In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When God is favorably disposed toward us, all is good.
And behold a voice from heaven saying, “This One is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased.”
Jesus was baptized so that our baptisms would work.
Baptism wasn't a new ritual for the Jews, in fact baptism was a regular part of their lives. Every day, actually, the Jews had ritual “washings” that they did.
In our Catechism, Luther gives us the following directive for Morning Prayer: “In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say:” and then suggests a rule/order of prayer for us. If the Jews / would have had a catechism perhaps their Morning Prayer section would begin: “In the morning when you get up, baptize yourself and say:” then would follow perhaps the Ten Commandments and the Shammah “Hear o Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one,” or some similar passages.
In the Old Testament, not only did they re-baptize, but they baptized themselves, / and that every day. Of course, their sacrament of initiation was not this baptizing, just like making the sign of the cross is not a sacrament. Rather, they had circumcision, we have now Christian Baptism.
The point is that baptism itself wasn't a new thing. After all, when the Herodians (the ones sent by the Pharisees) confronted John about who he was, they also asked this question: “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” The issue was not that baptism was a new concept to them. But never before had anyone been baptized by anyone else. The Jewish rituals call for each to baptize themselves. There, / in the Jordan, people were being baptized by John. That was strange, that was new.
Then, one day, Jesus approaches John, and right away in the Reading, the climax of the story is given away, for it says that Jesus approached John for a particular reason: and that reason was, “to be baptized by him.”
So, next there was this dialogue between Jesus and John; / Jesus having to convince John that baptizing Him was OK and necessary. Then John submitted to Jesus' wishes and the story turned out just as we were told it would: Jesus gets baptized.
Then, the interesting stuff starts to happen. The final two verses of the Reading tell us this:
But when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and the Spirit of God came, descending like a dove and coming upon Him. And behold, a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased.”
At Christmas we see how God became man, how God intimately united Himself to us, humans. Here, at the Festival of the Baptism of Our Lord, we see how we are united to God.
Jesus is one of us: completely, fully human like us. So when He is baptized, we are baptized.
What we have today in Christian Baptism is nothing new. When you were baptized, that action was nothing new, it was as if it already happened before. It did. This is what it means to be Christian: you are united with Christ, completely, fully.
When Jesus approached John at the river Jordan, it was as if you were also approaching; that was your moment, too. These stories in the Gospels, like here in Matthew, these aren't just stories, they are heavenly, eternal images.
This is why Sunday School is so important for the kids (and for the adults, too). Children, you need to see yourself in the life of Jesus. The Life of Jesus is your life, too.
So when the Holy Spirit came, descending like a dove out of heaven, and landing on Jesus at His baptism, you can be assured that the Spirit, the Lord and giver of Life, who proceedeth from God, that same Spirit has descended upon you also. The Spirit of God, in you, upon you.
Likewise, when the voice out of the heaven spoke, the heavenly Father wasn't only speaking about His only-begotten Son, but about all his children whom He loves very much.
He said, “This One is my beloved Son, in Him I am well pleased.” Yes, the Father is well pleased with you, because He is well pleased with Jesus, whom you are united to in the most intimate way.
The teachings that Christ gave to His Church are simple. So often we confuse them, but that's not God's problem, that's ours. Repent. Believe like a child. God loves you like a child, like His child, as if you were His only child. He spoils you, He gives you more than enough.
Parents, you know this is how it goes. When you are well pleased with your children, you give them more. You can't help yourself, they are so lovable. Yes, even you, with limited resources in this world, you find a way to provide more for your children. How much more your heavenly Father, who has unlimited resources, how abundantly does He provide you.
Today, you who are baptized and are loved by the heavenly Father, He will provide for you a Meal that satisfies eternal hunger. He who eats this Bread and drinks of this Cup will never hunger again. And that's enough. After you eat and drink the holy Supper today, you truly may depart this life in peace. You will be well prepared.
But if this week proves to be like last week, most of you will return here. And guess what? Your heavenly Father will provide that same eternal meal again, preparing you for eternity again, week after week, because it is true: / some week, you won't come back here, you will fall asleep and go home. Until that day, our Lord will not deny you one more taste of heavenly Food. Whenever you request It, the Father provides.
Just like dear children asking their dear Father: Daddy, please. Over and over again. And He can't help Himself, the Father gives in, over and over again. You see, the problem is never a lack of supply. Just think about this: has there ever been a time in your life, that you desired the sacrament, and the Father said no to you? Now, perhaps you have been denied the Sacrament. But that has never been God's doing. The Sacrament was made for those who desire it. No, if you really think about it, the resistance has always been the other way around.
Either for a lack of desire or for a misunderstanding, we are the ones who have not asked enough. As Scripture says, “you have not, because you ask not.”
Dear Christian: the Father is well pleased with you; you are baptized, like Jesus. You are free, you are at liberty to take from your Father's pantry as often as you desire. So just ask. And if you yourself have a problem; if you are lacking in desire, / then take Luther's advice in the Catechism, in the Christian Questions and Their Answers.
The question he asks is this: “But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?”
And the answer: “To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15–16 and in 1 John 2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.”
One with God. That is the benefit of baptism. Communion, the common union in Christ Jesus. Baptism opens up the heavens and the heavenly storeroom to you. And this, because you are baptized into Christ Jesus. You are the Father's child, whom He loves abundantly, in you He is well pleased.
In +Jesus' name. Amen.