Sermon for the Baptism of our Lord based on Matthew 3:13-17
Dear baptized believers: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
God doesn’t do things just for show. He’s not a poser or a pretender. He doesn’t care for empty pomp or ceremonies. When God does something, there is a reason He does it, and He accomplishes something through what He does.
When it comes to the baptism of our Lord, then, we know that it was not an empty show that took place. Jesus was not merely baptized to be an example or to make a demonstration. Herein can lie some confusion.
John the Baptist was baptizing with a baptism of repentance, but Jesus had no sins of which He needed to repent. All the crowds of sinners were coming and confessing their sins, repenting of them, and receiving baptism. So, if Jesus’ baptism was not just an empty show, and if He had no sins of which He needed to repent, why was He baptized? Why does Jesus stand with the crowds of sinners and receive baptism like a sinner?
That’s what John the Baptist wondered, too. He said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John wasn’t just saying that he’d rather not baptize Jesus, he was saying that it doesn’t make any sense to him. Jesus is the greater; John the lesser. Jesus is perfect; John is sinful. Jesus would institute a Baptism with the Holy Spirit; John was merely baptizing with water. Why would Jesus come to John for baptism?
Jesus responded to John by saying, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” See, Jesus’ baptism was not only for show. Jesus’ baptism fulfilled all righteousness.
Righteousness is the state of being right before God. Righteousness means being acceptable before God. Righteousness is perfection, holiness, and purity. Jesus fulfilled all this in His baptism.
It cannot be for Himself that He fulfilled these things. Jesus was already right before God and acceptable before God. Jesus was already perfect, holy, and pure. Rather, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for you. To prove this, the heavens were torn open at Jesus’ baptism, once again for you.
Heaven was already open for Jesus. He came from heaven and would return to heaven. At Jesus’ baptism, heaven was opened for you. All righteousness was fulfilled for you.
The Holy Spirit descended like a dove and rested on Jesus. God the Father announced from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
See, the Baptism of our Lord was no empty show. It was no empty ceremony or demonstration. Jesus’ baptism fulfilled all righteousness. Heaven was opened, the Holy Spirit was present, and it was well pleasing to God the Father.
So also, your Baptism was no empty show. It was no empty ceremony or demonstration. Because of Jesus’ baptism, in your Baptism you received Jesus’ righteousness. Because of Jesus’ baptism, in your Baptism heaven was torn open for you, and remains open to receive you when you die. You were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God the Father declared you His son with whom He is well pleased.
No one can take this away from you. God will never forget His promises to you that He made to you when you were baptized. He’s not going to change His mind about you and expect you to fulfil the righteousness that Jesus already fulfilled for you. God’s not going to close heaven to you or say that you are no longer pleasing to Him.
In order that you don’t wander from Him, God has given you His Word to strengthen your faith and teach you. In order that you won’t forget His promises to you, He reminds you again and again of His promises in the Bible.
So that you won’t walk away from all the promises that He has made to you in your Baptism, God gives you a meal that nourishes your faith and feeds your soul.
The Lord’s Supper is no empty show. It is no empty ceremony or demonstration. It’s not some meaningless ritual that we follow for the sake of tradition. God doesn’t do things just for show. He’s not a poser or a pretender. He doesn’t care for empty pomp or ceremonies. When God does something, there is a reason He does it, and He accomplishes something through what He does.
In the Lord’s Supper, God gives us the body and blood of His Son, Jesus, our Saviour, to eat and to drink. Through it, He strengthens us in the faith of our Baptism and He nourishes us to eternal life. Through it, He gives us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
God gives us these real and certain Sacraments because He knows us. He knows how weak we are and how prone to wander. He knows that we are in a world filled with trouble and illness, doubts and temptation. He knows the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to devour us.
To save us from real sins, from real temptations, from real doubts, and from a real enemy, no empty show would do. Thus, God gives to us real gifts in the Sacraments to give to us the righteousness that Christ has accomplished through His birth, baptism, life, death, and resurrection.
Because you are baptized into Christ, when God looks at you, He doesn’t see your sins. He sees Christ’s righteousness. There is no remaining righteousness for you to fulfil. After all, Christ did say that He would fulfil all righteousness.
All righteousness is fulfilled, and has been given to you in your Baptism, because Baptism is not some empty show or ceremony. Baptism is where you received Christ’s righteousness; where you were declared right and acceptable before God – perfect, holy, and pure. Baptism is where heaven was torn open for you, and remains open to receive you when you die. Baptism is where you were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, and God the Father declared you His son with whom He is well pleased. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.