In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Dear Friends in Christ
An elderly priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth gave birth to a son. When this infant was circumcised and given the name John, his father prophesied about his son’s future. Zechariah said these words:
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins because of the tender mercy of our God.
This child grew and became a prophet just as his father Zechariah had said. John came to the region around the Jordan River and began preaching and baptizing people. He preached that they should repent of their sins and be baptized. John baptized them as a sign of God’s grace and forgiveness.
Crowds gathered around John. He and his message caused quite a stir. As we hear in Luke chapter 3, “the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ.”
There was an expectation among the Jews that God would send a Messiah, a Christ. John looked like he might fit the bill. He was dressed like a prophet. He spoke powerful words of repentance and forgiveness.
Was he the one through whom salvation was to come? Was this baptism some new sacrifice that they were to do in order to be forgiven? Was John the Christ?
John was not the Christ. He was a humble servant of the Lord. He knew his calling was to prepare the way for the Messiah. When people started to wonder and question if he was the true Christ, John was quick to answer questions about their expectations.
He pointed them to another, “I baptize you with water, but he [The True Christ] who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John told them, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
John told them about the true source of forgiveness and salvation, the true Christ who would send his Holy Spirit with the gift of faith in the Christ as their savior. Those who would reject the gift of faith and the savior will be condemned.
John preached good news to the people, Good News about the One who was coming after him. He was clarifying what their expectations should be.
What are your expectations of the child you saw in the manger only a few weeks ago? What are your expectations of one who was given the name Jesus and who is also called Immanuel which means God with us? What are your expectations of the one who is called the Christ, meaning the anointed one? What are your expectations about what Jesus Christ was anointed to do?
Let me tell you what Satan has convinced your sinful nature to expect from Jesus. Your sinful nature expects Jesus to be your doctor, your lawyer, your banker, your accountant, your auto mechanic. The expectations of your sinful nature are that Jesus will fix everything in your life. You expect he will change all those around you because THEY need fixing.
Your expectations are that Jesus will look at how hard you try to do the right thing and forgive you because of your effort. Your expectations are that you don’t really sin that much or that your sins are not near as bad as those you hear about on the news.
These are the lies that Satan daily whispers into your ears through our culture. These are the expectations that some religions spread around the world. These are the expectations that are 180° out of phase with Jesus Christ and what God wants you to expect from his Son..
God’s expectations are different than yours. When John came crying in the wilderness and baptizing he came because all are sinners. He was preparing the way for a savior who was coming for sinners. God’s expectations are that all of us confess our sins.
“He desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Tim. 2:4 God’s expectation, his will, is that all people hear the Good News of his Son Jesus Christ. John preached the Good News that the savior was coming who would battle against our sinful nature, a savior who gives us a new nature centered in him. The
Good News shows us an unexpected savior. Luke writes:
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
Today we remember that Jesus got in line with all the sinners who were confessing their sins. Jesus asked to be baptized by John. Luke notes that Jesus was baptized along with “all the people.” In other words, Jesus was baptized like any other run of the mill sinner who had come to John to wash away their sins.
Only one difference, Jesus did not have any sins to wash away. John’s baptism was a baptism for sinners, a baptism of repentance into the forgiveness of sins. Yet, there was Jesus, the sinless Son of God, standing before John, being baptized in the company of sinners.
Even the great prophet John the Baptizer was confused by Jesus request to be baptized. This did not meet his expectations of the Savior. In the gospel of Matthew, we read that John said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you.” Mt. 3:14 John was confused, but Jesus was not.
Jesus knew what he was doing. God’s plan of salvation called for Jesus to take away the sins of the whole world. In the water of the Jordon River, Jesus began the great exchange. In the water of his baptism, Jesus received the sins of the whole world.
He began the exchange that took your sins, your rebellious and sinful nature, your guilt, and he placed them on himself. He became accountable for your sins; the punishment deserved by you was now his responsibility. All the past and future sins of the heavenly Father’s fallen children became the sins of his Son Jesus as he was baptized.
After Jesus did this selfless act, while he was praying, “a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”” Our heavenly Father looked at his Son as the One with no fault of his own, no sin of his own, the perfect sacrifice for the sins that he had just taken as his own.
It was as if the heavenly Father was saying, “This is the One I’ve promised, this is the One you need, this is my Son who will died for your sins.” Our human expectations are not about a savior who became sin for us, but that is exactly who he is for us.
Jesus said to his disciples “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!” Lk. 12:50 He spoke these words not before he stepped into the Jordan River but much late. He spoke them on his way to the cross. There he fulfilled the baptism that began in the Jordan River. On the cross, he died for your sins.
This Jesus is the crucified and risen Lord who commanded His disciples to baptize all people. In His baptism, Jesus was united with you in your sin and death. But when you were baptized, you were united with Jesus in His perfect life and in His death. That’s the other side of the great exchange. That is what is unexpected about your Savior.
What Jesus accomplished through his life and his death on the cross comes to you in your baptism. He was baptized into our sin and death, so that you might be baptized into His death and resurrection. You have been crucified with Christ, buried with him, and raised with him into a new life. Daily his Holy Spirit fights off your sinful nature and through him you live a new life of loving and forgiving.
The Word of God that came to you when you were baptized was the promise that you are made alive in Jesus Christ, free from the power of sin, free from the power of Satan, and free from eternal death.
If there is ever any doubt in your minds about who Jesus is and what he has done for you remember your baptism. It was not something you did for God, it was something he did for you. It is not a new type of sacrifice you must do for God it is God’s way of connecting you with the sacrifice of his Son.
Baptism is God’s gift to you telling you what he has done for you through his Son. At your baptism, heaven was opened. The Holy Spirit descended upon you. The heavenly Father’s voice declared “You are my beloved son, my beloved daughter, forgiven, justified, and free.”
“I’m pleased with you” God said, “I am well-pleased, not because of what you do, but because of what my beloved Son did for you.” He has made you his forgiven children and heirs of eternal life. Where there is water and the Word God, there true life exists. Everyday your baptism should remind you that you have been marked as one who is redeemed by Christ the crucified.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.