Based on: Matthew 3:13-17
Do you remember Naaman? He was the foreigner who came to Elisha the prophet to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha told Naaman he would be healed if he went to the Jordan river and washed himself seven times. Do you remember what Naaman said? He became angry and said, “I know of rivers far better than the Jordan, why couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed.” Eventually, he did wash himself in the Jordan and was cured, but at first he couldn’t believe that the Jordan river would do him any good.
Actually, he was right. The Jordan river really wasn’t going to do him any good. The Jordan river could never cure him of leprosy except that God’s promise was attached to it. God told him through the prophet Elisha to wash in the Jordan. The power in the waters of the Jordan to wash away his leprosy came from the Word of God.
What about baptism? Here in church when we baptize a baby, I put water in the baptismal font. It’s just plain water. If you want, you can come back to the sacristy after the service and see the faucet I use to fill the font. When you look toward the front and you watch a baptism take place what you see is a baby’s head get wet. How can that little bit of water create faith in a child. How can plain water wash away sins? How can common water save a precious soul? It can’t, except that God promises that it does! God’s promise gives baptism the power to do the impossible – to change us from a wretched follower of Satan into a blessed child of God.
That miracle was performed by God on you. Do you remember it? Perhaps not, but how often do you think about your baptism and the blessings God gives through it? Do not despise the water of your baptism as Naaman despised the water of the Jordan, but instead cherish it as Christ did. Do not think of it as mere water, but recognize how Jesus gave it the power to change you.
Jesus is about 30 years old when he comes to the Jordan river to be baptized. For the first 30 years of his life he had been doing what he would continue to do until the day he died – obeying God’s law for you. He did all the things we should do but don’t. He obeyed his parents. He helped instead of hurt others. He treated marriage with respect. He cherished God’s Word. Love for God was always first in his heart.
Now Jesus was starting his public ministry. For the next three years he would gather his disciples and train them, suffer ridicule, hatred, and insincere praise from others, suffer beatings and death at the hands of sinful men, and suffer hell according to God’s will.
He begins his public ministry and his journey to the cross with this journey to the Jordan river to be baptized. He doesn’t start at the temple where you might expect the Son of God to start his ministry, but he starts at the Jordan river where repentant sinners gather to receive the assurance of forgiveness. He has no need to repent. He is sinless, yet like one of the many sinners coming to John the Baptist to be washed in the river, our Savior comes.
He comes because it is the will of God that he be baptized. He comes because he is our substitute. He comes to be one of us. I am the one who needs to be among those other sinners at the Jordan in repentance. I am the one, like John, who should be baptized by him, and yet he comes to be baptized. So he begins his ministry with this public proclamation of his intent to save the sinners that surround him, sinners like me. Through your baptism you have the benefit of his salvation.
Jesus cherished baptism. By taking this Journey to the Jordan, Jesus shows us how special this gift of God truly is. How then can we despise our baptism, or how can we not think often of the great blessings of our own baptism? Instead, every time we see this baptismal font we are reminded of our own baptism whether it was at this font or at another.
Even if you do not remember your baptism I can tell you the words that were spoken over you were “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Maybe it wasn’t exactly that word for word or perhaps it was even in a different language, but you were baptized into the name of the Triune God.
As we continue to look at Jesus’ baptism, we see all three persons of the Trinity are revealed to us. The God that was there at our baptism, the God who claims us as his own in baptism, was there at the baptism of Jesus.
God the Father reveals himself with a voice from heaven that said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Would God say that about any of us if we didn’t have Christ? No. Jesus is the only one who pleased God with everything he did. That’s good to know because in baptism we receive the perfect life of Christ. In baptism we clothe ourselves with Christ, as Paul says. So, when God looks at us he sees his Son, Jesus, and he says, “with you I am well pleased.”
The Holy Spirit also revealed himself at the baptism of Jesus. He came on Jesus in the form of a dove. In the book of Acts Peter says that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” throughout his ministry. Here the Holy Spirit comes on him visibly at the beginning of his ministry. And he comes as a dove – a symbol of peace. Remember what the angels said at the birth of Jesus? “Peace to men.” Do you remember what Jesus said to his disciples when he saw them on the evening of his resurrection? “Peace be with you!” Jesus came to bring peace between us and God. He was working to establish that peace even as he was baptized.
Of course Jesus was there at his baptism. There was the sinless Son of God coming out of the Jordan River. Through Scripture we see the dove and we hear the voice and in faith we know that he is the second person of the Trinity. He is God. This man being baptized is also God.
Look forward three years and see this very same God-man dying on the cross for our sins. His death for our sins gives baptism its power. Paul says that at our baptism we are baptized into his death. In baptism his death and resurrection becomes ours. It is as if we died on the cross and all our sins have been punished, except that we didn’t have to suffer that punishment. Every baptism brings Good Friday and Easter Sunday to us and makes them our Good Friday and Easter Sunday. That is the power of baptism. That is why we can say that baptism brings faith, forgiveness, salvation, and the rest of God’s blessings. Because in baptism all the benefits of Christ’s work becomes ours.
At this baptismal font see your Savior. Even in baptism he becomes one of us and associates himself with our sin. Then at his crucifixion he removes our sin and fills our baptism with all the meaning and power of God’s unbroken promises.