Rolling Around In The Mud With Pigs

Text:  Matthew 3:13-17

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

Jesus becomes one of us. 

There was no holding Him back. 

He became one of us when He put on flesh and was born into a stinky stable that Christmas long ago.  He also became one of us when He took on all that has gone wrong with us – our sins.  Yes, this is the way that it is with the Son of God; He descended into the sin filled world by His birth in a manger; He plunged further still by going to the Jordan River and being baptized by John the Baptist in a sinner’s baptism.

Take pause for a moment and consider what was just said.  Consider our Gospel reading from this morning, as well. 

Out in the wilderness next to the Jordan River, we hear about dirty water, water that had washed over some 500,000 sinners in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.[1]  John the Baptist had blasted away at sinners; confessions of sin, acknowledgements of failure, and concessions of corruption abounded; baptismal water dripped from the heads of adulterers, thieves, liars, prostitutes, swindlers, blasphemers, murderers, legalists, rebels, and ragamuffins.  It was an unusual place by the Jordan River with John the Baptist; people laid bear with the ugliness of life exposed and lines of individuals went into the water for baptisms. 

Indeed, things out by the Jordan River were surely no sanitized walk in the park; it was messy and unclean.  It was no rated “G” event.  The stench of sin filled the air and the waters of the Jordan River were polluted by transgressors, and this is exactly what Christ walked into and embraced.  It is exactly what Christ took hold of as if it were His own. 
John the Baptist did not seem to like this though.  He even argued with Jesus, telling Him to stay back.  For John the Baptist, Jesus needed to stay detached; He needed to keep His distance.  He had no business being baptized with dirty sinners.  We may think the same as well, that Jesus needs to stay clean and pure and holy, for He is the Holy Son of God.  We may not like the way that this all sounds.  Yet, contrary to John and to our thoughts, Jesus moved into the dirty water and demanded to be baptized. 

Dear friends, this is the way that it had to be.  Like a cleanly bathed child going to roll around in the mud with pigs, Jesus descended into the Jordan and was baptized in the midst of sinners.  The water of filthy sinners was applied upon Christ, showing that He was the one who would bear the sins of the world—that the mud of sinners was to be splashed upon Him. 

This is the kind of Savior that we have.  There is no distance or separation between us sinners and Him.  This is God showing you and me that we are in this together; not alone and not abandoned.  This baptism of Jesus is the fulfillment of righteousness; it is how righteousness and the gospel work for us.[2]   

As it was in the Jordan River, it is no different for us today.  Just as He came into the midst of sinners at the Jordan River, the Lord Jesus Christ comes in the twenty-first-century to where sinners gather.  He comes to where sins, failures, troubles, guilt, and shame are confessed.  He comes to churches like Zion Lutheran Church—a hospital for sinners.  He comes to sinners in the Word and the Sacraments, in order that we might believe, know, and understand that there is no distance or separation between us sinners and Him.  Truly, He comes to the place of sinners, because the Gospel is for sinners only.  He comes to gift forgiveness, life, and salvation.    

What does all of this mean?  It means that Jesus belongs to us.  It means that we cannot cleanse ourselves and move closer to Him, but rather, Jesus comes into the muck of our sin for us.  It means that “Jesus placed Himself in the Jordan River, so that in Baptism He might place you inside Himself.  [Indeed, it means that you blessed Saints] are baptized as a member of His body, intimately connected to Jesus as a finger is to a hand. . . .  His life flows into you as freely as the water flows onto you in Baptism. You are [connected with God in your baptisms,] filled with Him who fills all things, and fills you in particular with forgiveness, everlasting life, salvation, peace, all the riches of heaven.”[3]

Think about it!  At the baptism of our Lord, the Father’s happiness and pleasure and favor were upon Jesus.  And since we are in Christ through Baptism—joined to Him—the Father delights in us as well. 

Make no mistake about it, what is ours—that is our sin—becomes Jesus’; what is Jesus’—that is His righteousness—becomes ours.  Simply stated, because God delights in Jesus and we are in Jesus by baptism, well then, God delights in us too.  If our hearts would totally take all of this in, Martin Luther once said that our hearts would burst for joy into a hundred thousand pieces.

This world is given over to sin, death, and the devil; it is perishing.  More specifically and a bit closer to home, we live in a world were slander attacks our character, gossip assassinates our friendships, unjust condemnation presses upon our consciences, and demonic accusations pierce our souls.  We live in a world where people falsely believe that they have successfully risen out of the sewage of sin by their own strength and clever endeavors, whereas other people celebrate the filth of sin as if it were glory and normal.  We live in a world where there is truly no safe place to lay one’s head; always on guard, sleeping with one eye open, and constantly looking over the shoulder.  We also carry around this body of death, the old sinful nature, like a ball and chain to the end of our lives.  Considering this, even though it is true that you are in this world, you mustn’t forget that you are not of it.

Dear Baptized Saints, your citizenship and life are hidden in Christ; your life is not your own.  You live and rest where Christ is, where God has His delight, for you are connected with Christ in baptism.   Hear this: God has spoken His divine word upon you!  “With the water His name was put on you at your Baptism.  [Therefore,] you are not just a doubtful, ambiguous, meaningless, hopeless bunch of atoms bouncing around.  [You are not some accident of natural selection.]  [Furthermore, the world, sin, death, and the devil, do not possess you, for] you have the word of God put on you.  At your Baptism, surely, and at Jesus’ baptism too.  For there [in baptism] Jesus is in [unity] with [you] and [you] with Him.  Because he is the beloved Son, we with Him are beloved sons and daughters, delighted in and beloved of God.  So you can’t just drag along dreary, fearful, guilt-ridden, nobody-loves-me, me-against-the-rest [of the world], . . . me-separate, all alone.”[4]   No, none of this is possible.  You are not alone; the world, sin, death, the devil, and your sinful nature do not have the final say, for you are connected and joined to Son of God in your baptisms.    

Through the baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus sanctified (that is made holy) and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood, a lavish washing away of sin.  Yes, in your baptism you are forgiven—completely, nothing held back.  In your baptism, you have been made a member of the Son, and an heir to all of the treasurers of heaven.  You have been chosen and claimed and marked as the Lord’s own; no one can pluck you from His hand. 

Hear this today: there is no separation with the Father, for we are baptized into Christ.  Sin cannot disturb your soul any longer, for you are baptized into Christ!  Death cannot end your gladness, for you are baptized into Christ! Satan’s might has come unraveled, for you are baptized into Christ![5] 

Dear Christians, firmly hold this gift.  Give God thanks forever!  Baptism gives the power to uplift; it revives your soul; it makes you stand and makes you whole; it is your glorious robe of righteousness.[6]

You are God’s own child, blessed Saints, for you are baptized into Christ.  Nothing can change that reality and nothing can separate you from your Lord that unites with you.

In the name of Jesus who was baptized in the Jordan –for you: Amen.

[1] It has been estimated that some 200,000 to 500,000 people were baptized by John the Baptist, for Jewish Historian Josephus mentions that the Baptist caused a great sensation.

[2] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 43. 

[3] Chad Bird, “Gather at the River of Life and Death,” Flying Scroll, (Accessed January 9, 2016).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Erdmann Neumeister, Lutheran Service Book: God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It tr. Robert E. Voelker (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 594.

[6] Paul Gerhardt, Lutheran Service Book: All Christians Who Have Been Baptized (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2006), 596.

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