Baptism of our Lord – A LSB #’s 394, 435, 919
Text – Matthew 3:17
And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
THIS IS MY SON
During my 4th year at seminary a group of us frequently played volleyball on Saturday afternoons. One of the doctoral students would bring his son along, & whenever he made an excellent play the father would say, “That’s my boy!” When the son made a mistake the father didn’t know him.
Now, that was all said in fun because this father loved his son regardless of how well or how poorly he played. But it does illustrate for us that in this life we are often judged by how well we perform. We are constantly being measured by how we meet the expectations of the people whom we interact with. You know – “What have you done for me lately?”
In today’s gospel reading, the heavenly Father of Jesus Christ makes it perfectly clear how He measures the performance of His Son: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, & behold, the heavens were opened to Him, & He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove & coming to rest on Him; & behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (Matthew 3:16-17 ESV)
It’s sort of like, “That’s my Boy!” You’d be pleased with your son too if he was saving the world from sin. That’s quite an accomplishment. We can’t even save ourselves from the pain & suffering caused by it, let alone save ourselves from sin itself. In fact, we cause just as much suffering as we endure.
The longer I’m in this business of being a pastor, the more I’m convinced that the sins we commit are only the tip of the iceberg. Have you heard the phrase ‘sins of omission?’ They’re the ones we’re guilty of by omitting, by not doing, the good works God prepared in advance for us to do. I believe those sins far & away outnumber the evil that we do commit. And the tricky thing with sins of omission is the lack of evidence. If you don’t do something, there’re often no obvious results like if you shoot the neighbor’s dog in revenge. Probably half the time our self-centered nature causes us to not even be aware of the good we were supposed to do.
When a friend, a spouse, or a child needs a word of encouragement, but we’re too busy to notice, we have sinned & not even been aware of it. Those sins of omission do just as much damage over time, if not more, than the sins we commit by doing something evil or wrong.
The evil things are often spur of the moment emotional reactions, which can more easily be understood than the continuous neglect of the people in our lives who need our help. And it’s especially sinful in light of the fact that God tells us He prepares those good works in advance for us to do. God prepares not only the works we are to do, but He prepares us as well.
Our refusal to do them is pure rebellion against our Heavenly Father’s will, & it’s our sinful desire to care about only me, myself & I. We’ve been blessed, more than we can ever know, that our Savior did not rebel against His Father’s will. Jesus Christ knew the pain & agony that He would endure, yet He went forward & did not shy away from His suffering.
Today’s account of Jesus’ baptism is fairly short & there doesn’t seem to be anything terrible about it, yet He begins His ministry of suffering there as John baptizes Him in the Jordan River. We commonly think of Christ bearing the load of all the world’s sin at the cross, but it’s already at His Baptism that Jesus begins to carry the load of our sins.
He had no sin of His own to be washed away, so He takes upon His shoulders your sin, & mine. He picks it up in the waters of the Jordan River & carries it all the way to the cross of Mt. Calvary where He dies the death that you & I deserve. How much simpler & less painful are the good works that you & I shy away from out of fear or out of selfishness? Our world would be a better place if more people loved their children enough to say, “That’s my girl!” or, “That’s my boy!” regardless of how we measure their performance, good or bad.
No matter how often we attempt to encourage & praise someone we always need to remember that they are worthy of that praise only on account of what Jesus has done in their place. If we value them for what Christ has done, rather than for what they do, then their value never changes whether people see their lives as successful, or as a failure.
When people understand that they’re loved in that way, without conditions, they are set free from much of what human beings fear in this life. If Adam & Eve had understood that God loved them unconditionally, when He came calling in the garden after the fall, Adam & Eve would not have hidden from their Lord.
Do you remember Adam’s words, “…I was afraid, because I was naked, & I hid myself.”? Fear is what motivated Adam to hide, & fear is still causing us to hide today. We hide from our Savior. We hide from our family. We hide from our responsibilities, & most of all we hide from ourselves. We don’t want to know the ugly truth about who we really are.
It frightens us to see how selfish, cruel & vindictive we can be. The story of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is so compelling because it plays upon those very fears. Inside each one of us is an evil & sinister personality that’s striving to get out & devour the world around us. We’d like total control of everything in our lives, & we want it now.
The Lutheran understanding of things is that even after God makes us His children, & therefore 100% saint, in this life we are still, at the same time, also 100% sinner. We are Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, saint & sinner, at all times.
The contradiction between those two natures is too great for us to comprehend. Nevertheless, we must live with those two natures in their constant opposition. The Apostle Paul wrote about the struggle that goes on daily within us because of that dual nature: “I don’t do the good I want to do; instead, the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing. I want to do what is right, but I just don’t do it.” (Romans 7:19)
Do you think they had New Year’s resolutions already back in Paul’s day? It sounds like it. I want to do what is right, but I just don’t do it! A few verses later, Paul says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24 ESV)
I want to visit my friend who’s in the nursing home, but I just don’t do it. I want to quit smoking, but I just don’t do it. I want to study for the exam but I just don’t do it. I want to spend more time exercising my spiritual life, but I just don’t do it.
Especially working as a pastor, helping people deal with their problems, I see that law in effect all the time when it comes to people’s spiritual lives. We want to do the right thing, but we just don’t. Did you notice how all of those are sins of omission? And our lives are miserable because of it.
Our soul is gasping for air, starving to death, but we just don’t do anything about it. Or if we try, we expect a flourishing spiritual life in four easy lessons. When that doesn’t happen, we drift right back into our old routine. We want to do what is right, but we just don’t do it.
Our sinful nature seems to win out over our saintly nature all the time. It’s easy to get discouraged & to lose hope. We don’t want to do that, but we do. As we honestly examine our lives, like St. Paul we have to say, “Wretched man that I am!”
That daily battle between our sinful & saintly nature takes a tremendous toll. It breaks us down, wears us out, & drags us in to the pit of despair. We tire of the battle & give in to the devil’s lies. As a result, we get our own comfortable routine set up & then adamantly stay there. We try to remain inside the box we create for ourselves, because we’re deceived into thinking that there’s safety there. And thus, the sins of omission go on & on. We leave behind the good that our Lord prepared in advance for us to do, not simply because we forget, but because we tire of, & we fear, the battle.
Satan’s battle plan is simple – divide & conquer. Through his deceptions he hopes to convince us that there is no use in turning to our Savior, because our sinful nature never seems to go away. Though we want to do what is right, we just don’t do it, & the devil would remind us of that every moment of every day.
He would remind us that our performance comes nowhere near measuring up to God’s standard. Lucifer wants us to doubt & to fear. He wants us to run & hide when our true Father comes calling. Thankfully, our Heavenly Father is not deceived. Through the waters of baptism He said of each one of us, “This is my Son, whom I love; & with him I am well pleased.”
Our Creator loves us not for the good plays we make, because truthfully, we don’t make any. Even our good deeds are filthy in God’s sight, apart from His perfect Son. But that perfect Son of God’s has taken our place in life & in death. Because we are baptized, God no longer sees the sinful nature in us, but sees only the saintly nature earned for us by Jesus.
At Baptism, the Holy Spirit exchanged our sins for the holiness of our Savior. That’s why, in spite of all the good works we’ve ever failed to do, God is able to say to us, “This is my son, & with him I am well pleased.” Because of Christ, we have no reason to hide from God or to fear Him. Through the life & death of Israel’s Messiah we do measure up in God’s sight.
Our Father in heaven measures the performance of His Son & He then applies those results to you. So with the Apostle Paul, we can state with all confidence, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Yet we can answer, with just as much confidence, “Thanks be to God – He has done it through our Lord Jesus Christ!”
At His baptism Jesus was marked as God’s beloved Son. At your baptism you were also marked as one of God’s own, because it’s there that the Almighty Creator of the universe
proudly stated before His assembled congregation, “That’s my child, whom I love!” Amen.
Come to Calvary’s holy mountain, sinners ruined by the fall; here a pure & healing fountain, flows to you, to me, to all. In a full perpetual tide, opened when our Savior died. Come in poverty & meanness, come defiled, without, within; from infection & uncleanness, from the leprosy of sin, wash your robes & make them white, ye shall walk with God in light. Amen. LSB 435:1-2
 Genesis 3:10 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet