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Epiphany 1, Baptism of our Lord, 2017
January 8, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Psalm 29:1-11, Isaiah 42:1-9, Romans 6:1-11, Matthew 3:13-17

 

There is a long line of sheep all heading for the river.  The sheep are filthy dirty.  Their wool is matted and caked with dirt with big hunks of muck hanging off of them; their legs are brown from walking through mud.  The smell of the sheep is enough to make you gag and cause your eyes to water.  These grubby sheep are all lined up headed towards the river.

The dirty sheep are guided down into the river by a shepherd dressed in camel hair with a leather belt.  The sheep go into the water of the river and all of the dirt and filth is washed away and they emerge from the river beautiful and clean and brilliant.

Strangely, there is another group of filthy dirty sheep on the bank of the river.  These sheep are just as dirty as the others but they just watch the other sheep being cleansed in the waters and they shake their heads and look on disapprovingly.  These sheep don’t seem to realize that they too are dirty.

In the midst of all these filthy, dirty sheep one stands out.  This Lamb gets in line with the other sheep, but this one is different.  This Lamb is spotless.  This Lamb is perfect.  This Lamb’s wool is beautiful and clean.  This Lamb does not have a mark or blemish or stain.  Standing in the line with all the filthy, dirty sheep this spotless Lamb stands out.  When the Lamb comes to the edge of the river the shepherd, at first, refuses to let the sparkling clean lamb enter the water made dirty by all the other sheep.  But then this beautiful, spotless, clean lamb does enter into the water; the same water the filthy dirty sheep entered to have all their muck washed away.  The clean lamb enters the water and the filth and dirt from countless sheep is drawn to the Lamb’s clean wool.  The beautiful, spotless lamb is surrounded by the filth and dirt of all the sheep and it clings to him.  The spotless Lamb is a magnet for the filth and emerges from the water a dirty, filthy, stinking ball of wretchedness.  The one lamb takes all the dirt from all the other sheep and carries it away.

            The one lamb takes all the dirt from all the other sheep and carries it away.

The group of dirty sheep on the banks of the river watching all this happen are disgusted by the lamb and set in their minds that they must kill this lamb when they get the chance.  That one lamb is carrying the filth for the many that are now clean.

What a wonderful thing to be one of the formerly filthy, dirty sheep that has been washed clean in the water.  You are one of those sheep.  You have been washed clean in the waters of holy baptism.  All of your sins have been washed away and transferred to the spotless Lamb of God who has taken all your sin.  And this is God’s will. As Jesus emerges from the waters of His baptism having taken ownership of the sins of the world, Matthew 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 … the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” [1]

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[2]

You have been baptized into Christ.  You have put on Christ.  You have been washed clean.  You wear the sparkling white robe of Christ’s righteousness.

So what do you do when you find yourself tempted by the devil, the world and your own sinful nature to take up a big handful of dirt and filth and smear it on yourself?  You stand there with a big handful of mud as you are about to hit that enter key on the computer that will take you to places on the internet that will pour gasoline on the flame of your lusts.  You stand there ready to fall into a field of filth as you prepare to engage in that sexual relationship outside the bonds of the lifelong marriage union of a man and a woman.  You are there ready to swim in a pool of filth as you let your anger bubble over unchecked and you insist on your own way by threats and intimidation.  You stand, spotless and clean, washed in the waters of baptism and yet so tempted to embrace the filth of sin in so many situations of life.  You want to give filthy sin a big hug because it seems to be the easy way out, it bring momentary pleasure, it is the short cut, it is what comes naturally.

When you find yourself ready to rub the dirt and filth of sin onto your spotless white robe of Christ’s righteousness remember these three words.  “I am baptized.”

As you find yourself about to head to the dark side of the internet, confess the truth about yourself.  “I am baptized.”  As you are about to engage in sexual immorality, confess who you are, “I am baptized.”  As you are about to lose your self-control speak your identity, “I am baptized.”  As you are about to embrace sin yet again remember you have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus, “I am baptized.”

You are one of the sheep washed clean; why would you smear filth on yourself?  You are a baptized child of God.  You are called to live out your life struggling against sin because you have been washed clean.  You are already in the Kingdom of Heaven.  You have died to sin.

You are one of God’s spotless sheep, and yet there lurks the ever-present desire to sin.  Ever since Adam and Eve’s fall into sin it comes so naturally to all of their offspring.  Sin comes so naturally to me.  I can sin without even trying.  Sin comes so naturally to you.  You sin in ways that you cannot even believe yourself.  There is always the desire to want to say that it is okay to sin.  We are sorely tempted to say that this sin is okay because times have changed.  We are profoundly tempted to say, “I know the Bible says it is wrong…but.”  We desperately want to believe that sin is okay.  St. Paul knows this when he writes to the church in Rome.

Romans 6:1-4 (ESV) 1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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.[3]

Are we to continue in sin?  By no means!  You have been washed clean in Jesus.  The sinless Lamb of God has taken all of your sin on Himself and taken it to the cross.  As you sin you are not just smearing mud and filth on yourself, you are smearing the filth of your sin onto the sinless Son of God; the same sinless Son of God who comes to John the Baptist to be baptized.

John the Baptist is right.  Jesus does not need to repent of His sins.  He has done nothing wrong.  Jesus undergoes a baptism He doesn’t need.  Jesus suffers a death He doesn’t deserve.  Jesus stands in the place of sinners.  Jesus stands in your place and takes your sin.  Jesus lowers Himself to your level as filthy, dirty sinner.

So each day lower yourself.  Humble yourself and repent of your sins and remember your baptism.  Remember those three powerful words, “I am baptized.”

And what does such baptizing with water indicate?

It 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.

“I am baptized.”  Say it together, “I am baptized.”

You have been washed clean by the Lamb.  Humble yourself daily and admit, “I am a sinner who needs a savior.”  Say those three terrible words.  “I was wrong.”  And, the two difficult words, “I’m sorry.”  Repent and remember the truth about yourself, “I am baptized.”

You are clean in Christ because He became filthy dirty for you.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001
[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001
[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

 

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