Baptism of our Lord Sunday Year A 2023
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today is the First Sunday after the Epiphany, a day that our liturgical calendar recognizes as the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord. Each year (on this day) we read one of the Gospel accounts of the time when Jesus went to John the Baptist and was baptized by him in the river Jordan and how, at that baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and acknowledged as the Son of God.
Now, one question that the confirmation students ask me when we discuss baptism is: “Why did Jesus get baptized?” Afterall, Jesus was/is without sin. And the chief blessing or purpose of baptism is the washing away of sin. So why did the sinless One allow Himself to be baptized in the river Jordan?
And the answer to this question is this… Jesus was baptized to publicly identify with us sinners whom He came to save. 2 Corinthians describes it this way: “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
Just like everything else that Christ does, He does it for us. He is born for us. He suffers for us. He dies for us. He rises for us. He ascends into heaven for us. He is baptized for us. He was baptized for you and for me.
In His baptism Christ identifies himself with us. In our baptism, we are identified with Him. In His baptism, Jesus takes our sin upon Himself. In our baptism, He takes our sins away. In His baptism, He undertakes the fulfillment of all righteousness. In our baptism, we are declared righteous for His sake.
It is all connected, and it is done for our benefit. And what benefit does baptism bestow upon us? To answer this question let us now turn to Martin Luther’s Small Catechism Instruction on Baptism that is printed on the insert in your bulletin.
Luther’s Small Catechism on Baptism
What is Baptism?
C: Baptism is not water only, but it is water used together with God’s Word and by His command.
P: What is this Word?
C: In Matthew 28 our Lord Jesus Christ says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
P: What benefit does God give in Baptism?
C: In Baptism God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what He has promised.
P: What is God’s promise?
C: In Mark 16 our Lord Jesus Christ says: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”
P: How can water do such great things?
C: It is not water that does these things, but God’s Word with the water and our trust in this Word. Water by itself is only water, but with the Word of God it is a life-giving water which by grace gives the new birth through the Holy Spirit. St. Paul writes in Titus 3: “He saved us… in virtue of His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life. The saying is sure.”
P: What does Baptism mean for daily living?
C: It means that our sinful self, with all its evil deeds and desires, should be drowned through daily repentance; and that day after day a new self should arise to live with God in righteousness and purity forever. St. Paul writes in Romans: “We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
My Friends: Baptism is a gift Gd has given to us. In Baptism, water is poured over us to show us that our sins have been/are washed away. Even though our sinful nature remains, our sin no longer counts against us.
Water, used together with God’s Word, assures us that in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are united with Christ, not only in His death but also in His life.
We are no longer spiritually dead. We have been given eternal life. Through the Cross Jesus has completed God’s Redeeming Activity for us.
You are no longer God’s enemy. You are now God’s own child. Through Baptism you and I have been reborn into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Sin, death, and the power of the evil one has been conquered. And now we are part of God’s family. And that is why we can celebrate today. As the Apostle Paul explained: “For if we have been united with Christ in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.”
And to that I say: “Thanks be to God.”
Let us pray: Almighty God, you anointed Jesus at His Baptism with the Holy Spirit; and revealed Him as your beloved Son. Daily remind us of the promises you make in baptism so that we may rise to new life and live together in grace. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.