Baptism of Jesus, January 12-17

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Our devotions this week are focused on Baptism, one of God's great gifts to us.

Monday, January 12

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And he preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  Mark 1:4, 7-8

John the Baptizer was a strange man who lived in the wild and ate bugs and honey.  Yet the Jewish people were drawn to him because they recognized him as a prophet of the Lord, and they had not heard from a true prophet for hundreds of years.  John was the voice crying out in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!”  His job was to prepare people for the coming kingdom of God in Jesus.  His ministry was marked by baptism of repentance, by which he got his name.   His baptism is different than the baptism that we receive in the name of the Trinity.  John baptized people who showed that they were sorry for their sins and were turning away from them to live in God’s ways as described in the books of the Law (the Torah).   John’s baptism of repentance was reminiscent of the preaching of past prophets, such as what Jonah says in chapter 3, “People and animals alike must wear garments of mourning, and everyone must pray earnestly to God. They must turn from their evil ways and stop all their violence.”  God desires that we also turn away from our sin and pursue what is good.   We cannot do it by our own efforts, though.  It is only because we have been baptized into His name and covered by the blood of Jesus that we can do good.  In Jesus, God makes us “good” – holy and without sin in His sight, able to come into His presence.

O Jesus, very Light of Light, Our constant star in sin’s deep night: Now hear the prayers Your people pray Throughout the world this holy day.  Alleluia.  (LSB 403:2)

 

Tuesday, January 13

In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Mark 1:9-11

I have often wondered why Jesus came to be baptized by John, because the Bible makes it clear that Jesus was without sin; therefore, He would have nothing for which to repent!  In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, he reveals that John wonders the same thing, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt 3:14).  Jesus responds, “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Jesus met all of God’s righteous requirements for the Messiah, including this baptism.  Jesus’ baptism also served as the starting point of His ministry, and God the Father gave his very public approval of Jesus, naming Him as His Son – the very Son of God.  The Spirit was also present, and so all three persons of the Trinity were involved.  When Jesus was baptized, He also identified himself with man’s sin and failure, even though he was without sin.  He shows His humanity and His connection to sinners, whom He had come to save.  So Jesus is here revealed as the Son with the Father and Holy Spirit, both God and man, who has come and “takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

The Savior came to be baptized –
    The Son of God in flesh disguised –
To stand beneath the Father’s will
    And all His righteousness fulfill.
The Father’s word, the Spirit’s flight
   Anointed Christ in glorious sight
As God’s own choice, from Adam’s fall
   To save the world and free us all.  (LSB 405:2, 5)

 
Wednesday, January 14

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 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.  Romans 6:1-4

Baptism is meant to kill us.  It takes our sinful, corrupt nature and drowns it, destroying it in death with Christ, who died so that sin would lose its hold over us.  Then, baptism raises us back to life, just as Christ was brought back to life on that Easter Sunday.  God washes us clean, places His own Spirit into our hearts, and says that we are now His children, holy and blameless not because of anything we have done, but because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross at Calvary.  With the Spirit living in us and the good news of our complete forgiveness by the suffering of Jesus, we are freed from our slavery to sin and able to have new life – a life where sin no longer controls us.  But we are well aware that our struggle with sin does not end on this side of the grave.  Our baptism assures us that we are secure in God’s promise of forgiveness and new life, yet we must daily fight against our sinful nature that wants to return, wants to destroy us, and far too often wins the daily battles between good and evil.  That is why Luther writes that baptism, “Indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  Every day as we confess our sins to God, our “Old Adam” dies again and the new creation is raised to life in the power of God’s Word, “You are forgiven.”

 

Thursday, January 15

For 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.  Romans 6:5-7

I’ll say it again: You have been set free from sin.  It no longer has control over you.  Will we struggle with it?  Absolutely.  Can it reclaim us?  Yes, but only when we turn away from the promises of God as given in our baptism and turn to our own efforts to please God or turn to fulfilling our own selfish desires without a repentant heart (a heart that strives to turn away from what God has said is evil).   Your baptism is God’s pledge and seal of your coming resurrection.  Baptism does not just mean that we are raised to a new spiritual life now.  It carries the promise that just as Jesus was raised to physical life, we also will rise again from death on the Last Day.   Here in this cursed world, our daily battle with sin and death is real and difficult.  But again, as we cling to the promise of our baptism, when God claimed you as His child, you can be sure that no sin, no evil, that nothing at all can keep you from His love and grace and forgiveness.  Your future life with Him in eternity began the moment you were baptized, because death no longer has any power over you.  The blood of Jesus has defeated death, and though our bodies will decay, they will one day rise again, renewed in perfection, and we will live with our God in peace and joy forever.  Rejoice in your baptism and remember it daily!

Death, you cannot end my gladness: I am baptized into Christ!  When I die, I leave all sadness to inherit paradise!  Though I lie in dust and ashes Faith’s assurance brightly flashes: Baptism has the strength divine To make life immortal mine.  (LSB 594:4)

 

Friday, January 16

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.  Romans 6:8-11

As fallen people, we read a passage like this and think, “Okay, so if I’m dead to sin, that means I need to be a good person so that God (or other people) can see that I am good.”  The problem is that we think that the only way to know that we are “good” is by being “good,” and that’s what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the first place!  They wanted to prove that they were good apart from what God had already said about them, which was that they were good before they had ever done anything (Gen 1:31)!  Our goodness before God has nothing to do with what we have done and everything to do with what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus’ blood is like a blanket to cover you so that when God’s wrath over sin comes, it won’t kill you. We are both completely evil and completely good in Jesus at the same time; this is a comfort to us when we are questioning, “Am I really a Christian” because are looking at what we do. It’s not about what we do!  It’s about what God has done.  In Baptism are God’s promises that even though I am evil and sinful and full of nothing but badness, I’m covered by the blood of Jesus and on the Last Day, God will see only the goodness of Jesus that He has declared on me.  And so why, then, do I turn from evil?  Because my sin hurts other people.  That is the motivation for doing good; it’s about blessing and not hurting others, and has nothing at all to do with saving myself or “being good,” because in Jesus God says, “You ARE good!”

 

Saturday, January 17

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. Gen. 1:1-5

Our devotion Bible passages have all been taken from last Sunday’s readings, and I wrestled with why the creation account was included in readings focused on baptism.  I believe there are several connections we can make.  In the beginning, the Triune God was present.  The Father, our Creator, spoke life into being, and the “Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  In John 1:1 it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Word in flesh is Jesus, our Savior, who was also present at creation.   So at creation, our Triune God was there.  In Baptism, our Triune God is there as we baptize in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The One who gave us physical and spiritual life is also the one who gives us new life in baptism.  Another connection I made, though perhaps it was unintentionally, is the connection because sin and darkness, and between light and new life in Christ.   God separated the two at creation.  In Baptism, in a sense, He separates the darkness from us, filling us with the light of His own goodness, and He sees that His light in us is “good.”  We are filled with the light of Christ; let us carry that light into the darkness of our world.

God’s own child, I gladly say it: I am baptized into Christ!  He, because I could not pay it, Gave my full redemption price.  Do I need earth’s treasures many?  I have one worth more than any That bought me salvation free Lasting to eternity!  (LSB 594:1)

 

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