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Jesus is Washed as the Sacrifice FOR YOU!

January 12, 2020

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The Baptism of Our Lord                                    Trinity Lutheran Church

12 January 2020                                                   Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +

Matthew 3:13-17


Jesus comes for baptism.  From John.  John adamantly insists that it shouldn’t happen. Did you catch that?  “I need to be baptized by you [Jesus] and DO YOU COME TO ME?” And we sympathize.  It all looks improper.  Backwards.  Ridiculous.  John should be baptized by Jesus!  Sinner John should be baptized by Sinless Jesus. But God’s ways are not our ways.  In the way of the gospel, God’s cup of tea, the Sinless Jesus is baptized as a sinner. The Lord of all becomes the Servant of all. The greater is baptized by the lesser. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is prepared for His Good Friday sacrifice by getting washed in the Jordan River on the way to the altar of the cross.  More on that in a moment.


Jesus is baptized.  You too are baptized.  Do you know the differences between His Baptism and yours?  There are differences.  Check it out.  Jesus didn’t receive baptism from John in order to get saved. He doesn’t need saving!  But Holy Baptism according to Jesus’ institution in Matthew 28, however, does saves you. Paul says so in Titus 3. “He SAVED us through the washing of rebirth and renewal.”  Peter says that just as God saved Noah and his family through water so also “baptism now saves you … through the resurrection of Jesus” (1 Peter 3:21-22).  Jesus says so in Mark 16. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be SAVED.”    

In addition Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan did not wash away His sins.  He wasn’t a sinner in any way!  He never sinned!  However, Holy Baptism that Jesus mandated in Matthew 28 washes away your sin.  Peter says so in Acts 2:38.  “For the forgiveness of sins,” he preaches at Pentecost.  Paul says so in Acts 22:16. “Get up be baptized and wash away your sins.”     

Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan did not grant Him a second birth from above.  After all, He is the eternally begotten Son of the Father!  Your Baptism in the Triune Name, however, is your heavenly, born again birth by the Holy Spirit.  Jesus says so in John 3. “BORN AGAIN of water and of the Spirit.”  Paul says so in Titus 3 and 1 Corinthians 6.  “Saved us by the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”   

Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan joined Him to your sin and death sinners deserve. It propelled Him on the way to Jerusalem and to His cross where He bore, atoned, and answered for all your sin. In Romans 6 Paul categorically proclaimed that your baptism joins you to Jesus’ Good Friday death. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 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.”

Baptism then, whether it is Jesus being baptized in the Jordan by John or yours done in the Triune Name by a pastor, is never a nothing.  In baptism God gives you a remarkable gift.  What is it?  It His divine and saving Name.  And when He gives you His Name He gives Himself to you.  With His Name He promises always to be God FOR YOU.  To act as God FOR YOU.  That’s Matthew 28!  I just mentioned Acts 2:38; 22:16; Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; 1 Peter 3:21 and Mark 16.  The epistle for today declares that you were buried with Christ by baptism INTO DEATH.

That’s really quite categorical. Through Baptism, God – (did you hear me?) — God buries you into the death of Jesus!  Consequently, God declares you dead to sin but alive to Him through Good Friday Jesus. Not even Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, which isn’t the same as yours as I’ve just taught, was something He did. Jesus didn’t  actively “get himself baptized,” Jesus was PASSIVELY baptized. Given to!  He received it from the hand of John. It was done to Him. That’s what scandalized John. John didn’t feel qualified to baptize the Greater One whose sandals he wasn’t worthy to untie.

Notice too what else is going on. In the Jordan the Father and the Holy Spirit do all the witnessing and testifying.  Not Jesus!   The Spirit descends on Jesus in bodily form. Appears as a dove.  This proves that Jesus is the Messiah anointed with the Spirit without measure to do His Messianic salvational Good Friday job! The Father emphatically testified to His Son by using the words of Isaiah 42: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Well pleased with Jesus because He will go to the cross and Good Friday-ly die and atone for the sin of the world!  Then the heavens cracked wide open.  There is now access to heaven because of what Jesus received in His Baptism!

This is precisely why Christians do not dare to claim that baptism does or gives nothing or that it’s nothing more than an empty symbol. Symbols don’t open heaven.  Empty symbols don’t bring down the Spirit or cause the Father to speak His divine approval and love. Empty symbols don’t give the Trinity’s divine and saving name.  Empty symbols don’t wash away sin or bring a heavenly birth or join you to the death and life of Jesus.  However, your baptism in God’s Name according to Matthew 28 does!

I’m going to make a few more points and I’ll bring the horses into the barn for today.  Jesus’ Jordan River baptism is His “ordination,” if you will, into the office of Messiah!  It is the beginning of His public ministry which begins with the Father identifying Him as the Servant-Son and the Spirit descending upon Him. His mission and ministry is to bring the kingdom of God; to usher in the new age of the messiah; to conquer sin, death, and devil; to bring eternal life and forgiveness of sins; to rescue fallen humanity from its captivity to sin and death; to be the second Adam, the new head of humanity; to fulfill the law with His perfect obedience, and to bear the punishments of the law in your place as the Lord’s Suffering Servant; to bear all the hellish damnation of your sin FOR YOU so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God; to bring in a new creation, making all things new in His death and resurrection.

Or as Jesus curtly preached it to John, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

The bottom line today from Matthew 3 is this folks:  Jesus’ Baptism was a necessary part of His being your Savior from sin. As God’s Sacrifice that would atone for all sin, He needed to be washed, as all sacrifices in the OT were washed. In His Baptism the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is being prepared for His Good Friday sacrifice in our place. He is the stand-in, the substitute, the One who offers His life in place of ours, blood for blood. But this washing was different. He was already pure. However, He was washed in our sins so that we might be washed from our sins.

The baptism that Jesus stepped into that day at the Jordan was a baptism for sinners. Prostitutes and scoundrels and all manner of “sinners” were coming to John wanting to be cleansed from their past and their sins. Jesus had no sin to confess.  No sin of which to repent.  No past that needed cleansing. He was totally sinless and holy. In being baptized, Jesus joined Himself in solidarity with those same sinners, with all of sinful humanity, with you. He became Sin for us. He became our Sin. In His Baptism, Jesus became the adulterer, the thief, the murderer, the gossip, the liar, the idolator. He was joined to you in your sin and death so that you might be joined to Him in His death and life. He became the sin of the world in order to take away the sin of the world by nailing it to His cross and burying it in His grave. In His Baptism, Jesus was immersed in our sin, so that we might be drowned in His righteousness.

Before Jesus was baptized at the age of 30 there was really nothing much to report about His life prior. We did hear about His conception by the Holy Spirit.  The night of His Bethlehem birth and being laid in the manger. The shepherds. The Magi. The angels, the star, the flight to Egypt, the return to Nazareth, His circumcision and presentation. His “bar mitzvah” in the temple when He was twelve.  All that lead up to this moment in the water with John “to fulfill all righteousness.” Now, don’t misunderstand.  While Jesus was just as much the world’s Savior lying in the manger or confounding the teachers in the temple, you wouldn’t have known Him from any other kid on the block in Nazareth. However, here in His Baptism you do! Here you see the heavens open to Him. You hear the voice of the Father. You see the Spirit descend. And you know there is something about Jesus that is unlike any other because of the Father’s sermon preached at the baptism: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Well pleased because Jesus died for you.  Well pleased with you too.  He loves you in His Son. He says to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son” and in saying it to Jesus, He is saying it to you in Jesus. To be in Christ and to be buried with Christ through baptism into death is to be God’s beloved child, to have the heavens opened to you, to have the Spirit descend upon you. In Christ, God is well-pleased with you His baptized children.

In the Name of Jesus.  Amen


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