The Baptism of Our Lord (Matthew 3:13-18)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR
The Baptism of Our Lord + January 7, 2018
Text: Matthew 3:13-18

The Baptism of Jesus is one of the pivotal moments in His ministry.  You could say it was the very start of it.  But that it was started with baptism is significant.  Listen again to the exchange that John and Jesus have:
13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:13–17)
Jesus underwent John’s baptism for sinners.  Yet, He did so for a very special purpose.  Jesus was baptized with sinners, for sinners.  Yes,. His Baptism was the beginning of His ministry, but what a unique ministry that was.
When we call the Son of God Jesus Christ, it’s important to know what Christ means.  As I told our junior confirmands recently, Christ is not just Jesus’ last name.  Christ is a title, meaning One who is Anointed.  It’s the same as the Hebrew “Messiah”[1]  Perhaps we should also pause to consider what anointing is too, because that’s not a common term.  Anointing was the rite of pouring oil over the head of a candidate for a holy office.  There were three offices that oil was used: prophets, priests, and kings.  Elisha was anointed prophet, Aaron and his sons were anointed for their service as priests, and kings were anointed to rule over God’s people.[2]
Yet when Jesus is baptized, He is anointed not just with oil, but with the Holy Spirit:
16And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”” (Matthew 3:16–17)
In days of old, different men had served various offices, but now in Christ’s Baptism, He was anointed as the end-times fulfillment of all three:
Jesus is the prophet foretold by Moses, 15“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” (Deuteronomy 18:15)   Jesus is the eternal priest, not after the order of Aaron: 4The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.”” (Psalm 110:4)   Jesus is the King and Son of David, 12When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12–13)
Jesus was the one uniquely qualified for that three-fold office of prophet, priest, and king.  Only Jesus spoke the Word of God exactly as He heard it from His Father.  Not only did He speak it, but He fulfilled what had been spoken so that after His resurrection, He truly could say that everything in the law, the prophets, and the Psalms was fulfilled by Him.[3] He alone is the one who offers a sacrifice without having to atone for His own sin first.  More than that, He offers up Himself as the spotless Lamb for the sins of—not just the worshippers present, but—for the whole world.  Jesus alone, unlike all those who came before Him was King without corruption, scandal, or selfish interest.  He rules His people as a perfect servant and a perfect Lord.  That’s why He is the one with whom the Father is well-pleased.
At the Jordan River, Jesus was baptized and anointed into these offices on your behalf and for your salvation.  Now you are baptized into Him—the Sinless One for the sinner, “the Righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God.”[4]  And we know from Romans 6 that everyone of us who is baptized into Him is baptized into His death for the forgiveness of sins, and raised for newness of life.
What you may not know is that you are also baptized and anointed for an office through the Christ your Lord.  4As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4–5)  Every one of us who is baptized into Christ has been made a priest to God.  Do you know what this means?  It means that everything which you carry out in faith is a sacrifice offered to God.  For the baptized, it’s no longer a matter of living for yourself—your personal preferences and looking out for number one; it’s about being called to serve the Lord as a priest and that all your life would be a sacrifice offered in praise to Him who did not spare Himself.
God anointed you for loving service to your neighbor. In the family: 25Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…22Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:25, 22)   1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  4Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1, 4)
On the job: 22Bondservants [employees], obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” (Colossians 3:22) 1Masters [bosses], treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1)
In Church: 17Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)  2[Pastors,] shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; 3not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5:2–3)
In society, 13Citizens, Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,” (1 Peter 2:13)
This is the description of the office each of us has been baptized into.  Whatever position God places us in, our lives are lived to His glory and honor.
Consider this calling with respect to the relationships God has given you, and in our congregation. If you still haven’t completed your Time and Talents survey, notice the language there “Would like to Serve” “Am Now Serving”, etc.  It’s more than just doing a job.  It’s about reflecting on the gifts God has given you and applying those gifts for service to your neighbor.  It isn’t about trying to serve the Lord so He notices you (He’s already found you when you were lost in your sin), but it’s about living in your baptismal anointing.
“We live on earth only so that we should be a help to other people. Otherwise, it would be best if God would strangle us and let us die as soon as we were baptized and had begun to believe. For this reason, however, He lets us live that we may bring other people also to faith as He has done for us … Everything then should be directed in such a way that you recognize what God has done for you and that you, thereafter, make it your highest priority to proclaim this publically and call everyone to the light to which you are called.” (The Church Comes from All Nations, (CPH, 2003), p. 20)
Christ our Lord was anointed at His Baptism to be Prophet, Priest, and King, and in His perfect work you and I by grace have a place in His Kingdom.  Pray that His Holy Spirit would guide and enable you to perform your own calling as a Kingdom of Priests to our God, “that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16).  Amen.
[1] Psalm 2:2, Isaiah 61:1
[2] 1 Kings 19:16, Exodus 28:41, 2 Samuel 2:4
[3] Luke 24:44
[4] 1 Peter 3:18

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