A Fool's Baptism?

Text: Matthew 3:13-17 & 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

In the name of Jesus: Amen. 

We Lutherans are often times considered foolish.  We splash water on the head of a child or adult and believe that this washing makes the difference between life and death, heaven and hell. 

More specifically, we believe that infants and adults are helpless and that they cannot do much of anything. They cannot take care of their sin or defend themselves from death and the devil.  And they cannot even make a choice for eternal life.  All they can do is receive gifts – gifts like baptism. 

And so, in baptism, we believe, teach, and confess that God chooses to perform His salvific work of forgiving sin and making sinners into citizens of His kingdom… yes, by simple splashes of water and Words.    

Indeed, God has a way of choosing the foolish things of the world to do His work.  He has a way of doing foolish things to shame the so-called wise people of the world. 

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, we see even more foolishness.  Jesus came to the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. 

You see, out in the wilderness next to the Jordan River, John the Baptist was blasting away at sinners. Confessions of sin, acknowledgments 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.  Indeed, the stench of sin filled the air and the waters of the Jordan River were polluted by sinners… and this is exactly what Jesus asked to be baptized into. 

Foolish, right?  
That is how John the Baptist saw it too. 

John the Baptist, protested the foolish request of Jesus saying something to the effect,

Jesus, you don’t belong here.  You are the only one who doesn’t belong here.  Everybody, including me, needs this baptism for the remission of sins, but you… you don’t need this Jesus.  What sins do you have to turn from?  What mess have you made of your life?  It is foolish to baptize you because you do not need to be baptized! 
Foolish! That is how Jesus’ request seemed to John.  However, as we have already stated, what seems foolish according to mankind is often precisely how the Lord works. 

And so, we hear that Jesus sets John in his place, basically saying,

Don’t argue with me, John.  Just do it.  Baptize me!  It is the way it should be.  I don’t care if you think it looks foolish, for it is the way that righteousness will be fulfilled.

As a result, Jesus was baptized in that dirty sinful Jordan River that day.  The clean and sinless Son of God was baptized into a sinner’s baptism. 

What does this mean, though?  How does Jesus’ baptism with sinners fulfill righteousness?  

It is actually quite simple.  To fulfill the Law perfectly one must love perfectly.  And with Jesus being baptized in that river with sinners, we see perfect love.  Yes, we see perfect love in action as Jesus stepped into the water with sinful humanity.  He stepped into the mess we’ve made of our lives.  Jesus stepped into that dirty sinful water, to be with mankind – you and me. 

Because Jesus loved perfectly, there was nothing that could have held Him back from that baptism.  It did not matter to Jesus if it appeared to be foolish or not, it just needed to be done.   

Stop and think about this a moment.
During our Christmas Services we heard that Jesus became one of us when He put on flesh and was born into a stinky cave.  Yes, we heard that Jesus descended into the sin-filled world by His birth into a manger.  And today we hear that He plunged further still by going to the Jordan River and being baptized with a bunch of sinners.  And all of this is consistent with how our Lord acts.  The baptism in the Jordan River is much like what happened at the cross of Mt. Calvary.  At the cross, Jesus takes our sins upon Himself, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21).

Dear friends, foolish or not, 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 Jesus, 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 at the cross where the payment of His blood was made. 

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.   

Is this foolish?  From a human perspective, yes, it is.  Humanly speaking, it’s crazy!  It is wild that Jesus, for the sake of sinners, not only was baptized with sinners and later ate with sinners but also died on the cross for sinners.  Who on earth would do such a thing, except the Lord!  It is foolish, it is crazy, it is wild, but it is good!  It is perfect love for you and me. 

Dear friends, this is how it works with the Lord. The Lord does foolish things like seeking after sinners.  He does foolish things like dying for sinners.  He does foolish things like taking sin upon Himself, so that we might become children of God. 

So, today we hear our Gospel lesson and ponder it so that we might understand that everything that Jesus did from the Jordan River to the Cross is for the purpose of forgiving you and me of our sins.  We hear our Gospel lesson and know that in the Jordan River, Jesus made holy and instituted the water of our baptisms to be a blessed flood and a washing away of all our sins. 

Blessed Baptized Saints, hear this today because Jesus placed Himself in the Jordan River to be baptized with sinners, your baptisms at the church’s baptismal font place you with Jesus.  Yes, in your baptism, the Spirit of God was poured out on your life.  The Lord’s Word and promise were placed upon your life – marking you as one of the redeemed.  The Apostle Paul says it best, “You who were baptized into Jesus were baptized into His death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:4)

And there is more.  It just keeps getting better.  In Jesus’ baptism we hear that the Father looks down from heaven with love and pride, and says, “I am well pleased!”  So too, in your baptism, you are washed resulting in all of heaven opening to you so that God the Father with love and pride can say, “I am well pleased with you, my child.” 

Making you God’s own child through baptism is exactly what Jesus had in mind when He stepped into the dirty water of the Jordan sanctifying and instituting your baptisms, as blessed floods that wash away sin. 

And so in your baptism, you can have assurance this day that a handful of water splashed on your head in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit works forgiveness of sins, rescues you from the devil, and gives you eternal life.  Even though the world looks at such water as being plain and ordinary and foolish, you know that the Lord has chosen to go the way of foolishness.  You know that you are a fool for Jesus, for you know the One who went to Calvary with your sin.  You know the One who defeated your death and left it trampled in an empty tomb.  You know the One whom you have been joined to in the waters of Holy Baptism.  You know that the waters of baptism are mighty – violently attacking your sin and rescuing you from darkness to light.   

God has indeed chosen the foolish and the weak things of the world to put to shame the world.  He has chosen to save not with just plain water, but water combined with His promises. He has chosen to save and redeem you.  

So dear Christians, firmly hold this gift of baptism that works forgiveness of sin, rescues you from death and the devil and gives eternal life.  Know that God has chosen the foolish and the weak things of the world to put to shame the ways of the world.  Know that the splash of water upon your head with the promise of God, makes all the difference in the world. 

In the name of Jesus: Amen

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