Sermon – Epiphany 1; the Baptism of Our Lord
January 13, 2019
Mark 1:9-12, Romans 6:1-11 ‘New Direction’
CT: Christian Baptism changes our relationship to both the law and sin, as Jesus’ obedience and cross-work are transferred into our lives.
Intro: January is the month where our resolutions meet the resistance of every day life. New Year’s Resolutions have been made; money is spent on a new exercise machine or gym membership, others dive into a new diet or buy into a weight loss program, but there are no quick fixes for the waistline. To make it worse, a little sweat and time tends to wear down our resolve. The experts agree that in order to enjoy the lasting benefits of lower weight and better fitness we need more than a resolution; we need a change in lifestyle—go in a new direction!
Direction: That was John the Baptist’s message, and it began with the setting that John delivered his message in. Unlike Jesus who taught wherever the people were, the people went out to meet John in the wilderness; a dry and inhospitable place. The same environment our sin has created in our relationship with God; a fitting place to preach repentance! And John’s baptism in the Jordan River said it all; it was a baptism of repentance for the remission of sin. It stated that the people were sinful and unprepared to meet the Messiah. It says that we too are sinful and in need of forgiveness. It said to those people that they needed to reprioritize all they left behind to get to that wilderness place. And we too are good at putting everything but God first. (What do you trust above God? Where do you go first before calling on Him with your need? How slow we are to use God’s name rightly; calling upon Him in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving in every circumstance. And do you see the importance of your rest in Christ; in keeping the Sabbath holy; in your need for a stronger relationship with your heavenly Father?) John calls us to rethink what’s important; what the purpose of life is; why we’re here and how we’re going to get where we’re going. To do so, we need a new direction away from the wilderness of sin that leads to death; a new direction through the water to the way of life.
It’s what Paul is saying in Romans. “Are we able to continue in sin that grace may abound. By no means,” we are going in a new direction; a direction given us in the waters of our Baptism!
John’s Baptism: That’s what John’s baptism was doing; setting people in a new direction. “All the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.” John’s insistence on repentance said God’s people were in fact sinners, and in that way were no different than the Gentiles, in need of forgiveness. Waiting for the Messiah, looking for the Kingdom and their place in it meant a quantum shift in direction. We need that new direction too, but no number of New Year’s resolutions will make it work; we can’t find it or follow it without God’s intervention.
Jesus’ Baptism: And that’s what Jesus is saying when He stepped into the Jordan to be baptized by John; all the good intentions of John’s baptism would only too quickly fall away if someone didn’t do something about all that sin. And Jesus said, “Here I am; put them on me! I will be the game changer; I am the new direction all people need!” Jesus, the sinless Son of God stepped into the Jordan River to fulfill all righteousness; that He could take on your sin and in exchange give you His righteousness. And the Father’s response tore open the heavens: “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.”
Tested: The Father’s words and the Holy Spirit’s presence made Jesus a target for the devil, and Satan assaulted Him, but for your sake Jesus prevailed. Mark’s Gospel gives a picture of angels ministering and helping Jesus stand firm in the face of Satan’s accusations against you and me. (The way we put so many things above and before God’s Word; our tendency to claim all that we have to be our own—that we’ve earned them or deserve them; and the number of times we test God with our argumentation and rebellion against His will) Every temptation Jesus faced is common to all of mankind, the same ones you and I face today and more; He did so bearing the sins of the world. Jesus lived to die—to carry our sins—to make possible the words of Romans 6 about our Baptism.
Our Baptism: Your Baptism gives you a new direction, because it directly connects you to Jesus’ death and resurrection. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” The Holy Spirit who descended on Jesus like a dove now lives in you. We have been severed from the root of sin; unbelief. The Spirit has made us alive in Christ by graciously grafting us into a living faith, which is firmly entwined around the cross where all our sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake, which is why God can say over you, “You are my beloved child. Because of Christ I am pleased with you!”
In your Baptism you received the mark of the cross upon your heart and forehead as one redeemed by Christ the crucified; you now have a target painted on you that says I believe in Jesus and what He has done for me! It’s like a red flag in the devil’s face, and he will assault you—and me. But Jesus defeated the devil, He bore our sins, and because we have died with Christ, we have been set free from sin; the devil can no longer use our sins against us. The cross of Jesus turned his accusations into hollow lies. Sin does not simply go away, but you have a new direction; you now walk in a newness of life.
New Life: This newness of life is described in Romans 7: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing….Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Your newness of life is not void of trouble, evil, or sin, but it is rooted in faith, lived free from the power of sin to accuse us. It means that you can now fear and love God so that you keep the law of love to love God with all that you are and have, and to love your neighbours as yourselves. And we do so because sin is no longer OK; it bothers us; we wrestle against it—and yet not I but Christ who lives in me. While Jesus lived to die for you and me, you and I die to live, continually living out our Baptism, dying to sin and abiding in the shelter of God’s grace. Forgiven, your love and loveable actions toward each other is driven by God’s love for you—not because we have to, but alive in Christ we now want to. Sin now pains us; it drives us to confess and continually receive the benefits of our new life in Christ; the ongoing work of renewal, healing, and restoration. This is the direction John the Baptist points us in. This is the direction Jesus took for you and brings you to.
The powerful work of the cross, conveyed through your Baptism is decisive; it says you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. That is your new direction given you in Christ!