Wet With The Sins of The World: Baptism of Our Lord - Mark 1:4-11 / Pastor Ted A. Giese
"Wet With The Sins of The World" Baptism of Our Lord /Season of Epiphany / Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Mark 1:4-11
John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. 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.”
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 [Jesus] like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You 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 every person's life there are places that have extra meaning attached to them. The extra meaning can come from big giant milestone moments that happen in a particular location, the grand big stuff of life, or that location can have that extra meaning because of the small cumulative sort of stuff in life that in retrospect garners great personal importance.
If you've ever had a bad car accident you will for years and years think about it every time you drive that stretch of road - or you may actually avoid that stretch of road all together. There are TV commercials with people in rather mundane places saying 'this is where I started smoking and this is where I'm going to stop smoking.' On the other side of things you may fondly remember your childhood home, the farm yard, the barn, the door-jam in the house where your mom and dad marked with pencil how tall you were growing. The police officer will remember the first time they drew their gun in the line of duty or the mechanic might remember the make and model of the first car they got going after it had broken down. Mothers will remember when and where, and what they were doing, when their water broke and labour began, especially with their first child.
Nations can have a similar sort of experience too, a sort of collective memory, about events both good and bad. Many Canadian who were around in the 1970's will remember the Summit Series of 1972, in Moscow, when Paul Henderson with 34 seconds left in game 8 scored the winning goal against the Russians for Canada.
For our American Neighbours the events of 9/11 changed everything. I remember the day that it was unfolding. Later I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes the monument built on the site of the destruction. The two giant holes in the earth marking the footprint of where the twin towers had stood. For America it is a marker of an event, a part of NYC now imbued with extra meaning.
The Jewish people living in Israel at the time of our Gospel reading today also had places where events from their past loomed large in their collective memory. The River Jordan was just such a place. In today's Gospel we hear how "all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to [John the Baptizer] and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins." The River Jordan was a place for the start of something, a place where the grace and mercy and love of God toward the Israelites had been made known. It only stands to reason then, that if you were repenting, if you were acknowledging your sinfulness and seeking to amend your life, if you were looking for a new start, you might find yourself down at a spot where you knew God had done that sort of thing before ... a sort of grace by association kind of thing.
Everyone one standing at the banks of the River Jordan, as they listened to John and prepared to be baptized, would have remembered how after being rescued from slavery in Egypt their ancestors had been in the wilderness for forty years. How the time had come for the Children of Israel to cross into the land promised to them. Leadership had pass from Moses to Joshua and before them was the River Jordan. On the other side of the river was the promised land, a land flowing with Milk and Honey. The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God.” And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”
So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water ..., the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, ... , and those flowing down toward the Sea ..., were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan."
In those days the Ark of the Covenant served as a promise that the LORD was with them, that God was keeping His promises. Skip forward about 1,400 years and in the days of John the Baptizer the LORD was with the people too, this time He was not with the Children of Israel like He was before, This time He needed no Ark of the Covenant ... the people at the Jordan river, on the day that our Gospel Reading is describing, have the LORD with them but they don't know the enormity of it. Jesus stands on the bank of the Jordan river in the sandals that John the Baptizer wouldn't dare to stoop down and untie and Mark's Gospel tells us that Jesus was there to be baptized. He stood with them, stood with the sinners in the flesh, more than a symbol covered in gold and carried by priest, He was physically present with them and yet because of His incarnation Jesus was hidden from their eyes - He just looked like one of them.
In the Book of Joshua the people crossed the River Jordan on dry ground - like it was a mini crossing of the Red Sea. It was like a confirmation of the Baptism they'd received as a people when they'd crossed the Red Sea. In the Book of Joshua, at the River Jordan, God was showing His power, yet this time around, when God stands in their midst, when Jesus stands with them, the power of God is not in staying dry but rather it is going to be shown in getting wet. The whole point of Jesus coming into the world in the incarnation is to get wet, so to speak. God in the flesh will walk right down into the waters of the Jordan river, waters that fell with Adam in the beginning and are corrupted with the curse of sin. These were the waters that sinner after sinner after sinner were being washed in - in fact everyone there rubbing shoulders with Jesus, Even this John the baptizer guy were all horrible evil people. That is they were horrible evil people in their sin, in the eyes of Jesus, in the eyes of God they were His people, they were His children and He loved them and He was opening a way for them, a fulfilment of the covenant promise He made with them so that they would be as perfect as Jesus was perfect.
Think of the dish detergent commercials, you know the dishwashing soap commercials, the ones where you see the greasy casserole dish and then a single drop of dish soap gets squirted into the greasy gross water and pow the grease shoots off in every direction and the water looks clean! Jesus is like that. Jesus sanctifies the waters, makes the waters clean. Actively and retro-actively cleaning the waters of creation. Making the waters of your baptism Holy. Jesus steps into the grimy, dirty waters of this world so that you could be washed clean in Him. He does this not in the Sea of Galilee or in the pools of Siloam in Jerusalem - He does this at the River Jordan. When Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan River and the heavens were torn open and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove and a voice came from heaven saying of Him, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased,” in place of Joshua, who had been be a military leader soaked in the blood of the enemies of Israel, God the Father gives the people His Son Jesus who was not to be a warrior but the Prince of Peace who ultimately would be soaked in His own precious innocent blood for the enemies of Israel. At the cross Jesus would be soaked in His own blood for the forgiveness of all the world.
The Jordan River is the place where Jesus' public Ministry would begin - from that spot as His feet come up out of the waters of the river they begin walking the path that would take Him to the Cross where His feet would be pierced with nails for your transgressions. And forty days after Easter Morning and Jesus' resurrection those same nail pierced feet which had been made wet with the waters of His baptism, made wet with the sins of the world, made wet with the blood of His sacrifice ascended into heaven. And on the day of His ascension Jesus made Baptism a thing for all people, a thing for you. He took His Baptism at the Jordan River and spread it all around the globe, making it not only a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins but a baptism of the Holy Spirit. As a Christian you would not be expected to make a pilgrimage to the River Jordan to be baptized, Jesus places no such expectation on you, He simply tells His disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” For this reason your baptism is valid whether it's at this baptismal font, or in the Pasqua Lake, or in a sink at home, or in a Hospital bed or in a ditch alongside the road. Even still wherever that place of your baptism might be or, might have been in your life, it becomes a special place, a special place to you.
Your baptism as a Christian, your baptism into the life - death- and resurrection of Jesus is big giant milestone moments in your life and it's worthy of being remembered every day. Every Day you are free in Christ to return to those waters and ask for forgiveness all over again. To return in repentance over and over again, to remember your baptismal birthday yearly, to begin each Worship Service, Each Divine Service, in the church by remembering your baptism and the Name of God that you were sealed into. Whether you can remember the moment as clear as crystal or whether you remember the moment as a historically event in your life doesn't diminish or embellish what God has done for you in Christ Jesus, what has been applied to you in Christ Jesus in the waters of your baptism. Just as God was making His Son known in the waters of the River Jordan on the Day of Jesus' Baptism - God makes it known that you are His child in the waters of your baptism. As God's children we are fellow heirs of the kingdom of God with Christ and now in our Christian life we suffer with Jesus just as He suffered with us and on the Last Day we trust that we will be glorified with Jesus. On that day we will see Jesus with our own eyes and with our own ears we will hear God say to us 'You are My beloved forgiven child; with you I am well pleased, come enter into your rest for the sake of Jesus and all He has accomplished for you." 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.
 Mark 1:5
 Joshua 3:7-17
 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, "For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea."
 Matthew 28:18-20
 Romans 8:17