The Baptism of Our Lord – St. Matthew 3:13-17
Time moves differently in the Church. Just last week, Jesus was eight days old, and He was in the temple being circumcised according to the Law. Today, He is 30 years old; where does time go?
Now we do have the account of His presentation in the temple when He was welcomed and blessed by Simeon and Anna at 40 days old; and we also have the account of His escapades in Jerusalem when He was 12 years old; but other than that, it has been 30 years of nothing since angels spoke the good news to shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, and a star led the wise men first to Herod and then to the house where Jesus was staying.
A lot can happen in 30 years, but a lot can also be forgotten. Safe to say that over the past 30 years, the residents of Bethlehem still mourn for their sons, but have largely forgotten the one who got away.
And so today is a re-introduction of sorts. Jesus has emerged from the shadows and the obscurity of Nazareth and He is prepared to make Himself known to people far and wide as the Son of God, the one who has come into the world to redeem His people from their sins; the one whom the prophets of old had long foretold. For no longer is this an infant child rolling around in a manger box, or even a teenager talking to teachers of the Law; rather this is the man of the hour, the one who will call out to those sitting in darkness and shine on them the light of His grace and mercy; the one who will restore the blind, the deaf, the lame and the mute; the one who will even raise the dead.
But how do you make such an announcement? Where do you find such a megaphone in 1st century Israel?
You go to the guy with the biggest crowds; you go to the guy who gets all of the attention; you go to the guy who is attracting tax collectors and Pharisees; sinners and Sadducees; soldiers and curious onlookers.
You go to John the Baptist.
That Jesus is baptized is surprising to our ears, but to the people gathered, it is the voice that comes afterward that garners the most attention.
This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.
Those are the words that come from heaven spoken by God the Father as Jesus comes out of the water after He is baptized; and He declares, for all to hear and all to know that this man who stands before them, is His Son, is their Messiah, is the holy one of Israel.
This is Jesus bursting back onto the scene. This is the announcement to the world that now is the day of salvation; now is the day of the Lord.
And people are going to take the hint. Jesus will be the megastar of megastars; traveling far and wide teaching and preaching and performing signs and wonders for the highest and most powerful in society, and for the lowliest and poorest of society. Everyone near and far will want to see and hear what this Jesus has to say; what He has come to do; and how great and deep is the love of God for His people.
The voice of God the Father, speaking those words at His baptism are the catalyst for what is about to happen. Immediately, Peter and Andrew leave John and start to follow Jesus. Others soon follow. There is no stopping this Jesus. Even Pharisees will believe in Him.
But like I said, the Church counts time differently, and in 7 weeks, we will gather again in this place and here a different reading, but one that is very similar to today’s reading.
This time, the focus is not on the crowds and the cool new Jesus that walks the streets of towns and villages; rather the focus will be on the cross; and the fast approaching day when Jesus will hang upon it, as the same people who followed Him and sought out His words and teachings, will demand that He be crucified.
And on that Mount of Transfiguration, the voice of God the Father will speak again, and it will declare the same thing that is declared today: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.
While the crowds and the religious leaders grow weary of Jesus and His breaking of the Sabbath laws, and His associations with those less desirable members of society; not to mention His apocalyptic words regarding the Jerusalem temple; God the Father again speaks words of affirmation and confirmation that this is still His Son, this is still your Savior; this is still the long promised one who has come to redeem His people from their sins.
That one simple sentence forms a bookend for this season of Epiphany, that in the good days and the bad, whether the crowds love Him or hate Him; whether the crowds are trying to make Him king or if they are trying to throw Him off a cliff; God the Father stands by His Son, He is still His beloved, and He is still well pleased with the words and actions that He speaks and does.
But what does this say to you?
First and foremost, it says that even in the darkest hours, God does not play popularity contests, nor does He wait to see which way the polls are going before making a decision. God has declared that Jesus is His own beloved Son, and that He alone is the way that leads to eternal life. God has declared that forgiveness, life and salvation are found in Christ Jesus alone, and therefore we know that they are; for God declares once and for all twice, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
But it also tells us that God the Father stays by us in both the good times and the bad. God did not just send His Son into the world to redeem the world because everyone was having a good day and not sinning too much; nor does God the Father revoke that Son because the world is not as happy with Jesus today as it was a few weeks ago.
God the Father sent His Son into the world to redeem the world, and that is what He is going to do, no matter how good, or more likely how badly we behave. Christ Jesus is here to save His people from their sins; and that is true today when the crowds love Him and it is true tomorrow when they drive Him out of the city and attempt to throw Him off of a cliff.
Because when we face the reality before us, there really are no good days for the creation; there are no days when we need a Savior a little less as opposed to other days. We are indeed poor, miserable sinners, who are in constant need of a redeemer. That God sends His Son to suffer, die and rise for us is truly a sign of how much He loves us and cares for us.
For in your own baptism, God the Father speaks the same words that He does today at the baptism of Jesus: You are my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased. For those words are indeed the bookends of our own lives. We hear them when the water is poured over us, and the word is spoken; and we hear it again when we breathe our last and enter into the eternal kingdom of God.
You are my beloved says God the Father, and you are loved so much that God sends His one and only Son to suffer, die and rise, so that you might live and reign with Him forever.
And this is true on those days when you pray, praise and give thanks; it is true on days when you are here for Bible study, worship, and all the post church meetings. It is true on days when you live your faith to the absolute fullest and everyone who sees you walking down the street says ‘There goes a true believer of God.’
And it is also true on days when you would rather lie, curse, swear and deceive by God’s name. It is true on days when you would rather forsake the Lord’s house and do just about anything else than come and sing hymns and liturgy and listen to a sermon. It is even true on days when you walk down the street, and people wonder how God could ever love you.
God stands by you from beginning to end, just as He stood by Jesus from beginning to end. For you are His beloved child, whom He has called by name to be His own; whom He has sent His one and only Son into the world to suffer, die and rise for.
And so today Jesus stands in the waters of the Jordan, later He will stand in fields and in the temple; later He will stand on a mountain; later still He will hang on a cross; so that one day you might stand forgiven and redeemed before the throne of His Father who is in heaven