Sermon for the Baptism of Our Lord
January 7, 2017
Confessing Your Holy Baptism
When was the last time you thought of your baptism? Do you ever think of your baptism? It might have been last week or the last week that you were here and I mentioned something about it during the sermon. Perhaps you do remember your baptismal birthday and you say a prayer of thanks for what you have received from God in your baptism. Did you remember it at the beginning of the service during the words of the invocation? Do you think of your baptism daily? Maybe when you begin your morning and evening prayers in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit while making the sign of the cross as our Small Catechism teaches? How often do you remember that you are baptized and how does it shape your life?
Mark’s gospel thinks it important enough to begin the book. We don’t have any of the Christmas narrative, no childhood accounts. It begins with the new beginning that begins with the new Adam. It starts with John baptizing in the wilderness and Jesus coming to him to be baptized. It was a conundrum for John as Matthew tells it. He knew that Jesus had no need of baptism. Mark simply describes the event in few words as if it was just another day at the office for both John and Jesus. That is, except for the things that happened: the heavens were torn open as if ripped apart to reveal something that is hidden by the atmosphere, something not visible yet always there. The Holy Spirit descends like a dove and lights upon Jesus anointing Him for His ministry and demonstrating that He is the One through whom the Spirit is then given in our baptism as John indicated He would do. And we have the voice of God thundering from the heavens His approval of His beloved Son. We see here the new beginning in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We have here an event that we are remembering as we remember our own Holy Baptism.
In remembering our baptism, we are not just saying, “Oh yeah, there was that day before I can remember when my parents took me to church and the pastor did what he always does with babies. He splashed some water on them and made them cry.” We are remembering that Jesus once stood in the Jordan River to be baptized as we were baptized, that He stood in the water as if He were a sinner so that we can emerge from the water forgiven, renewed, and a new creation.
I am going to explain another Greek word today; the one that is translated as “confessing” in verse five of our reading. Those that were in the midweek Bible class during our last study will hopefully remember that we talked about this word homologeo (omologew). It is a compound word that in a basic way means to “speak the same,” or “to say the same thing.” In the context, it means to say the same thing about themselves as God says. In other words, they confess that they have sinned according to God’s commands and thereby agree with God that they are sinners. They were converted from that old way of thinking where they believed that they were mostly good but sometimes do bad things to where they agree with God’s Word that they were sinners, estranged from God, but still have hope for eternal life with God.
That same speak is what Jesus was doing as He was baptized. He was stepping into the water and declaring that although He was perfect from the beginning and has been the beloved Son from all eternity, He was now identifying Himself as sinner. He was taking the place of the beloved chosen people of God that have continually rebelled and transgressed against God’s will. He was saying the same thing as the Father as He steps into His ministry of reconciling God to a creation that has shrouded itself so thoroughly in sin that it takes an act of God to peel back that shroud.
Jesus stood in those waters confessing that He is the One that would carry the load. He would bear the sins of the whole world. He would assume the burden and the consequence of sin. He would die and would know what it is to be separated from God so that all those that speak the same concerning themselves and agree with God’s judgment, would not know such agony and suffering. Jesus entered the Jordan confessing that He is the Christ, the holy Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. He stood there and said, “I am the sinner, the transgressor, the rebellious son, the hater and despiser of God.” And it was so. This He did that you may be called the beloved of God. He stepped into those waters so that you can be addressed as a beloved son of God.
To remember your baptism; to speak the invocation of the Holy Trinity; to make the sign of the cross is to confess. It is to confess and to speak the same as God has spoken to you, that you are marked by that sign of the cross as one redeemed by Christ Jesus, the crucified. You are saying that although you are a sinner, you have been redeemed and are presented before God as cleansed, renewed and holy. To remember your Holy Baptism is to declare that the Holy Son of God has taken your place as the sinner and has given you His righteousness in exchange for your sins. It is to say the same thing as God, that the death He died to sin, He did once, for all, that is, that He died for you and for your sins (Ro 6:10).
To remember your baptism is to confess that you are by nature sinful and unclean, that you cannot save yourself from the death under those sins, but there is One that has stood in your place and has washed those sins from you and has pasted them to Himself. To remember your baptism is to confess that while you deserve nothing from God, no recognition, no favor, no goodness, He still gives you everything – everything that belongs to His Son.
While the action of baptism need only be done once, the remembering of it, or the confessing of it, is to be a part of our daily lives. It is to be the integral part of our identity; not self-identity but same-identity. The same identity as the beloved Son with whom God is well pleased. To remember your baptism or to make the sign of the cross is to confess who you are, who you have been made to be and in whose image you have been renewed.
While it is not a talisman or something that can ward off evil, it is a confession that such evil has no hold on you. It is to tell the devil to get lost, to leave you be, for he has no power over you. He cannot accuse nor abuse you for you have been marked as belonging to God, a child of the Most High God, and a brother or sister to Jesus.
To remember your Holy Baptism is to simply be a Christian. By doing so you are admitting that you are nothing apart from it and unworthy of God’s attention and love. But in your baptism, you are something entirely different as you are united to Jesus in His death and sealed with the promise of a resurrection unto life eternal.
To remember your baptism is to acknowledge that you have been given a great privilege as we declared in the meaning of the introduction to the Lord’s Prayer, for in your Holy Baptism, you have been given the right and privilege to call upon the Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, as your Father. To start your prayers with such a remembrance is to agree with God that you are His child, that you have been ripped from the clutches of sin, death, and devil, and given all that is proper to a son.
Remember your baptism and confess and speak that same as God, that you are His child, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.