The text for the Sunday after Epiphany is almost always the Baptism of Jesus. This episode in the bible has always caused me some wonder. It doesn’t immediately make sense for me. And there are multiple ways that I credit things in the Bible as making sense. There is always just historical sense. I have no problem that Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan. But the bare historical is always the least. What is the theological import, and why was it done this way? You might call these things poetical sense. Things in the bible make poetical sense. Or at least to me they usually do. It had to be that way because that is the only way the story makes sense. That is the only way it rhymes and keeps meter. But the Baptism of Jesus doesn’t immediately strike me that way. And being a pastor, especially a Lutheran pastor, where Baptism is such an important thing, understanding this episode felt necessary. This sermon is my attempt to wrestle with why this baptism is important.
The text and the church occasion is the baptism of Jesus. This sermon uses as a theme what Mark says happened at the beginning and at the end of his gospel – Heaven Torn Open. First at the baptism when Jesus becomes willingly the new Adam, taking our baptism. Then at the cross, when the veil to the holy place is torn open. Jesus counts himself with us sinners, so that we might be counted in the holy place. He doesn’t abandon or crush his creation, he redeems it.
I wish I had caught a good recording of the hymn post the sermon. It is LSB 404 – Jesus Once with Sinners Numbered. It is a great hymn and spot on. Here is a link to someone with a great voice singing it.
The flu knocked me out for a considerable amount of time this week. And when you are chilling and sweating some different lines come into you head. And I’m sure I didn’t get to refine this one enough. And I feel like I am way out there on a limb. I doubt you find too many preachers willing to base a sermon on first part of Mark 1:5. Maybe the second part, but not the first. But just the parallels and the humanity of that verse struck me, with deep echoes of Jesus as well – “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). A people straying from the Rock Solid Temple to some hippie in the desert…why?
That hippie in the desert offered them Jesus. Yes the temple rituals were the best and were effective and all the other things. But so much must have been in the way or come between the word of God and those people going out to John. All John did was say wait until you see the next guy. All I’ve got is this water to prepare…but that coming one, he’ll bring the Spirit. And it was enough. Because He gave them Jesus.