Sunday 13th January – St Petri Lutheran Church
Baptism of Jesus Sermon – Vicar Shaun Manning
The Gospel: Luke 3:15-17, 21, 22 (NIVUK)
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all, ‘I baptise you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’
When all the people were being baptised, Jesus was baptised too. 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: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’
This is one of very few narratives that are found in some form in all four Gospel accounts.
So here we are in the 2nd week of Epiphany, a time and season where we celebrate the revelation of God the Son to us. Last week was the visit of the Magi, where we learnt that our Lord Jesus has come to be Lord to both Jew and Gentile, all people in fact.
Today is a new revelation in which we don’t get indirect speech about some New Testament writers’ explanation of who Jesus is but a record of God the Father speaking to directly the matter… ‘This is my beloved Son’. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t have a habit of speaking so direct, but He does here, at Jesus’ baptism and also at His transfiguration that will be celebrated just before Lent.
So, just before our particular text in Luke where Jesus comes to get baptised (similarly in Matthew and Mark), John the Baptist has been preaching and calling people to repent. To turn away from themselves, turn away from their sin and turn back to God. To repent means to literally turn around and go back the other way. This is what God, through John, was calling people to do. John was preaching and offering a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. This is a baptism that not only do the crowds take up but Jesus Himself.
But hang on a second… was not Jesus sinless? If Jesus was God’s Divine Son, what sins does He have to repent of? So why then does He get baptised? We will look to figure this out in today’s sermon.
And so, our text begins… after preaching repentance and baptising…
v.15 As the people were in expectation, and all of them questioned in their hearts concerning John, whether perhaps he was the Christ.
John exercising and preaching with such authority the crowds begin to think that He is this expected chosen one of God, the Messiah that has come to redeem His people. But…
v.16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water; but he who mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire…”
John clears all speculation that he is not the one, but the one they’re after is coming. John actually says a similar thing earlier, that he was called to prepare the way for the Lord. John himself is not the Lord. Here he goes even further, I am not worthy to untie even his sandals. John’s criteria of the Lord being mightier than him is that his baptism is only with water, but the Lord will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. For us to understand our Lord’s Baptism and its significance we must clear up a few things. As John says, the baptism he offers and the baptism that Jesus offers are two separate things. In other words, the Baptism that is granted to us Christians is not the same baptism that John offered and consequently Jesus received. In our text John is doing the baptising. At your baptism and the baptism offered here at St Petri, it is actually the Lord Jesus who is doing the baptising. Before we move on, I wonder how many of us can truly resonate with John in our hearts… do we really consider ourselves unworthy? Jesus later calls John the greatest in the kingdom of heaven but yet John considered himself unworthy to untie his sandals… Even St Paul considered himself the chief of sinners… I mention this because this belief is central to true Christian spirituality… unworthy sinners, in need of God’s grace and forgiveness… we must never grow old of this because it is here we God’s does He greatest work… hence John says “I must decrease so that he may increase”…
Back to our text… so John, wanting to depict who this Jesus is, goes on to say…
His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear the threshing floor, and to gather the wheat into his granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”.
It took me some research to find out what a winnowing fork is… It is an ancient method used to separate the grain from the chaff. Grain is what is good and useful, what the farmer is looking for… and on the other hand the chaff is not used and typically serves no purpose and is thrown out. John uses this imagery to give us some insight into who this Jesus actually is. He is the Lord that has been given all authority on heaven and earth. It is He who has the keys to heaven and to hell. This has allusions to the fact that one day our Lord will one day separate the sheep from the goats. It is a scary thought to think that not everyone is saved, that not everyone is going to heaven. This is why John was so adamant on preaching repentance of the people, he is wanting them to be saved from the coming wrath.
And I mean even the ones who did come to be baptised, how are they to be sure that they really are repentant? Likewise, with us? Luther wrestled with this so deeply that he came to hate God. Never being able to please for he never trusted that he was truly sorry.
What is the solution? How are we supposed to know if we really have been repentant?
Here is our answer…
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form, as a dove, and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
The who One has a His winnowing fork in hand, steps into the dirty waters where everyone was bring their sins. Steps into those waters with those who are chaff and deserve to burn and stands in their place before His Father. Even the repentance that was called upon by John cannot be achieved, so Jesus repented truly, once and for all for us. Jesus wasn’t repenting of his sins at His baptism, for He had none to repent of, He was repenting our sins for us. St Paul says that He who knew no sin became sin for us. So, when thinking of your own sin, don’t look to how sincerely sorry and repentant you are… rather look to Christ. The One who repents and pleads for you always. If you need affirmation of such things come and talk to your Pastor, so that you may hear God’s love and forgiveness declared to you. That is the bread and butter of Pastoral Ministry declaring forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name, so take advantage of it.
Jesus stood in solidarity with the sinners who came to repent at the Jordan River. He also stands in solidarity with you and me, as our King and Brother who lays down His life for us. Jesus did all this so that along with Him the Father would be pleased with us also. And those of us who have been baptised have received this right, to be children of God. Our Father, for Jesus’s sake, declares that He is well pleased with us. So, may we learn what this means to live as dearly loved children of our Heavenly Father, calling upon Him through Jesus Christ. It all starts here, as baptised children who have come to receive the gifts of our Father. And through our work as a Church, Pastor’s and laity, we are called from this same One, who has authority over heaven and earth to make disciples by baptising and teaching… so that the world may become truly loved children of our Heavenly Father along with us.
By aligning Himself with us, repenting our sins for us… This Baptism of Our Lord has further significances… DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS BAPTISM MEANT FOR JESUS? Doing His Father’s will. Jesus goes to be tempted, to teach and serve His people and to ultimately lay down His life for them, for you and me.
Also with us, by being adopting into his family by Baptism… DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR BAPTISM MEANS FOR YOU? Doing your Father’s will in this life, different though similarly to Jesus. Serve and love one another here. See your job, husbands, wives and children, family and friends as gifts from your Father and not your own to do as you will with. We are called to reach out to the widowed, the orphaned, the poor and needy. As dearly loved, baptised children of the Heavenly Father through what Christ has done for us, we now, with the help of the Holy Spirit live as Christ to others. Are we going to master it this side of the grave? Most definitely not. Jesus is the only one who lived His Father’s will out truly and so we cling to Him and not to our efforts. This is why we come back Sunday after Sunday to receive forgiveness, because we’ve blown it again and to receive His help and guidance which He grants through His Word and His people. This is why it’s important to come to church and to listen to His Word preached. Not because it is the right thing to do or we are wearing fancy clothes…. but because it is needed for our daily Christian lives. It is where God looks to guide us, renew us and lead us to live as His people.
And if you’re looking for a blueprint on the Christian life, look no further than the Lord’s Prayer. It is actually Jesus’ prayer, meaning it belongs to Him. But through what Christ has done for us we now have the right to call God Father also and as dearly loved children call to their earthly fathers; asking Him to help keep His name holy, that He would bring His heavenly kingdom to earth. As children calling and relying upon Him as the provider of a daily bread, that He would forgive us our sins and help us to forgive others who sin against us. We pray that our Heavenly Father would lead us not into temptation and protect from the evil one. This is why Jesus pleaded and repented for us at the Jordan River and lived His earthly life in obedience to the Father… so that His Father may be our Father too.
And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus, the One who repents and pleads for you always. Amen.