Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday January 8th 2017 - / Matthew 3:13-17 / God Came When We Least Expect it. God Will Come When You Least Expect it
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 8th 2017: Baptism of Our Lord / Matthew 3:13-17 " God Came When We Least Expect it. God Will Come When You Least Expect it"
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In the Old Testament Isaiah the prophet laments to the LORD saying, "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence —as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make Your name known to Your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at Your presence!" In today's Gospel Lesson Jesus stands in the waters of the Jordan River, "and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and [Jesus] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and [then He saw this same Spirit of God] coming to rest on Him." ... "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down." The very thing Isaiah looked for, the very thing Isaiah waited for, the very thing Isaiah wanted to see, was fulfilled in Jesus.
Isaiah wants to see God shake the mountains and bring the heat, bring forth the fire. The kind of fire of the Lord's presence that would kindle brushwood and cause water to boil. He wants to see God come down, Isaiah wants to see the Lord in action. Earlier In the Gospel of Matthew, John the Baptiser says to those gathered at the Jordan River, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." The Acts of the Apostles talks about the fulfilment of this coming fire this coming Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised His disciples concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit saying, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." When did that happen and what was that like? Ten days after Jesus was ascended into heaven, "when the day of Pentecost arrived, they [the faithful apostles] were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit." " ... "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down." Kindle the brushwood, boil the water.
This last Friday Night we began the Season of Epiphany, the new season that we are in now, and as we heard in Pastor Solie's Sermon Friday evening Epiphany is a word that had been used in the Greek World to get across the idea of a divine being appearing suddenly, in an unexpected way. A sudden revelation breaking forth into the flesh and blood world of ordinary people toiling away in their daily lives. The Baptism of our Lord marks the sudden public revelation of the Christ, the Messiah, of Emanuel - God with us - The Baptism of our Lord marks the beginning of Jesus' open and public ministry first with the children of Israel and then with the gentiles, His Baptism marks the beginning of Jesus coming to be with us in the midst of our mundane ordinary flesh and blood lives.
The Epiphany part of that comes in this way: The Child we celebrated in the Season of Christmas, the young Child lauded by choirs of angels to shepherds in their fields, the young Child that the Magi, the Wise Men of the East come to adore and worship guided by a the sign of a Star in the heavens, after gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, this Child after all of that, in His day, was essentially an unknown quantity. The Virgin Mary and those closest to Him know and remember those events but it seems like Jesus for the most part is simply a man standing with other men by the Jordan River listening to John in his camel hair garments. John was the big show not Jesus. John picks Jesus out of the crowd saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” but as far as everyone else was concerned that on that day there was nothing overly unique about Jesus. They would likely have looked over and said, "hummm the lamb of God? that guy? really?"
For well over 20 years Jesus had lived His life with very little fan fare. As far as we can know there were no trumpets sounding every time He walked into the room. No angel choirs singing when He finished a day of hard work as a carpenter and headed home for supper. Yes, "the favour of God was upon [Jesus]. And [as Jesus] grew [into adulthood along the way, He had] became strong, [and He was] filled with wisdom," but that doesn't mean Jesus walked around with a giant neon sign pointed at Him blinking on and off with the Words “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” - sincerely God the Father. No, until someone started to talk to Jesus He would have appeared rather unremarkable. What had Isaiah said of the coming Christ? Isaiah had said that, "He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him." This is the nature of the Epiphany of Jesus: The revelation of who Jesus truly was to the Jewish world of the day, was a surprise.
Oddly enough the fact that it was a surprise shouldn't have been a surprise, because the revelation of God, the revealing of God to humanity has always been a surprise. Think back. In the Old Testament, how many years had Moses tended his sheep on the mountainside before Moses saw the kindled brushwood, the burning bush ... how many years had had he been hiding out in the wilderness from the Egyptians when, "the angel of the LORD appeared to [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. [And how surprised was Moses when] He looked, and behold, [He saw that] the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed." It had been some forty years in the wilderness and Moses wasn't even watching or waiting for the Lord to rend the heavens and come down. He wasn't listening for God's voice before He heard God say to him “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The Lord coming to Moses in fire was a surprise, God speaking to Moses from the midst of the flames of the fire was a surprise. Just as it had been a surprise for the children of Israel when Moses walked out of the wilderness under God's direction to save them from around 400 years of Egyptian captivity and slavery. Just as it had been a surprise when everything seemed lost and their backs were up against the Red Sea and the Lord Parted the waters and lead them by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to safety away from the clutches of the pharaoh and his men. Day in and day out they had toiled under the Egyptians and then suddenly God comes to them with power and might and rescues them from the miserable condition.
Even for John who was preparing the way of the Lord, Jesus' actual arrival must have, while expected, come as a surprise. How many men had John Baptized in the Jordan before Jesus came to be Baptized in order to "fulfil all righteousness?" Matthews Gospel says that "Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to [John], and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." Each one John must have thought ... "is this the one?" ... "No, not the one," ... "is this the one?" "No ... not the one" And then one day “Behold, the Lamb of God!” And John says to this Jesus whose arrival was expected yet came completely out of the blue to everyone there, “You come to me to be baptized? I need to be baptized by You!” And then to confirm that this Jesus truly was the one to come John the Baptizer bore witness in the Gospel of Saint John telling us how he “saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on [this Jesus]. I myself, [John says] did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And [John makes his confession saying] I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” On that day God the Holy Spirit - The Third person of the Holy Trinity - rend the heavens and came down and low and behold when God did, God the Son - The Second person of the Holy Trinity - was already standing down on the earth with us in our flesh and blood, and then to top it all off God the Father - The First person of the Holy Trinity - speaks from heaven saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The complete and total Epiphany of our Lord God. A surprise.
Of this Jesus Saint Paul writes, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. ... For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell," This is the one who stood before John in the Jordan river. And as Jesus had begun to do in His very incarnation, in His circumcision, He continues to do in the waters of Baptism, all of this was to "fulfill all righteousness" and "reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven," and this reconciliation was ultimately accomplished by making peace by the blood of His cross, at His crucifixion, in the His death. A death that was ours, a death He takes from us in order to give us His Eternal Life. Just as He takes our sins and gives us His righteousness. Just as He takes the sin drenched waters of the Jordan River and John's Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins and makes it a pure and holy life giving water of forgiveness for us all. All of this happened in the fullness of time, on God's schedule not on the schedule of mankind. We along with Men like Isaiah and John the Baptizer are tasked with the work of waiting for the Lord. They awaited His first appearing, we now wait His glorious second coming when yet again He will rend the heavens and come down, one Last Time.
This past week on a hospital call I read these words from the book of Lamentations:
"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness [O Lord]."
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in Him.”
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD."
Jesus is the Salvation of the LORD. Our trouble is that it is hard to wait. And because the great and final Epiphany of our Lord, which will happen on The Last Day has not occurred and for nearly 2,000 years it has not occurred, men women and children become impatient in their waiting. Day in and day out people, even those baptized into Christ are tempted to put off hoping in Christ Jesus, to put off seeking after Him, they put off waiting for Him in favour of sleeping in, of watching their children or grandchildren play hockey or soccer, or some other sport. They put it all off, when they have a choice, in favour of working extra hours. They say "hasta manana Jesus," see you tomorrow Jesus, today is for me. Today is for my family, my children. Some other day can be for You. They are not fervently pleading and lamenting to God saying with Isaiah, "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down." They put other things, other people before God, by not raising their voices in prayer and praise of God they defame and denigrate His Holy name, by making themselves absent from church they despise His Word and the gifts He has to give. All of this is sin. I'm not talking about people on death door, or the legitimately shut in. Not even the people who make a real effort to be here, the ones who work shift work, and when they can be here they are here. No I'm talking about the able bodied folks who could come, who are not coming. This is the first table of the law and it is broken when a person refuses to wait for the Lord, refuses to seek Him where He may be found. Putting it off to some later date is dangerous because the final coming of Christ Jesus will be a surprise. Scripture says that, "that The Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night."
Dear ones Jesus came to forgive sin, to take sin away. These sins are also forgiven in Him. I was talking to someone about this, because this is one of those topics that we don't often talk about because often we feel guilty about it because we have family members and people we know who are not here the way that they could be here. So sometimes it's tempting to never talk about this, never talk about this topic, because it's unpleasant and it brings up hard feelings. But if it never gets brought up then I can never say to you, "You are forgiven, now go and try again," ... "You're forgiven now go and encourage them again," if it never brought up I can never say in the midst of it, "You are forgiven." Be encouraged and encourage each other to wait faithfully for the coming of the Lord. And when your patients runs thin turn to the one who was perfectly patient, turn to Jesus, and seek forgiveness in Him.
I know for some of you the question is heavy on your heart, you ask, "How many more years will it be before I see my Jesus face to face?" That moment will come as a surprise, even if you are very sick and the end is in sight the moment of Epiphany for you will still be a revelation. For some it will come completely without warning. So with Isaiah we pray, "Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down." We thank God for putting the fire of faith in our hearts, through Holy Baptism and we remember the other promise we've heard from Isaiah, a promise to learn, mark and inwardly digest, that "a bruised reed He will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench." Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Isaiah 64:1-2
 Matthew 3:11
 John 14:25-26
 Acts 2:1-4
 John 1:36
 Isaiah 53:2
 Exodus 3:2
 Exodus 3:6
 Colossians 1:15-18
 Lamentations 3:22-26
 1st Thessalonians 5:2
 Isaiah 42:3