Not You, Jesus!

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Baptism of our Lord, /Epiphany 1A, January 12th, 2013

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“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:4]

Our gospel reading this morning (Matthew 3:13–17) confronts us with a very real, a very human reaction to the arrival of Jesus.  It’s a perfect example of how the Son of God’s real presence breaks into our very real and normal experiences of life.  Think about this for a moment; if you were John, and God called you to preach repentance and offer baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus, whom you’ve known from childhood as the promised Messiah, approached you to receive a sinner’s baptism, wouldn’t you also have said, “No.  Not You Jesus”?

And yet, there is Jesus, coming alongside of sinners, throwing in with them, becoming one with them, and receiving something He had no need to receive.  Why do you suppose that is?

Because He IS one of us.  He came to be one of us in order to save us.  He came to remind us that we are not alone; God is with us; Jesus is Emmanuel!  He is with us in the waters of our baptism, because through His own baptism He has sanctified even blessed that water through His Word, through His real presence to make it a holy washing of water and Word.  But the banks of the Jordan were only the beginning of His mission to save mankind from sin, death, and the devil.  We must follow Him as He leaves the Jordan and hear the Father proclaim in a powerful voice: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  [Matthew 3:17]  We must see the Holy Spirit take physical form and descend on Jesus, confirming that He is and always has been the eternal Son of God, but now He is God among us; God in our own flesh, come to be our Champion and defeat our mortal enemies: sin, death, and the devil.

But we must not leave Jesus at the bank of the Jordan.  We must follow Him as He is led by that same Holy Spirit, into the wilderness to be attacked and tempted in the flesh, in our flesh by hoards of devils.  And not once did He succumb to temptation; not even once did He falter or fail.  He could not fail, because He must not fail.  And to understand this truth, we must continue following Him to Calvary, to the place of the skull where He will be crucified, put to death for our sins.  There at Golgotha, He presented His body as a holy sacrifice, without blemish, spot, or stain of sin, as the acceptable sacrifice for your sins, which He loaded upon His body that fateful day when He allowed the baptism of sinners to be applied to Him.

If you have ever watched the movie “The Passion of Christ” by Mel Gibson, you remember how graphically our Lord’s Passion was displayed on that Passover day, when Jesus also submitted to something that only sinners should have to go through; He allowed Himself to be beaten within an inch of His life, and then nailed upon the cross  to die a criminals death for our sins… FOR YOUR SINS!  I remember the first time I watched that movie how I was immediately sucked into the drama, which we call Good Friday.  I remember being shocked by how brutal and painful it was.  And suddenly, it was not just a movie; it was not a depiction of something that happened long ago, but it was real, and it was happening right then.  It was happening to Jesus because of my sins.  I remember weeping and saying out loud, “No, not You Jesus.  That should be me.  I deserve that and never you.”  And it was at that moment that I remembered the words of our Epistle reading (Romans 6:1-11), specifically these words: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Did you hear that?  YOU ARE DEAD!  Just as Christ died that bloody and painful death upon the cross, so too you, must count yourself dead along with Him.  You are dead to sin, that is your sin has no claim over you.   You are dead to the power of the devil; that is he can no longer accuse you of being like him and deserving punishment for your many sins.  And you are dead to death itself, because we know that “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.  So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” [Vs. 5-11]

You see dear friends, just as I asked you to follow Jesus from the waters of the Jordan to the deserted place of temptation, and then to Golgotha, the hill of death, I also ask you to follow His lifeless body to the tomb where they laid Him.  I ask you to wait the full three days and then after the rock that sealed the tomb is blown away, look inside to see that the tomb is empty.  Hear the angels ask you, “Why do you seek the living among the dead!”  He is risen indeed, and so shall you.

Your baptism is not just the seal of God’s Holy Spirit, which promises that one day you also will join Jesus in paradise, but it is also the proof that He is with you right now.  He is Emmanuel, all of God with you.  You see, the Holy Spirit took residence within you the very day you were baptized.  And wherever the Spirit of God is, there also is both the Father and the Son.  Because He lives so do you.  He lives to not just assure the pardon of sins for the world, but to ensure you of your pardon; that is the promise He gave to you on that great day of your Holy Baptism… all of your sins are forgiven!  You have a super-abounding supply of grace that forgives any and all sins that have attached themselves to you.  It gives super-abounding grace so that the fiery darts of accusation, which the devil hurls at you, can never stick or separate you from the love of God, which is yours through Christ Jesus.  You have super-abounding grace so that even death is not a threat to you.  It cannot end your gladness… you are baptized into Christ.  When you die here you will leave all sadness so that you will inherit paradise.  Now, opened eyed your grave is staring and waiting, but even there you’ll sleep secure.  While your flesh awaits it’s raising, still your soul continues praising.  Because you are baptized into Christ.

So all of this being true, and no matter how many your sins or how powerfully they work to trap you, you can rest assured that grace is even more super-abounding than your sins.  To that, someone might ask, “Doesn’t it make sense then to say that the more we sin then the greater we can demonstrate the power of grace over sin, death and the devil?”

And to that question St. Paul declares, “By no means!”  You are a child of paradise.  You are no longer your own person, but you have been bought with a price.  If you choose to stay in sin, then you are saying along with John the baptizer, “Not you, Jesus.”  And if not Jesus then who?  It must be you; someone has to fulfill all righteousness.  If not Jesus, then you must be the one to walk through the temptations of the devil alone.  It must be you who will bear the burden of your many sins alone.  And finally, it must be you alone, who will pay for your sins, all because you have rejected the very Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; even your sins.

(Isaiah 42:1-9) Dear friends, we are not alone.  Jesus has marked us as His own child in our baptism by sanctifying those waters long ago.  From the water to the cross, and then to the empty tomb, He has proven that He is the servant of God for you, the beloved Son of God, whom the Spirit of God descends upon first so that you will know that the same thing was done for you.

Jesus is the One who leaves the waters of baptism sanctified for the Father’s great mission to save sinners, and then He sets out on a mission to bless and restore those who have faith in Him and His work of salvation.  He is the one who is appointed to be a covenant for the people of faith and a light for the gentiles, that is those who currently live outside of faith.

I would like to close with a story about a man who lived his entire life as a devout atheist; an enemy of Christ and His church.  One morning he was found dead in his room.  But clenched in his hand was a note with these words, which showed that at the end of life he had met the Son of God in a real sense.  The note read: “I’ve tried in vain a thousand ways my fears to quell, my hopes to raise.  But what I need, the Bible says, “Is ever, only Jesus.”  My soul is night, my heart is steel—I cannot feel; for light, for light, I must appeal in simple faith to Jesus.”

All his life, this poor soul lived a life that rejected Jesus, the Son of God as His Savior.  He lived his life proclaiming “Not you, Jesus.”  But thanks be to God, Jesus is the kind of Savior who will not break a bruised reed or puff out a faintly burning wick.”  He will never grow tired or discouraged in seeking out the lost, until He once and for all establishes justice upon the earth.  Thanks be to God that He has found you in your baptism.  Now to the life of a Christian we live, fighting sin, finding forgiveness, and waiting for eternal life in paradise.  AMEN!

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