Luke 3:15–17, 21–22
He was just one of many that came out to John the Baptist. He may have mingled, but likely few knew his name. Nothing about him stood out. He wasn’t different. Jesus was just a regular guy who looked like all the rest. And when it was his turn he approached John for baptism. In a moment it was done. The water ran over him. Some words were said. Jesus had experienced baptism.
In reality, Jesus was anything but like everyone else. Not to the point where light immediately came shining out from him after he left the water. More like the Light was shining through the water. Jesus was there to be baptized. That made all the difference. Because Jesus wasn’t just human. His birth celebrated only weeks ago teaches us that. The visit from the wise men we talked about last week too. Jesus is the Light. During this season this light shines out into the world. This morning in the gospel the Light shines through the water of baptism.
Remember how the angel put it to the shepherds? “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.” The little baby already had an official-sounding title. He was the Christ. From his birth, he was the Christ, the Anointed One.
Anointed with the Holy Spirit. Not just human, the Anointed One of God. Who he was and what he was. From his birth, as a little baby, as a growing boy, Jesus was the Anointed One, who was God. To the edge of the Jordan River stepped the God-man. True God and true man had come to be baptized.
But why? The people John the Baptist was preaching to in the wilderness, they were sinners. John called them to repent. His baptism was for the forgiveness of sins. Baptism washed their sins away. As God, Jesus had no sins needing forgiving. He didn’t need repentance. But he did need to be aligned with the people he came to save. He would need to be like them, one of them, walk among them. So to the world of sinners, Jesus came to align himself with sinners. The Christ took his place in the water to shine a light on the fact he was the substitute. He came to save sinners, and his baptism linked him to those who needed his saving.
His baptism also marked the real beginning of his earthly ministry. Before this, he had kept a low profile. Going forward that would change. He wouldn’t hide the fact anymore that he was the Redeemer of the world. His mission, the one given by his Father. A saving mission to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was here on earth and his baptism marked the active portion of that saving mission. Not truly the beginning, since from birth he had been completing the mission. He was growing up perfect, obeying his parents, and following the laws. Jesus had been on task even before his baptism. His Father marked the moment with words spoken to Jesus. “You are my Son, whom I love; with you, I am well pleased.” Job well done so far. Job would be well done going forward.
Human beings don’t just stroll past God like he’s a stranger at the grocery store. God doesn’t just hang out on earth, walking, talking,
and sitting among friends of his. From the moment of his conception, Jesus kept his divine glory hidden. The God-man didn’t make full use of his divine power and glory. He grew in knowledge even though as God he knew everything. Jesus was all-powerful and yet he got hungry and tired. He wasn’t a miracle machine, though he had the ability and power always. This meant his baptism was more than just checking another thing off his to-do list. It meant more than aligning himself with sinners. It was more than picking up the mission of God.
Baptism always has a promise attached. It must or it wouldn’t be baptism. John was commissioned to “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Baptism has a promise, forgiveness. Forgiveness comes through the Holy Spirit and faith.
Jesus, as true God didn’t need those things. But as true man Jesus could receive them. Not forgiveness per se. But he could receive the Holy Spirit. He could be encouraged in his faith. Jesus could and did receive the promises of baptism.
We live at times forgetful of what we have in our baptism. For some it’s been decades since baptism. Even Marin, who just received hers won’t have a memory of that moment. She’s too young to respond and show her appreciation. She’ll have to rely on others telling her water was applied and the Word of God was spoken. I don’t have a memory of mine, and many of you don’t remember yours. We might have pictures, but we’ve moved on. We have to. That means baptism can lose meaning for us. It doesn’t seem to have anything to say about stress or difficulties today. What can baptism help with time crunches and demands at work? We need our abilities. We have to concentrate on using our time well and doing something to get ahead. Just surviving may not get us connected to God, but at least we can live. We’ll walk through the trees hoping to feel God’s presence. We’ll talk ourselves into listening intently looking for signs telling us what to do or where success will follow. Except we get it backward. We rely on ourselves. Try to find God in places he doesn’t promise to be. We see signs, but they think they’re telling us to go down a road that leads to sins. Even baptism becomes a law-driven burden. We have to do this. We have to show we’re serious about following God. It all relies on us. God will believe we’re his because we’ve made this commitment.
Baptism is all good news. The Light shines through the water. To that water and Word combo, God attached a promise. A promise that tracks back to the baptism of Jesus. Life was about to get much tougher for him. Tougher than we can imagine or have faced. He was being called upon to live a perfect life from birth to death, just like you. He would face temptation, terrible temptation to lay it all aside and just give up. Temptation to take life easy. But he would have something to look back on for comfort. His baptism, the Spirit resting on him. The strength, encouragement, and miracles he witnessed would assure him. “And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven.” Even though he already had the Spirit, he was the Anointed One, the Spirit really descended on him to strengthen him and be with him as he would look to live life perfectly. The voice was his Father. It confirmed God was pleased with everything. No, it wouldn’t be easy. But his baptism, and its promises, would remind Jesus he was the Redeemer.
And the best news is that what happened at Christ’s baptism happened at yours. You, the sinful one, got connected to Jesus, the perfect one. The Son of God was baptized getting strength so he might be you. Jesus lived perfectly and made his way to the cross. The strength of his baptism allowed him to carry your sins. Your baptism is gospel with power because Jesus was successful. Jesus received the strength to live his holy life through baptism. So do you. You’re clothed in the robe of his righteousness. Those baptismal gowns are white for a reason. Not just to look cute, but to show what’s happening. Christ clothes the one baptized in his perfection. The child is connected to God and is pure because of Jesus. And God says well done. He said it to Jesus. Because of Jesus, he says it to you. He’s pleased with you because he sees your sins forgiven. You’re no longer under the curse of sin but washed clean in baptism. You’ve been brought to the Word, heard of Christ’s work, connected to him in order to believe it.
Whatever spiritual blessings Jesus was endowed with so were you at your baptism. You get the Holy Spirit poured out on you. Joy, love, and peace are yours to enjoy because of your relationship with Christ. Patience, kindness, and goodness are your way of life because of him. Faithful living, gentleness in your relationships, and self-control aren’t impossibilities but the reality of life. Yours in Christ. The Spirit strengthens you who are baptized to live these ways. Christ was able to resist temptation, pray and answer prayers, and preach the good news. Those blessings and promises are yours in baptism. You can resist temptation, pray, and share the good news.
Think back to your baptism. You may not remember it, but water was applied to you just like you saw this morning. The Light shines through that water, the Light that connects you to God. You belong to him. He said so, right there in the water. You know Christ better because of your baptism. You are connected to him because of it. Every day, no matter what you’re facing, you can say, I’m baptized. I’m baptized! I’M BAPTIZED!