First Sunday after the Epiphany: Baptism of Our Lord Jan.12, 2020
Text: Matthew 3:16-17; Isaiah 42:1-7 3 Year Series – A 20:2168
Theme: Here He Is! – God’s Servant
At the very end of the Jordan River, just before it spills into the Dead Sea, lies the ford of Bethabara (or Bethany). Here the river is shallow and can be waded. For thousands of years, traders and travelers from the Far East crossed the river at this spot, heading to Jerusalem, Egypt, and Africa. It’s not a friendly spot. The ground in this region presses deeply down towards the earth’s core. It is the lowest place on earth, more than a thousand feet below sea level.
During summer the heat is stifling, the air is heavy, the surface of the Dead Sea colorless. Somewhere not too far away the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah stood before God wiped them from the earth. Some say that the smell of sulphur still lingers in the air as if to remind men forever that God’s patience is great but not inexhaustible if people continue in a life apart from Him.
It was at this spot in the river, surrounded by a desolate landscape, that something big took place. God had not spoken to His people for over 400 years, since the time of the last prophet, Malachi. Four hundred years was a long time for Israel’s God to be silent. But then one day, at this ford, appeared a messenger of God.
He was a strange, rough-looking man, wearing a garment of camel-skin, tied at the waist with a leather strip. He ate locusts and wild honey found in the hollows of the scrub trees at the river’s edge. His message was as stark as his appearance: “Repent, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near…God’s axe is ready to strike at the base of the tree of your life. Unless you repent and turn to Him, He will chop you down and throw you into the fire. But those who come to Him in faith, He will gather to Himself” (Mt.3:2ff). Those who recognized the voice of God speaking again, were baptized in the water for the forgiveness of their sins (Lk.3:3).
“Thus saith the LORD!” After 400 years, such words were again heard as John the Baptist called the people to get ready for the coming of the Savior. Four centuries people waited, watched, hoped, and prayed, but only silence was heard…. until now.
Some had fallen into despair. Many had fallen into sin. But the voice of the Lord, heard again through John the Baptist, stirred a stream of people to Jordan’s banks. “Could this be the promised Savior?” some asked. John quickly answered, “No! I am the voice, of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’ (Jn.1:23). Soon will come a mightier One than I. I’m not fit to carry his sandals” (Mt.3:11).
One day, among the crowd which flocked to John, a stranger appeared. It was not a chance appearance for He had deliberately come a distance to see John. He, too, stepped into the water to be baptized, to claim for Himself the assurances of God’s forgiveness.
There is something you should know about this man wading into the river. John saw it and understood. This man alone, of all the men that ever lived, had no sins of His own. He is the only man who, of Himself, had no need to be baptized for repentance and the remission of sin – no need for Him to beg for God’s mercy. Why then does He join sinners and the disobedient in the water? As you look with the eyes of faith you will see.
This man, Jesus, is carrying into the river a heavier burden then you and I will ever bear. For God has charged all our guilt to Him and placed on Him the iniquities of us all (Is.53:6). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29). He takes it from us all and shoulders it Himself. What an awful burden to bear! This Is He, the Savior, stepping in our place, claiming God’s promise of mercy and forgiveness in Baptism.
There is something else taking place here, just as amazing and mystifying to our human reason. Nevertheless, it is true! Although Jesus is bent beneath the heavy load of our sin, He is the very reason that there is mercy and forgiveness for all. He washes away the sin “for the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin” (1 Jn.1:7). Is this what He means when He tells John after John tried to stop Him, “Let it be so now, because it is proper for us to fulfill all righteousness”?
With His obedience to God and His saving presence in the water, Jesus sanctifies the wave and fills it with the redeeming activity of God in the lives of all who have been baptized. The Scriptures promise: “Baptism doth now save you – not the removal of dirt from the body but the assurance (the claim) of a good conscience before God through…Jesus Christ” (1Pt.3:21).
As He stepped back onto the riverbank, another amazing thing took place. The veil of the sky, which had been drawn for over 400 years in silence, was torn in two, and out of it came the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Down, down, down He came until He rested upon Jesus. And the voice of God the Father was heard once more from heaven. Do not tell me that this wonder is not signifying a special event. Who of us has seen the heavens torn apart and heard God’s voice proclaim: “This is my Son whom I love. In Him I am well pleased!”
For those who hear with ears of faith, it takes us back some 700 years before this, to the time of the Prophet Isaiah. Through him God said, “Here Is My Servant whom I uphold, my Chosen One in whom I delight. I am placing my Spirit on Him.” This is the One whom Isaiah prophesied. Here He Is. God’s favor rests on Jesus.
To be sure there are many others who had God’s favor on them. They also were called His servants. There was Abraham (Gn.26:24), Moses (Nu.12:7), David (2Sm.3:18), Job (1:8). Isaiah was called God’s servant (20:3). Even a heathen king by the name of Cyrus was called the LORD’s anointed one (45:1). All of them had a special role and purpose to fulfill in God’s plan of salvation.
But this is a prophecy, a precursor to the voice at the Jordan River: Here He Is – My Servant. In those words see God standing with His arm outstretched, pointing you to Jesus in the water saying: “This is the One I promised you. My favor rests on Him.”
And there is more. Not only does God’s favor rest on Him, but God’s credentials stand behind Him.
Isaiah continued, “This is what the true God says, the LORD, who creates the heavens and stretches them out, who spreads out the earth and everything that comes out of it, who gives breath to the people upon it and life to those who walk on it: ‘I am the LORD calling you in righteousness. I will grasp your hand, guard you, and appoint you to be a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.”
Sometimes when kids are arguing among themselves as to who is going to do this or do that, you might hear one of them say, “What gives you the right to tell me what to do?” It’s not only children who say such things. How many times don’t adults say things like that in anger or defiance: “What gives you the right to tell me what to do?” We don’t like the idea of someone telling us what we don’t want to hear. But it’s important for us to hear what someone else has to say.
If you are sick, it’s important that you listen to the right person who can tell you what’s wrong. If you listen to someone who doesn’t have the right credentials and follow his advice, you may find yourself in deeper trouble.
Oh, that God would have our attention. Sadly, He doesn’t always get it. How often is His Word spoken but few hear it?
In Isaiah God has something to say. He says it to His Servant, the One in the Jordan River, to appoint and assure Him of the saving work He is called to carry out. But its announcement is intended more for us who are on the sidelines listening, that we might know and believe. And before we hear what He says, He gives His credentials – His right to speak. He’s the Creator of all!
It’s more than just a right for Him. It’s a comfort for us. If you ever have any question about whether God will help you or if God can do what He promises, you need to remember that He created all things. His power and desire to create stand as a pledge of His promise to help.
Such promise and pledge He throws right behind His Son, the Servant in whom He delights. God’s credentials stand behind Him. He will do and He will be able to do what He says.
And this is what He says, “Here Is – My Servant, my Chosen One in whom I delight…He will bring forth the verdict for the nations. He will not cry out. He will not raise His voice. He will not make His voice heard in the street. A bent reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not snuff out.” What does that mean? Think of Jesus as He went on from here to save us.
Do you recall how He frequently would heal someone and tell them not to say anything about it? There were various reasons for it. But also see it as the quiet ministry of Jesus, so different from the publicity actions of many who cry out for attention. Jesus is God’s Servant who without self-promotion and fanfare, without calling great attention to Himself, quietly, gently, tenderly, lovingly goes about His work of healing and nurturing faith in our lives. God’s redeeming activity quietly works through Him. He will do nothing to snuff out your faith or break you off from His blessings. Indeed, He came to fill you with His righteousness.
Here He Is – God’s Servant. Look at Him in the water, quietly filling Baptism with the righteousness we need. See Him gently working in the lives of His baptized people, filling them with the fruits of salvation. From here He begins His journey to the cross to pay for sin and complete the righteousness we need to have before God. This is He, your heaven-sent Savior. God grant us the faith to see and rejoice in Him; for Jesus’ sake. Amen
Zion Lutheran Church of Springfield
(Member of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)
4717 S Farm Rd 135 (Golden Avenue)
Church phone: 417.887.0886 Pastor’s cell phone: 417.693.3244
www.zionluthchurch.com You can find us also on Facebook
The First Sunday after the Epiphany; The Baptism of Our Lord January 12, 2020 W
“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17
F o r O u r V i s i t o r s
We extend a warm and sincere welcome in our Savior’s name. Please sign our guest book, located to the right just outside the sanctuary. If you desire more information about Zion Lutheran Church or are in need of spiritual guidance, please call upon our pastor at any time. We are delighted to have you join us today and invite you to return soon.
U p o n E n t e r i n g G o d’ s H o u s e
“Let the people praise You, O God; let all the people praise You. Endow the King with Your justice, the royal Son with Your righteousness. All nations will be blessed through Him, and they will call Him blessed. Praise be to the LORD God, who alone does marvelous deeds” (Psalm 72).
W h a t T h i s S u n d a y i s A b o u t
Chosen, Anointed, and Revealed as the Savior. “See that man over there?” the old soldier said to the new recruit. “He’s the one to hang around. Go where he goes. He will show you everything.”
It is in a similar way with us and the Lord Jesus – except on a much, much higher plane. He not only shows us everything, but as God’s Son He does everything needed. We need to know Him better, for the better we know Him, the better we’ll understand the reason to follow Him whom God chose, anointed, and revealed for our eternal good.
To that end we pray: Heavenly Father, at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Long before, You chose Him to bring us salvation. Keep us who believe and are baptized into Christ faithful in our calling as Your children. Enable us to follow Him without hesitation. Finally, make us heirs with Him of everlasting life; for His name’s sake. Amen.
– T h e W o r d o f G o d f o r T o d a y –
The Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 42:1-7
The Lord God directs all things to meet His goal – a heavenly kingdom of pardon, peace, and justice. He promises to send a trusted Servant to carry out that goal. He will equip the servant for the task and fill Him with the Spirit by which He gently and tenderly would go forth.
The Epistle Lesson: Acts 10:34-38
God sent Peter to bring the Gospel to a Roman soldier named Cornelius. But first, God opened Peter’s eyes to see that His desire is to show mercy to all in Christ, whether to Jew or Gentile. To that end Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power to do the work.
The Gospel Lesson: Matthew 3:13-17
Jesus begins His earthly ministry by submitting Himself for baptism by John in the Jordan River. In that He “fulfilled all righteousness” and was thereby revealed as the Messiah, God’s chosen Servant who would bring salvation to fallen mankind.
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We Serve the Lord with Gladness:
Today’s Organist: Jane Rips
Today’s Preacher: Pastor Edwin Lehmann
January’s Ushers: Brandon Cook, Bill Buchanan, & Gary Sellin
Point to Ponder: “God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are indeed in and with this water, as they were there on the banks of the Jordan….This is why Baptism is a water that takes away sin, death, and every evil and helps us to enter heaven and eternal life. Such a delicious water, aromatic, and specific it has become because God Himself has entered it.” — Martin Luther on Jesus’ Baptism Tied to Our Own
Jesus! Name of wondrous love, Name all other names above,
Unto which must ev’ry knee Bow in deep humility.
Jesus! Only name that’s giv’n Under all the mighty heav’n
Whereby all, to sin enslaved, Burst their fetters and are saved.
Christian Worship 76 st.1&4
Outline of Our Worship
Lord, Hear Us
Opening Thoughts on the Service
Entrance Hymn: #83
Order of Worship: Hymnal page 38, “Service of the Word”
Lord, Feed Us
Psalm of the Day: #72 Hymnal page 93
Hymn Response: #76
Sermon Hymn: #89
Sermon Text: Matthew 3:16-17 & Isaiah 42:1-7 Here He Is –God’s Servant!
Lord, Accept Our Response
Apostles’ Creed: pg.41
Prayers & The Lord’s Prayer. pg.43
Lord, Bless Us
Closing Prayer & Blessing: Hymnal pages 43-44
WELS Connection Video