The Best Day of Your Life / Luke 3:15–22 / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 9th 2022 / Baptism of our Lord / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday January 9th 2022: Season of Epiphany – Baptism of Our Lord / Luke 3:15–22 "The Best Day of Your Life"
As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but He who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”
So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.
Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, 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. What has been the most important day of your life? The day you were born? Your wedding day? The day you finished School? The day you got your driver’s licence? The day you retired from working? Or is it a day yet to come? Perhaps the day of your death, the day your life is capped off and all is finished? What if I were to tell you that the most important day of your life is the day you were baptised? In that day you died to sin and were made alive in Christ Jesus: What did St. Paul say in his letter to the Christians of Rome, “For one who has died has been set free from sin,” in our Baptism we have been truly set free from the condemnation that comes through sin because of who we have been baptised into, because we have been baptised into Christ Jesus. Today we celebrate Jesus’ own baptism, a day that was foretold and prepared for in the centuries preceding that day at the Jordan River.
Saint Luke in the Gospel for today gives us a succinct, to the point, concise picture of what happened when Jesus was baptised, “when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” In our Old Testament Reading Isaiah brings God the Father’s Words prophesying that moment of Jesus’ baptism, foretelling what would happen that day at the Jordan, when Isaiah writes, “ I have called You by name, You are Mine,” … as our St Luke in our Gospel says: A voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son.” God the Father calls Jesus His Son and in Baptism you are the sons and daughters of Jesus’ heavenly Father. In those waters God the Father calls you by name. For as Saint Paul teaches, in those waters you are intrinsically, fundamentally, in actual fact connected to Jesus and His Baptism and not only His Baptism: In the waters of your Baptism into Jesus you are likewise intrinsically, fundamentally, in actual fact connected to Jesus and His Crucifixion.
The same body of Jesus baptised in the Jordan River by the rough and tumble John the Baptiser was nailed to the wooden beams of the cross by order of Pontius Pilate, the clean cut Roman Governor, some three years later. And what else did Isaiah prophesy in addition to God the Father calling Jesus, Israel reduced to one man, the new Adam, by name? Isaiah foretold God the Father’s promises, “When You pass through the waters, I will be with You;” … the promise extends out from that day when Isaiah writes how God will be with His Son “when [He walks] through fire,” saying, “You shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume You.” Yes in the waters of the river God the Father promises His Son that He will not be overwhelmed. Isaiah paved the way for Jesus, and John the Baptiser paved the way for Jesus and Jesus who is The Way makes His Way ready for you.
To fulfill all righteousness Jesus blesses the waters of baptism for all time right down to the water that was poured over you the day of your own baptism. And what did John the Baptiser say about the baptism Jesus’ followers would receive? “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” With the Holy Spirit your receive faith and because of what Saint Paul teaches you can trust that in your baptism you have also been baptized with the fire of Jesus’ crucifixion, His death for your sins, and His burial, all the wrath of God the Father poured out upon His innocent Son, and because Jesus took your sin upon Himself, it is now poured out like a deluge of water purified by the innocence of Christ Jesus and made into a life giving fire provided to you in your baptism on account of Christ Jesus. Because of Jesus the words we heard in Isaiah are now words for you: “I have called You by name, You are Mine,” “When You pass through the waters, I will be with You,” “When You walk through fire You shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume You.” Yes as Saint Paul then sums up for us “For if we have been united with [Jesus] in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with [Jesus] in a resurrection like His.” For this reason your day of Baptism is the most important day in your life, the day of your adoption, the day Death lost its sting, the day the victory of Christ Jesus was accounted to you, accredited to you, not by virtue of anything you have done but as a hard fought gift won by the blood, sweat and tears of Christ Jesus Himself given freely out of love to you by the grace of God.
The day of Jesus’ baptism also heralded the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry from there Jesus would soon set out saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Pragmatically take those words at face value for yourself, there is no time like the present, “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” These words are not only for then they are for you and for everyone you know and love even for everyone who is your enemy, these are words for all people and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River was a baptism for all people as well. In Christ Jesus what Isaiah prophesied, what Isaiah foretold has come true,
“I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring My sons from afar
and My daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by My name,
whom I created for My glory,
whom I formed and made.”
In Christ Jesus this has come to pass, and continues to come day by day, and will continue until The Last Day and Jesus’ return. It is accomplished by the Word of the LORD which endures forever, the Word that gently takes you by the hand and leads you safely through the waters of baptism in Christ Jesus, through the fire of the cross of Good Friday in Christ Jesus, saying “I call you by name, you are mine,” my forgiven child.
Now here’s a parting thought for you today from John the Baptiser, something you might have found puzzling, he said of Jesus, “His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear His threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” What does that mean? The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was once a property that included a threshing floor purchased by King David hundreds of years earlier to be the future sight of the Temple which his son Solomon would build, so here John the Baptiser at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry with this Old Testament reference is foretelling what will happen at the end of Jesus’ public ministry. Think of the winnowing fork in Jesus’ hand as the cord He fashioned into a whip to drive the money changers out of the Temple at the beginning of Holy Week on Palm Sunday. During that week Jesus taught in the Temple each day until His betrayal and arrest and in His teaching Jesus was sifting, He was gather the wheat into His barn and those who refused to believe in Him, those who would not listen to His voice are the chaff who Jesus consigns, send off to the unquenchable fire. Where the unquenchable fire of God the Father’s wrath is quenched for the believer is at the cross, for the unbeliever that fire of God’s wrath still burns with righteous anger over sin. And so it is for today as well, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” This is also why we are called to remember our baptism every day, to remember who we are as adopted children of our Heavenly Father, the brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus His Son, and to consider how it is we want to live our lives.
Our epistle reading from Saint Paul begins with a question, “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?” What kind of life do you want to lead? You are forgiven, you are baptised, Jesus has prepared The Way for you, He is The Way, The Truth and The Life, how do you want to live as children of God? Do you want to walk as a child of The Light? For each baptised child of God sin remains a struggle, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The Wisdom of Solomon reminds us; “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.” Saint John had told everyone who came to him for baptism at the Jordan River, “bear fruits in keeping with repentance,” and later in His public ministry Jesus would say, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” Such a life of repentance is one where each time we have fallen short of the glory of God, each time we have returned to the vomit of our sin we then likewise need to return to the LORD in repentance for forgiveness for we know that “He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.” All the same do you want to eat vomit all day? Do you want to fall down every time you are tempted by sin? I don’t think so. Remember this encouragement from Saint James, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and [the devil] will flee from you.” In other words, don’t live life like you aren’t baptised, live life as a child of God, and as a child run to His arms when things go wrong. The child who falls down gets up and runs to their parent to be comforted, protected and made well. Let it be this way for you in your faith. There are no truly bad days when you remember this, when you believe this, when you live in this grace; dear ones for this reason remember your baptism daily and every day will be the best day no matter what is happening. Rest in the gift given to you on the best day of your life, the day our gospel reading became part of your life’s story, the day you were baptised; and when the heavens open again and Jesus returns in glory you will hear God say “I have called You by name, You are Mine,” “with you [because of Christ Jesus My Son, and for His sake,] I am well pleased,” come into the rest prepared 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.
 Romans 6:7
 Isaiah 43:1–2
 Romans 5:18, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.”
 Isaiah 43:2
 Romans 6:5
 1 Corinthians 15:55–57
 Luke 3:23
 Mark 1:15
 Matthew 5:43–48
 Isaiah 43:6–7
 1 Peter 1:25
 2 Sam. 24:18; 1Chr. 21:18 When looking at these two texts remember that Araunah and Ornan are simply variations of the same name, referring to the same person. 2 Samuel 24 records David’s purchase of the threshing floor and oxen while 1 Chronicles 21 records the full purchase of the land including the necessary surrounding land.
 Mark 16:16
 Romans 6:1–2
 Romans 3:23
 Proverbs 26:11
 Luke 3:8
 Luke 5:32
 Joel 2:13
 James 4:6–7
 Matthew 25:23
Photo Credits: Main Photo Light Under Water from pexels; Jordan River from lutheranstockphotos; Detail of Stain Glass Window of Jesus’ Baptism Holy Spirit from pexels; Detail of Stain Glass Window of Jesus’ Baptism John the Baptiser and Jesus from pexels; Detail Walking Through Fire from unsplash; Flowing Water from pexels; Detail of Hands with Water from unsplash.