Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Epiphany 1 – (January 11, 2009)
The Baptism of Our Lord
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “The Least and the Most”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Baptism of Our Lord from Matthew chapter 3, as well as St. Paul’s words from I Corinthians, “Let him who boast, boast in the Lord.”
Boasting. It is our national pastime I think. Whether it is a child talking about how much faster, smarter or better they are than another child, or an adult boasting about their house, job, family or whatever, we all love to toot our own horn. Now to be fair, we don’t always do this in obvious ways. Sometimes we cover it up in a false humility, but it is there nonetheless. We are all selfish by nature. We all want to make sure that everyone else knows what we do, what we are worth, and that we are worth more than others.
But saint Paul reminds us that this is not the way it is with God and His holy Kingdom. He wrote in his introduction to the book of Corinthians:
1Cor. 1:26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
This is hard for us to grasp, it really is. We don’t want to buy it. We want to believe that God rewards a good effort, and that as long as we try really hard, God will makeup the difference. You know the adage: God helps those who help themselves. Of course, that’s not from the Bible. It’s from Benjamin Franklin (1757 in the Poor Richard’s Almanac), but it’s still close enough. Right? No.
Boasting of course is another word for pride. Pride means to be puffed up, to be convinced that you are right and that you are better than anyone else. Now sometimes pride can be a healthy thing. We can talk about school pride or pride in our community. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Here we are talking about believing especially that it is your own works before God that matter, your attitude, your belief that you are a better Christian than others. All of us have this prideful, boasting attitude within us somewhere. No matter how bad of a Christian you think you are, there is always someone you know that is worse. That makes it easy. At least you aren’t at the bottom of the pile. Of course, God is not fond of this mindset. St. Paul writes, “You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” (Romans 2:23 ESV)
So all of this talk about pride and boasting brings us back to our Gospel for today, the Baptism of our Lord. When Jesus stands in the waters of the Jordan river, He does so as the Son of God and the Son of Mary. John doesn’t want to baptize Him: “I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me!” But Jesus replies with this wonderful Gospel proclamation, ““Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”” (Matthew 3:15 ESV) In other words, Jesus, the Son of God, the creator of the universe, the king of kings and lord of lords, let’s John in on this work of salvation. Only not just John. I would contend that the “us” there actually includes us, you and I as well!
This is what I mean. Jesus was born the Son of Mary. He is quite literally our brother in the flesh. When He does something, you do something. It’s that simple. Everything Jesus does, He does for you. So when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan river to fulfill all righteousness, you are there. This is what our Lord’s baptism does. God declares Jesus His beloved Son, and now, by your baptism, you fall under that
St. Paul calls this “boasting in the Lord”. God ties himself to your future so much that it’s a little unnerving. Yet that is the love God showers upon you in Holy Baptism. What baptism does for you is makes your glory, your boasting be in God, not in yourself and your failings, big and small. Perhaps Luther wrote it best in the Large Catechism:
“Thus we see what a great and excellent thing Baptism is, which snatches us from the jaws of the devil and makes God our own, overcomes and takes away sin and daily strengthens the new man, always remains until we pass from this present misery to eternal glory. Therefore let everybody regard his Baptism as the daily garment which he is to wear all the time.” Large Catechism [Tappert p.446 #83]
God clothes you in Holy Baptism. Jesus stands in those waters, and God declares Him the beloved Son. When He does this for Jesus, He does it for you as well. You have been rescued from sin, death, and the power of the devil. You no longer have to find your identity simply in yourself, and your accomplishments and failures. Now your identity is in the ONE who stands in the water with you, loving you with a whole heart, forgiving your sins, and drawing you into His loving embrace. Boast in the Lord, dearly beloved! He has done all things for you. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.