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The Baptism of Our Lord – The First Sunday after the Epiphany - Series B

Text: Mark 1:4-11

Title: “Anointed Children of God”

Date: Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pastor Steve Bocklage

Do you remember the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson? To start the show, Johnny’s sidekick, Ed McMahon, would always bring Johnny out with this great announcement: "and heeere’s Johnny."        

         Many, many years before Ed McMahon became an announcer, there lived an announcer like no other, including Ed McMahon himself. This announcer is the one and only John the Baptizer…the one who appears in the desert wilderness wearing a fashionable camel’s hair outfit and a leather belt, and eating delectable locusts, topped off with wild honey. John is out in the dirty, dry desert “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (v. 4) He announces the coming of “…the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29) and prepares the way for the One who is “more powerful than [John]” (v. 7) to come into people’s lives.

Daily in our lives, you and I are to hear John’s proclamation. You are to prepare yourself daily for Jesus by confessing your sins. Prepare yourself daily for Jesus by turning away from your sins and turning toward God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and His truth and love. In repentance, accept and acknowledge that you are a sinner, who needs the forgiveness of almighty God. Humbly declare that you will surrender yourself to God and rely on Him to help you live your life and no longer rely on yourself.

         Years ago, newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson…a Kansas man who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. Still, he believed his relationship with Christ demanded a confession and he even voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money!
         Yesterday, January 6th, was a day in the Church year known as “The Epiphany of Our Lord,” which is the second oldest Church festival behind Easter. Epiphany celebrates the Magi or the Wise Men visiting Jesus, (cf. Matt 2:1-11) who was by then somewhere between one to two-years old. These wealthy Gentile men were from a far away land, guided only by the biggest and brightest star in the sky. They went to worship “this newborn King.” This embodies the entire Epiphany season in the Church, which emphasizes Jesus’ manifestation or revelation as both God and man…as Savior of the world…not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles.

This Jesus…this God-man…is the One John the Baptizer says has come into this world to bring forgiveness to sinners and to take away our guilt and shame. Christ comes to forgive you and me as we repent and turn away from our sins and turn towards His loving and forgiving arms. But first, even though Jesus has no sins to confess, He needs to be baptized by John. Even though the Baptizer protests, according to the other Gospels…it is good, right, and salutary for Jesus to do this. In Matthew 3, Jesus responds to John saying: “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” (Mt. 3:15) In allowing Himself to be baptized in this ordinary way in the Jordan River, Jesus is showing His solidarity with sinners. Even though He is sinless, Jesus identifies Himself with sinners by giving Himself to the necessary but very unpleasant task of bearing our sins upon Himself. Martin Luther points out that Jesus being baptized was the beginning of being the Christ…the anointed One, the Messiah…and was therefore “inaugurated into His entire Messianic office as our Prophet, Priest, and King.” (Lenski, Matthew, p. 133)

         As Jesus of Nazareth rises up from the waters of the Jordan, the extraordinary occurs. In the washing of this One man, all heaven breaks loose! It is as though the heavens can no longer contain themselves, and spills forth upon the earth. Heavenly sights and sounds that are extraordinary and wonderful are seen and heard upon the earth. The Holy Spirit descends as a dove upon Jesus, and the heavenly Father assures Him, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (v 11) The heavenly Father anoints His beloved Son with the Holy Spirit. St. Mark paints a bright and vivid picture for us of our God…the Triune God. The heavenly Father who first spoke at creation (Genesis 1) speaks again. The Holy Spirit who initially hovered above the waters of creation now descends upon the waters of the Jordan. At the very center of it all…stands Jesus. He is the Son of God. His heavenly Father anoints Him with the Holy Spirit.

         This is an event of epic proportions. In the midst of what appears to be quite common and ordinary, the one true God reveals Himself to a people who would not otherwise know Him. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…the Holy Trinity. The heavenly realities are such that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God and is is now made known to all of humanity. This is Jesus’ identity…100% God and simultaneously 100% man! This is who Jesus Christ is. This is His identity!

         So in light of Jesus’ identity, what is your identity? At one time or another throughout our life, each one of us asks questions like: "Who am I? Who do I belong to? Where do I belong? Where have I come from? Where am I going? What, exactly, "makes me tick?" What makes me…me?" To help us answer these identity questions is our society, who is more than ready and willing to help out…even to the point where we can become obsessed with our identity.

Take the advertising industry. It’s rather cruel in its narrow, rigid definitions of who is "in" and who is "out." Advertising constantly bombards you and me with images of who we are based on what we have or should want and how you should look. Television commercials are forever telling you that you are not ‘in with the in-crowd’ if we are not buying and using their product. Magazines insinuate that you are too much like that…and not enough like this.

No wonder so many human beings today struggle with an "identity crisis" in their lives. No wonder millions of people are lost and confused about who they really are and what their real purpose is in life. No wonder many believe they just need to read the latest self-help bestseller or listen to the newest self-help CDs or MP3s, and all of their identity problems will be solved.

         Hogwash! Baloney! Notta! When your heavenly Father anointed you with the Holy Spirit in the glorious moment of your baptism, it was precisely at that moment that all doubts about your identity were removed. When the pastor sprinkled water on your head and said these divine words: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the heavens were “torn open.” Your sin against God and against others was forgiven. It was precisely when you were baptized that you became a precious child of God and a brother or sister of Jesus. At that moment…you were brought into one heavenly family! As St. Paul writes in Ephesians 4: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called—one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph 4:4–6) As an anointed child of God, you are fully reconciled to God through the death of Jesus on the cross. Because of Christ’s resurrection on that first Easter, you are assured of His gift of eternal salvation. Because of the Lord’s ascension into heaven forty days after Easter, Jesus promises He will come again to fully restore you and me unto Himself and make all things new!

 “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29) With the Baptism of Jesus, Satan’s power and dominion are doomed. The world’s redemption, including yours and mine, is at hand through the love of the one true God…the Triune God…Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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