Epiphany 1 – "Baptism Is A Wonderful Thing" – Luke 3:21-22 – 1/10/16

“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son; with you I am well pleased.”

I remember a story from a long time ago about a congregation that decided to remodel their sanctuary. And unlike our project, theirs included a new baptismal font. After the construction was completed, they were surprised when the building inspector would not approve the construction unless the baptismal font had its own septic tank to dispose of the water in it to prevent the polluting of the ground. One of the elders of the congregation said, “I guess it would pollute the ground what with all of those sins washed into it.”

“Now when all the people were baptized.” All the people went into the water and their sins were washed away. When they came out of the water they were not the same people who had gone into the water. They went in ‘sinner,’ they came out ‘saint.’ They went in ‘guilty,’ they came out ‘innocent.’ They went in ‘rejected by God,’ they came out ‘beloved by God.’ Transformed, renewed, born all over again, new beginning. BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

But then we read, “and when Jesus had also been baptized…” What are we to make of that? He had no sins to wash away. He went in ‘innocent’ and came out ‘guilty.’ He went in ‘sinless’ and came out with the sin of “all the people” clinging to Him like hungry leeches. BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

Unless of course ‘sin’ doesn’t bother you. Or maybe you don’t think you have any or that the sin you have is not really that bad or that there’s actually such a thing as ‘good sin’ and yea, you’ve got some but it’s not that ‘bad.’ And if that’s what you’re thinking then, yea, you might not need baptism as much as you need a mirror.

But if you’ve looked into the mirror and seen yourself honestly, then baptism is exactly what you need and baptism is a wonderful thing because it not only washes all of your sin away, it changes you on the inside, and now you hate the evil that you do, whereas before it didn’t really bother you very much because it’s my life and it’s no one’s business how I live it, but now, I really want to please God and I really want God to be pleased with me. BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

Unless of course you’re proud, and your pride won’t allow you to accept the idea that someone else has paid your whole bill in full and you don’t get to even leave the tip or help or do anything. And maybe you can’t accept the idea that someone else has laid down His life for you, not because you were one of the good guys, or had potential for being one, or deserved it, but solely because He loved you. And if that’s what you’re thinking then, yea, you might not need baptism as much as you need to be crushed.

But if you’ve been crushed and your pride has been shattered, then baptism is exactly what you need because it’s no longer about you, but about Jesus Christ who lives in you, and calls you His brother and takes you to His Father and says, ‘Father, this is the one whom You sent me to rescue from sin and death and the devil, and whom I gave my life for, and whom I sent the Holy Spirit to produce His fruit in that he may glorify You.’ BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

It’ll humble you and make you be thankful for every breath you breathe, and treat every day as a gift, and every good thing will nearly make you break down and cry, and every trial and trouble is swallowed up in the all-surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ, my Lord, and that I am His and He is mine, and I lack nothing. BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

Baptism is the place where God’s eternal plan for the salvation for sinners and the reconciliation of all things to Himself, that He had in mind before the creation of the world, and carried out in the fullness of time, through His Son, Jesus Christ who was crucified on the cross for the sins of the world…, meets you, personally, individually, by name.

Baptism is where the holy Son of God meets proud sinners like you and me, one at a time, not to shake our hand and pat us on the back, or show us what we must do to bear our awful load and make things right with God, but to carry out the GREAT EXCHANGE. He takes it ALL FROM YOU and bears it ALL FOR YOU. He TAKES OUR DEATH and gives us HIS LIFE. He becomes flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones and makes us His holy bride, and dresses us in glory, and takes us to live with Him in His Father’s house, in glory forever. BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

Unless of course you have lost your sense of ‘wonder’ and nothing can be that ‘wonderful,’ because there must be a ‘catch’ because everything has a ‘catch,’ and it doesn’t pay to get your hopes up to high because they’ll only be shattered in the end, and the higher your hope the harder your fall, and the more you expect the more you’ll be disappointed, and ‘all men are like grass,’ and life is just a series of uphill struggles and then you die. And if that’s you and you’re afraid to expect too much and hope for too much, then listen to the gospel and lift up your heart.

“But now, thus says the Lord, he who created you… he who formed you… FEAR NOT, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, your Savior… Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for your life. Fear not, for I am with you…” (Is.43:1-5)

But He doesn’t give MEN in return for your life. He gave ONE MAN in return for your life, THE MAN, His only-begotten, dearly beloved, Son, in return for YOUR LIFE.

“When Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit think that baptism is a wonderful thing. The Son meets sinful humanity in the water and prays that the Father may be pleased with Him.

The Holy Spirit comes down though the open portal in the sky and assures the Son that His mission is in perfect harmony with the Father’s will.

And the Father cannot contain His joy and voices His delight and pleasure with His beloved Son and all that He is doing in the water. ‘Take their sin and bear it in your body to the cross and put it to death in your flesh and redeem them and restore them to your image just as they were in the beginning and bring them to me that I may rejoice and be glad with all that You have done.’

You have been united to Jesus Christ in your baptism and in this wonderful mystery, the same Holy Spirit rests on you and the same Father declares, “with you I am well pleased.”

BAPTISM IS A WONDERFUL THING.

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