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Sermon January 7, 2024

Baptism of Our Lord Year B He Took our Place Sermon

Mark 1:4-11

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The First Sunday after the Epiphany (January 6) is traditionally the day when we observe The Baptism of our Lord.  Today, on this First Sunday after the Epiphany, we celebrate the day when Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

And this is important.  Some theologians have argued that apart from His death and resurrection, Christ’s baptism is His most important work for us.  I think everything that Jesus said, or did is important to us, but the day Jesus was baptized certainly is special.

For starters, the Baptism of Jesus is the day when Jesus began His public ministry.  Up until this point, He was the Messiah, but He did not preach or teach or perform miracles for the glory of God.  Yes, He had been a faithful Son, and scripture states that He grew daily in wisdom and in favor with God. 

But now, at the age of 30, the traditional age for a Jewish Rabbi to begin his work, Jesus begins His public ministry.  And it is His baptism that marks this beginning.

Second, the Baptism of Christ is important because it is at His baptism where we have a recognition and proclamation of His identity.  Marks Gospel states “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  What other human beings have ever heard that said to them?  What other human being can claim the favor of the Lord like Jesus received that day at His baptism?

Nobody can.  Jesus is the One and Only Eternal Son of the Father.  And the voice of God proclaims it for all to hear.  And God tells everyone to listen to Him.  And God instructs everyone to believe in Him.

Third, the Sprit was also present the day Jesus was baptized.  Mark tells us “Just as He was coming up out of the water, He saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on Him.”  The Holy Spirit did not descend upon Jesus as a bird of prey, the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as a bird of peace.    

Evoking the peace of God that followed the flood of Noah, the Holy Spirit is at Christ’s baptism in the same form.  The Holy Spirit’s peaceful presence informs us that Jesus is the One who will bring peace between God and humankind.  The Holy Spirit’s peaceful form instructs us that Jesus is the One that will restore our relationship with God.

And so, you can see, that the Baptism of Jesus is an important event.  But the question that still gets asked today concerning the Baptism of Christ is “Why did Jesus have to be baptized?”  After all, that was John’s question and objection.        

And the answer is that Jesus was baptized to usher in a new era known as “The Great Exchange.”  Jesus came to take our place.  Jesus took on human form to take upon Himself our sin.  And so, at His baptism, Jesus took His first step towards the Cross, and which kickstarted the journey to fulfill God’s plan for our salvation.    

Jesus united Himself to us.  He stepped into the water to become our substitute.  Romans, chapter six, explains to us that through our Baptism we have been yoked with Christ. 

His righteousness becomes our righteousness.  His resurrection becomes our resurrection. All our sins go to Him so He can take them away.  And this only happens because of Christ’s Baptism, by which He unites Himself with us. 

For you see, Jesus was Baptized to open wide the door to Heaven.  Marks informs us that “heaven was torn open.”  The pathway to paradise was operational again. 

Genesis informs us that the door to paradise was slammed shut long ago, when Adam & Eve sinned.

Due to original sin, Adam & Eve were cast out of the garden.  And an Angel of the Lord was stationed at the gate with a flaming sword to block humanity from entering it.   But now, the gate to heaven was pushed open again. 

And this was not just a one-time event.  When you and I were baptized, heaven was torn apart to welcome you and I into the Kingdom.  And God declared to each one of us “you are my daughter, you are my son, with whom I am well pleased.” 

Redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we are made pure enough to be welcomed into God’s family.  And all newborn soldiers of the crucified bear on their foreheads the seal of Him who died to take away the sin of the world. 

In the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, we received the gift of faith, and life, and righteousness.  We became a new creation.  We were given a new garment so we could enter the glorious wedding feast with the proper outfit. 

And now no angel with a flaming sword can bar the way.  Our guilt, our sin, our shame, no longer prohibit us from entering the Kingdom. 

Yes, today is an important Sunday in the Church Lectionary Year.  Every year on the First Sunday after the Epiphany, we observe “The Baptism of our Lord.”  On this day we celebrate the day when Jesus was baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist.

And we rejoice in the gift of life that Jesus bestowed upon us when He began the journey to the Cross to fulfill God’s plan for our salvation. And to that I say: “Thanks be to God.”  Amen.

Let us pray: Eternal God, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, you proclaimed Him your beloved Son, and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit.  Grant that all who are baptized into His name joyfully celebrate the gift of life that they have been given and boldly confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.  In Jesus name we pray.  Amen.