. Will you please rush to the hospital to baptism him?”

I got in my car, drove to the hospital, and baptized their little child, right there in the hospital. They knew what baptism was, and they wanted their child to be connected to the waters of holy Baptism, and be connected with Christ.

       -Even more recently than that, there was a couple who came to me. Before the school day starts, and if possible, after the school day, I like to stand out in our lobby area to visit with parents and youth, as they are coming, and going to school. I like to be available, in case anybody has questions. The couple said, “We would like our children to be baptized. When can we do that?” So we started talking right then, and there, “Let's look at our calendars, and figure out a day that works.”

Then, they said, “Oh, by the way, he (the husband) is getting deployed to the Middle East five days from now. Either we are going to do it soon, or we will wait a year when he returns.”

I said, “We are going to do it, before he is deployed.”

Two days later their children were baptized. They knew what baptism was, and they wanted their children to be connected to Christ.

Today is the first Sunday after Epiphany. The scripture reading the church fathers set aside for this Sunday talk about the baptism of our Lord. It is a great opportunity to talk about what baptism is. But, it is also good to talk about why baptism is so important. Let's look at both of those things.

It is right before our text for today, that John the Baptist refused to baptize the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. He refused to baptize them, because they didn't think they needed to repent of their sin.

Now, Jesus comes to John, and He asks to be baptized by him. At first, John doesn't want to do that. But, John relents, and he baptizes Jesus.

       -What is baptism? The word 'baptiso' in Greek means, 'to apply water'. So, baptism is simply taking God's Word, and it is taking water, and it is connecting it to a person.

Let's look at Jesus' baptism, and I am going to bring out four points, here, of what baptism is, and why it was that Jesus was baptized.

       -Jesus, in our text for today says, number one, it fulfills all righteousness. Now, remember this. Baptism is not Law.

Baptism is Gospel.

So, it not that Jesus is fulfilling The Law by His being baptized. That is not what was taking place. Think back to our Old Testament Lesson, in which the very first word, of the very first verse, I read about God, saying this about His Son.

“Behold my servant,

whom I uphold,

my chosen,

in whom my soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon Him;”

Jesus here fulfills all righteousness. Here is the transition that is taking place.

(I am going to back up a step.) If you were here last week, I talked about the two things Jesus did for our salvation.

       -He lived a perfect life. He fulfilled The Law for us.

       -And then, He suffered, and died on the cross.

       -Well, Jesus is now 30 years old. He had fulfilled The Law for us, in keeping The Law perfectly. And now, the transition comes, as Jesus is baptized. His earthly ministry begins, and Jesus is now resolutely, laser focused to head for Jerusalem, where He would suffer and die for our sin. Jesus fulfills all righteousness, in that He came to deliver, and rescue us so that we could have His righteousness.

       -Number two. Jesus gives John an opportunity to announce He is the fulfillment of being the Messiah, and Savior of the world.

During the course of this past week, I took all four Gospels, and laid them out, doing a harmony of The Gospels. All four talk about the baptism of Jesus. It is not in our text from Matthew, but it is in John's text that John the Baptist says about Jesus, as he points to Him,

“Behold the Lamb of God

who takes away the sin of the world.”

It is at the baptism of Jesus that John's ministry decreases, and Jesus' ministry increases. John points out Jesus as the One who is the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah.

       -Number three. In Jesus' baptism, Jesus comes to identify Himself with us. There is a passage in the New Testament that says,

“God made Him who had no sin

(that is Jesus)

to be sin for us

so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

So, here comes Jesus without sin. And here we are, who are sinners, and Jesus identifies Himself with us, because He gives His righteousness to us, and our sins are placed on Him.

       -Number four, in Jesus' baptism He gives an example for us to follow. As we know, Jesus was baptized. As we hear what baptism is, we for ourselves and children want to be baptized, as well. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, He said,

“Go and make disciples of all nations,

baptizing them

in the name of

the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

(Just a quick side-note. This is the clearest place in scripture in which the Triune God is mentioned. God the Father, who is the voice from Heaven. God the Son, who is Jesus, who is being baptized. And, God the Holy Spirit, who is the dove. That is why we have the dove on our baptismal font.)

That is what baptism is.

But, why is baptism so important? We understand baptism is so important, because of the problem we have. We are sinful. Here is what the scripture says.

“Surely I was sinful at birth,

sinful from the time my mother conceived me.”

So, with the problem of sin we have, what is it we need?

We need forgiveness.

That is exactly what baptism gives. That is exactly what baptism distributes. Scripture says,

“Be baptized

and wash away your sins,

calling on His name.”

So, we who have this problem of sin, have our sins forgiven, receiving the very thing we need, as we are washed clean through the waters of holy Baptism.

But, baptism also clothes you and me with Christ. Scripture says,

“You are all children of God,

through faith in Christ Jesus.

For all of you who have been baptized into Christ

have clothed yourselves with Christ.

And, not only are you clothed with Christ,

but you are connected with Christ.”

Scripture says,

“Don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead, through the glory of the Father, even so we also may walk in newness of life.”

In the late 100's A.D., and the early 200's A.D., there was a church father who lived in Rome, whose name was Hippolytus. Here is what Hippolytus said. He is putting words into Jesus' mouth, and he is acting as if Jesus is speaking to John, when he says these words, “I am the fulfiller of The Law. I seek to leave nothing wanting to its whole fulfillment. John, baptize me in order that no one may despise baptism.”

Here we are 2,000 years removed from the baptism of Jesus.

       -It was Hippolytus who said that Jesus was baptized so that no one would despise baptism.

       -That Ethiopian man, when he heard about Jesus, and wanted to be connected to Jesus, saw the water, and said, “Why shouldn't I be baptized?”

       -That young couple, whose child was born prematurely, wanted their child to be connected with Christ through the waters of holy Baptism.

       -That young couple, before he was deployed to the Middle East, wanted their children to be connected, and clothed with Christ through the waters of holy Baptism.

       -Here at Holy Cross, through the church, the school, and through our Early Learning Center, we have a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the neighborhood! We are now connecting people with Christ, so they can be clothed in Christ.

As we share Jesus with others, maybe they will ask the question, just like the Ethiopian, or one of those two young couples. “I want to be baptized, and I want my children to be baptized, so that we may be clothed, and connected with Christ.”