Luke 3:21–22 21When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. While he was praying, heaven was opened, 22and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love. I am well pleased with you.”
This is the day the LORD has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Ps 118:24)
Last Sunday before worship, I sat down next to 7-year-old Adelina. She told me, “I’m nervous about being baptized next week.” I teased her, “Well I’m not nervous. I’ve done this lots of times.”
Then I told her, “When you’re baptized next Sunday, I’m going to get your head wet … and then my eyes are going to get wet.”
This morning in the early service, Bob, who is in his 60s was baptized and confirmed. In the late service, Allicia was baptized and confirmed and her four children, Angel, Ayden, Grace, and Adelina, also received the cleansing bath of baptism over their heads.
I knew long ago that there would be a catch in my throat and my eyes would become moist at their baptisms.
Today all of us can cry tears of joy for these precious souls who have been united with us in their baptismal faith!
We may weep tears of joy on a day like today when God is visibly demonstrating His gifts of grace. But we may wail with tears of sorrow and sadness when it appears as if God is withholding His blessings and sending suffering instead.
Our life is so often filled with tears. Tears from family and friends who have failed you. Tears from others hurting you with their selfish actions or rude words. Tears from the way you have hurt others with your selfish actions or rude words. Tears of separation from estranged siblings, children who have moved away or parents who have died. Tears from the constant pain in your back; the weakness from your cancer treatments; the sadness when you visit your mom in the nursing home; or the heartache when you have to remind dad what your name is.
When we really sit down and think about what causes so much pain and suffering and tears in our life, the answer keeps coming back to sin. Some of our tears are caused by the sin of others. But, most of our tears are because of our own sins – the stupid, sinful choices we made in our youth; the selfish, sinful decisions we make to satisfy the cravings of our flesh; the careless, sinful compromises we make to our Christian faith.
We know exactly what causes us so much pain. Yet, we still fall into it. We chase after it. We cling to it. We can feel the anger building at the base of our neck, but we let it explode all over our children anyway. We recognize the addictions that plague us and how to avoid them, yet we still make the trip to the store or pull the credit card out of the purse or turn on the computer. We can see the argument escalating and the words that will defuse the situation, but we won’t allow our tongues to form them.
This world is often described as a “vale of tears.” Psalm 84:6 says that we pass through “the valley of weeping.”
It is in the world of weeping and wailing, that we cry out, “Where in the world is God?”
The prophet Isaiah accurately describes where God is. He is in this valley of weeping with us. He has entered our vale of tears. Our God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ, whom Isaiah describes as “a man of sorrows” and one who is “familiar with pain.” Jesus wept at the grave of His dear friend, Lazarus. Jesus cried out in pain while on the cross.
This is how we know we have a God who loves us. He loves us so much, He enters our world. A world He created perfect, but we ruined. A world of beauty, but we brought pain. A world of pure joy, but we brought tears. Jesus loves us so much He enters our world of weeping and crying and tears. He comes to cry for us. He comes to cry over us. He comes to cry because of us. He comes to wipe our tears away and turn our tears of sadness into tears of rejoicing.
Jesus entered our world so He could chase after us. He climbed into our flesh. He searches and finds us and then clings to us.
Jesus loves us so much He even steps into the Jordan River for us. Jesus had no sins to wash away. He was perfect, righteous, without sin. Yet, He enters the dirty waters of the Jordan River to get dirty with our sins. He gets dirty with our sins in the Jordan River so that He can suffer and die and pay for those sins years later on Calvary’s cross.
Jesus’ baptism is important. He makes our baptism important. He blesses, sanctifies, and gives His divine power to our baptism.
The crowds that traveled into the desert to see John the Baptist went out there to leave their sins in the water.
You come to the baptismal font to leave your sins – your sins of idolatry, adultery, lust, gossip, spiteful words, and greedy actions. It is all left floating in the water.
Jesus goes into the baptismal waters, not to avoid sin, but to be covered in your sins. The sins your babies inherited from you. The sins your children picked up by watching and imitating you. The sins of your dirty mind and foul mouth. The sins of your apathetic hands and your lethargic legs.
Jesus takes all those sins and puts them on Himself. He gets dirty with your sins, so you can be washed clean with His baptismal waters. In the waters of the Jordan River, Jesus who had no sin became sin for us. He took our sin and gave us His perfection. He took our death and gave us life. He entered the desert so we could enter the Promised Land. He took our slavery and gave us His Sonship. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
A while ago I was texting Allicia’s sister about today’s baptism. Her sister said that Allicia deserved this. The reason why we get misty-eyed at baptisms is that – in reality – none of us deserve this. That’s mercy. God’s undeserved love. We heard earlier from St. Paul: “He saved us—not by righteous works that we did ourselves, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).
I was blessed to baptized four infants in the hospital between September through November of last year. What does Baptism do for these infants? God’s mercy was poured over these babies. Their inborn sin they inherited from their parents was washed away. They were given the gift of saving faith in Jesus Christ. They were taken from the devil and made children of the Heavenly Father. And their parents were given the assurance that if anything happened to their children, they would see their baptized children again in heaven. Because of God’s mercy poured over their babies in their Baptism.
Today, two different families are baptized. Their baptismal certificates serve as their adoption papers. The Bible teaches: “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). They can always remember January 13 as the day God signed the papers, adopting them into His family of believers. What a blessing for these two families to be united with us in God’s huge family of faith! God’s mercy is poured over them, making them sons and daughters of God.
When Jesus was baptized, “heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love. I am well pleased with you’” (Luke 3:21-22). Many of us were baptized long ago. At the baptismal font, we literally had God’s mercy poured over our heads and into our hearts. Because of the open waters of the Jordan River, the open wounds of Christ on the cross, and the open grave of Jesus’ tomb, now heaven is opened to us. God says that He is well pleased with us as His baptized children. Through those baptismal waters, the Holy Spirit has descended to anoint us with faith and salvation.
It doesn’t matter who we are or how old we are, when we come to Baptism, we have nothing at all to offer to the Lord – except for our sins. We come full of sins. Jesus washes those sins away. We come unworthy. He makes us “heirs of the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:7). We come with our hearts clogged with doubts and minds filled with fears. He removes these doubts and fears and gives us “pledge of a good conscience toward God” (1 Peter 3:21).
Baptism is more than a one-time event. It changes who you are. The old person has drowned in the baptismal waters. A new person arises out of those same baptismal waters. As baptized children of God, we are now different than we were before we got wet with God’s Word. You came with nothing but condemnation. You leave with everything and eternity before you. You came naked in your sinfulness and you leave clothed with the righteousness of Christ. You came as an orphan and leave as a child of God with many brothers and sisters in Christ. You came under Satan’s control and leave living as an heir of heaven. You came born in sin and death. You leave reborn and renewed. “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and the renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:5-6).
As baptized children of God, we have the power of the Holy Spirit so we can stand against sin, walk away from it, and throw it away. We now have the God-given ability to control our anger, curb our tongues and give up our addictions.
Jesus and our Baptism makes it so this “valley of weeping” becomes a “place of springs” (Psalm 84:6).
Baptism is not something that just happened a long time ago. It is an eternal identity. “God’s own child, I gladly say it; I am baptized into Christ.”
It takes only a few minutes for baptismal water to evaporate from the skin of the baptized, but the gift that it leaves behind is eternal. Upon your forehead and upon your heart, written in spiritual ink, is God’s own handwriting. He marks you as one redeemed by Christ the crucified. Christ’s baptismal benefits have been stamped on you with eternal love.
When the tears of pain or rejection start flowing, if we ever start wondering where God is in our world, we just need to look at the waters of Baptism. That is where our God is. Baptizing you. Turning tears of sorrow into tears of eternal joy. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.