O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
In the water
In the water
Based on Mt. 3:13-17
Preached on January 19, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, there once was a farmer with a beautiful farm. Horses, cows, chickens, ducks - He had all sorts of animals and a large vibrant pond for them to frolic in. Every day the animals would splash around in their watering hole. They would drink, and bathe and play in the water. But one day everything changed. In the midst of their frolicking, while the sun shone brightly in the sky, the pond suddenly turned black. Nearby underground drilling struck oil and the once vibrant pond quickly filled with the new dark mess. The animals were covered in it. Their fur and feathers coated in the thick suffocating oil. They and everything they touched was stained, soaked in the oily darkness that would not come off. It seemed the entire farm was ruined until one last animal came slowly out of the barn. The other animals didn't notice it at first, though perhaps they should have. For it was totally white. An innocent young lamb, as white as wool. The lamb saw all the other animals covered in oil. He saw the cherished pond, as black as tar. And even though some of the ducks began quacking at him to warn him, His shaky young legs carried His soft little body down towards the pond. As far as the eye could see, it was thick, dark blackness as the pure, white lamb walked into the pond.
Today we remember the Baptism of our Lord. That day when the Son of God, the holy and innocent Lamb of God, went down to the Jordan River like a sinner. Like a sinner - for that is what John was doing there - baptizing sinners. Those going out to him were confessing their sins and being washed for repentance. And Jesus was there too. No, He had no sin to confess. He was there for another reason, the reason He came to this world - to find the lost. Jesus is looking for sinners, and He finds them in the water.
It is quite the scene, isn't it? This clean, holy man pushing Himself into the most unclean of places. The lamb walking into the oil spill. Part of us doesn't want it to happen. As the prophet John said, "I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" You are the One giving out this repentance. You are the clean One, the cleaning One. You should be washing me, and you want me to wash you? Don't come here, you'll get covered in our mess. Your white wool will become black.
This resistance of ours reveals what is really going on in our heart. It reveals our selfish, independent motives. What we are really saying is "I couldn't let you clean up my mess. It is my mess. I need to clean it up myself. If you need to get involved, it would only make me feel guiltier, because I still think I can fix things. Yeah, I got a little oil on me, but I can clean it off myself. The truth is part of me comes to Church to figure out how I can fix my own life, I don't really want a Savior who does it all for me.
Of course, what this means is that we are not understanding the gravity of the spill. That old Adam in us still thinks he can do it. Like unreasoning animals we flail and fight against the oil, imagining that we can shake it off, that the harder we try, the closer we'll come to being white again. But our efforts only make the oil soak in deeper. This pure, white Lamb of God is not here on the water's edge because things are almost fixed. He is here because they cannot be fixed. Because there is no other way for things to be clean.
"I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" But Jesus answered him, "Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." You are right John, but I am here to save sinners. I am here to make sinners righteous. I want to be one with them. Baptism is necessary now to justify the ungodly - to clean up this mess. John, I am here to wash you, now watch and see how I do it.
The animals watched in horror as the lone white lamb strode into the pitch. The oil soaked into his wool like a paint brush. He stopped there in the oily water waiting for a moment. And that's when the animals saw it. The oil, the blackness was being drawn to him. He was absorbing it all like a sponge. The farthest reaches of the spill were closing in on this oil-infused lamb. The rest of the animals plunged into the newly cleaned water and as they did the death black came off. They were clean. They were clean. The unrecognizable lamb hobbled out of the pond. He struggled away from the pond and the animals and limped up to the top of the hill. And there, hunched over by the weight of the oil he breathed his last.
Jesus is not in the water to be washed of sin. He is in the water to take our sin. Behold, the Lamb of God! He is holy and righteous, yet in the water there is no greater sinner than Jesus. He carries the entire oil spill out from that water. He bears every dark thought, every evil word, and every unclean action of every human who has ever lived, and even those who have yet to live! And if all that were not enough, there's more.
Jesus is baptized so that baptism actually does something - so that He Himself is there - in the water. Baptism = Jesus. His blood is in the water. His death is in the water. His resurrection and eternal life are in the water - and all of it for you. Where Christ finds your sin in the water, you find His cleanness, His righteousness. Where Christ finds your impure thoughts, you find His pure thoughts. Water and word is what God uses to put your sin on Jesus and to put His righteousness, His justification on you. You are baptized! Tell yourself this eternal truth everyday! Jesus has me. He washed me and I will be clean in Him forever.
This baptism is so powerful, so absolutely potent, that what was once closed to man now stands open because Jesus is in the water. Heaven burst open with joy because Jesus is in the water. The entire Trinity is here to save you because Jesus is in the water. This is My Beloved Son, the Father declares, My Spirit rests upon Him, and because He is in the water I open my heaven to you.
And then the heavenly Father says something our English can barely contain. "Eudokaasa." We translate it, "I am well pleased," but it means a whole lot more than that. It means, "I was pleased with this my Son when we created the world. I am pleased with my Son now because He is redeeming my people at great personal loss, and I will always be pleased with my Son, even forevermore. Because He is my Only Son and look what He has done. He has put Himself in the water for you.
Fellow baptized saints, you live in the water, you live in Christ. So use it well (quote 596 gerhardt baptism stanza). In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr