We, you and I, are or have been brought into the Holy Christian Church with these words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” With these words we become members of the communion of Saints. We are given faith, forgiveness of sins, abundant life in this world, life in the world to come, eternal life, salvation. God’s name is put on us. He claims us as His own, we are His. My question to you is, how often do you take the time to remember your baptism? What a wonderful gift we have in our baptism as well as in remembering our baptism. Every morning we can wake up and remember, “I have been baptized. I am forgiven. I can start over.” And after a few hours, by about nine or ten in the morning, after we have been frustrated from driving to work, being yelled at by our parents, our spouse, our boss, and so forth, and after cursing them in our own minds, we can again remember, “Oh, yeah, I have been baptized. I am forgiven. I can start over.” What a great thing we Christians have in our baptism. This morning we are reminded of our own baptism as we come to bear witness of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River.
You might notice, right off, that John’s Baptism is different from our Holy Baptism today. Not a lot different, but some different. John’s Baptism was a “Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Repentance is somewhat like our New Year’s Resolutions, it is the attempt to “turn over a new leaf.” Notice I said an “attempt.” It is an attempt, because by ourselves we are not able to do the good that we want to do (as Paul reminds us in his letter - the good that I would do I do not do, the evil I do not want to do is what I do). Repentance, however, goes beyond a resolution. Repentance means first to acknowledge and confess our sins, the wrong and bad things we do, or the good things we have failed to do, but it goes on to mean that we attempt to not sin again. Let me say that again, it means that we attempt, with God’s help, to not sin again. To repent means to turn 180 degrees, from sinning, from going in the direction of sinning, to not sinning, to turn away and go in the other direction away from sinning. And again, this is not something we are able to do by ourselves. This is something we can do, only with the help of the Lord.
John’s Baptism is a Baptism of repentance for a purpose, “for the forgiveness of sins.” Just about every Sunday morning we confess, “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgives us all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful. We see His faithfulness standing before John ready to be Baptized. God is faithful, He sent His one and only Son, Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, to give His life, to suffer the eternal spiritual death for us, in our place. If we do not confess our sins, if we do not acknowledge that we have sins that need to be confessed, then we are refusing forgiveness. It is only as we confess our sins (and this we do because of our own need to confess) that forgiveness, won for us by Jesus on the cross, becomes ours.
Repentance can be seen in this illustration which I have used before, there was a teacher who passed out new crayons to the entire class. She told all her students to be careful and not break them. One child pushed a little too hard and broke one of his crayons. The teacher then asked for the children to put any broken crayons on the top of their desk. In order to “stay out of trouble,” the one child hid the broken crayon in the box, putting the bottom part in the box and the broken off top part on top. The teacher then went around the room and instead of “yelling” at the students, she exchanged new crayons for broken ones. Unfortunately, the child with the hidden crayon did not receive a new crayon. In much the same way, our sins that are unconfessed, although the price has been paid for those sins, to us they are not forgiven. We have refused that forgiveness. And our sins that are confessed are forgiven, not because of our confession, but because Jesus paid for them.
John came Baptizing and proclaiming. His proclamation was that the One coming after me is more powerful than I am, so much so that I am unworthy even to untie His shoes. John knew his place. He knew his role. He was content with being the Lord’s servant and so he proclaimed boldly concerning Jesus, who He is and what He will do.
John proclaimed that he baptized with water, but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost we see this Baptism by the Holy Spirit. When each one of us was Baptized, we were Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We were Baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, each one of us, and I might add, whether we act like it or not. I do not mean that we are each filled with the Holy Spirit so that we jump up and down, whoop and holler or anything like that, but I do mean that we act like we are filled with the Holy Spirit by boldly living our lives in such a way that we do stand out in a crowd, that others do see us as being different, acting like we are a members of the body of Christ.
What is there to life except to live life “on the edge” as the saying goes? And as a Christian I would suggest that living life on the edge is living life with a complete awareness of what life is all about. Life is about being on this earth for a very short period of time. Life is about acknowledging that each day is a gift from God and that each day might actually be our last day on this earth. Life is about living each day to its fullest and I do not mean that in any decadent way, I mean that in a way which says, I am a Christian and I believe in a God who is so great that you ought to believe in Him too and that is living life on the edge, because in our world and in our society, to live life in such a way will surely bring criticism from others.
Getting back to our text, by God’s grace, through Mark’s Gospel we are privileged to witness Jesus’ baptism by John. As we witness Jesus’ Baptism we are allowed to witness what we call the trinity of our God. First, we witness God the Son in the person of Jesus Himself. God the Son is true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, as we confess and as Matthew, Luke and John also tell us in their Gospels, and He is true man, born of the Virgin Mary, again, as we confess and as Matthew, Luke and John also tell us in their Gospels.
Second, we witness God the Father in the voice from heaven. God the Father speaks and says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” God the Father attests to the fact that Jesus is true God, the Son of the Father. He also attests to the fact of Jesus’ sinless nature, being truly God and being pleasing to the Father.
And third, we witness God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Thus, we are privileged to witness our God as a triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
This morning we are privileged to be witnesses of Jesus’ Baptism. And as we witness Jesus’ Baptism I pray that we are each reminded of our own Baptism. Our witness of Jesus’ Baptism is important because through this account we are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt of who Jesus is and what is His mission. John attests that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. God the Father attests that Jesus is the Messiah as we hear His words from heaven. Jesus attests to Himself that He is the Messiah as He is there present fulfilling all the Law and the prophets completely, even subjecting Himself to be Baptized by John in the Jordan.
As we venture through the Gospels this year we will see Jesus time and again doing signs and wonders which will attest that He is the Messiah. You will notice that the Gospel writers write in order to assure us that Jesus is the Messiah. The Holy Spirit works through these words of the Bible in order to bring us to faith, strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith until Christ comes again.
Thus, we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and through His means of grace; confession and absolution; the Word, the Bible; and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are given His gifts; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation, which is why divine service is so important. Sure, we can stay at home and read our Bibles, but here in divine service is the time to come to the Lord’s Spiritual grocery store to be given His good gifts and blessings. Each of us must eat in order to survive. If we do not go to the grocery store to buy food, then we do not have any food to prepare and no food to eat which would mean that eventually we would starve. Likewise, each of us must have spiritual food in order to survive. When we do not come to the Lord’s house for divine service, to be given His spiritual gifts, we can eventually starve spiritually, that, too, is gift refusal.
This morning we rejoice to be given God’s good gifts and blessings. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins, earned for us by Jesus on the cross. We rejoice at being able to witness Jesus’ baptism and His acceptance by God the Father. We rejoice in the reminder that through our Baptism we too have a part in God’s Kingdom. We rejoice in our opportunity to be in divine service where we are reminded of our Baptism through the invocation and benediction, we are given forgiveness through confession and absolution, as well as through the Word and the Lord’s Supper, we are strengthened in our faith through the proclamation of the Word of God, and we are encouraged in our vocations as Christians, to live our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in our faith in Jesus. And finally, we are moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.