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Worship Series: Joining Jesus
Worship Theme: Through Baptism
- CW 79 How Lovely Shines the Morning Star
- CW 299 All Who Believe and Are Baptized
- CWS 739 Baptismal Waters Cover Me
- Lamb of God
- CW 332 Go, My Children, with My Blessing
Message: Joining Jesus - Through Baptism
Pastor Jake Schram
What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” Jesus once asked this question to his disciples about John the Baptist. “A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet (Matthew 11:7-9).” John certainly was a great prophet and preached a message for all of us to hear. He encouraged people to be baptized and to repent. He told it to just about everyone. He told rich and poor. He told people willing to listen and people who would gladly take his life. He told everyone because everyone needed to hear it. He tells us today because we need to hear it.
Repentance is a change of heart and mind. This is what John the Baptist wanted for people. You see, John knew something about people. He knew they needed to change their focus from sin to a Savior. And he tried to show it in everything he did. John couldn’t just Google pictures to help show people these things. He had to use what was around him. He preached in the wilderness, aka the desert. How very reminiscent of Israelite hearts which had become a desert region, dried out and desolate. He tried to wear unassuming clothes so as not to distract the Israelites with fancy trinkets or tricks. He wanted them to see what was truly worthwhile. He wanted them to see, not with their eyes, but with their hearts and minds. He wanted them to see the Savior who would die for their sins. His clothes also reminded the people he was a prophet and not just any prophet. A prophet just like the miraculous Elijah, famed for the wonders and messages he brought directly from God. John used everything around him so that people would make as many connections as possible. They would understand and repent. He hoped people would change their hearts and minds from being directed toward sin and instead be ready to receive something so much better. And people were getting the message. “The Whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him.”
I did a little bit of research and apparently the closest point of the Jordan river from Jerusalem was about 20 miles. They didn’t have cars back then, so this is a substantial trip. These people were taking valuable time out of their schedules to come see John and hear what he had to say. They hadn’t heard a prophet in 400 years. They weren’t going to miss this! And it was worth it! John’s message influenced people’s hearts. As he proclaimed God’s Word to them, they confessed their sins and were baptized. In other words, they repented, just like John urged them to.
In the process, their hearts were opened to receive the great gift, the gift of a Savior who would come. John was just preparing the way for him. John was an amazing man. Jesus once proclaimed John to be the greatest among those born of women (Luke 7:28) and yet John did not claim to be what he was not. He was not the Christ and he did his best to keep the record straight. He said, “One more powerful than I is coming after me, I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals!” If I asked you to remove your shoes in church right now, would you do it? Some of you probably would, but others of you would be like, “But Pastor Jake, I can’t do that. There are people around!!!” Sometimes feet aren’t the freshest smelling body parts on the earth. And back then, with all the walking and sweating going on, you can bet sandals were gross. Untying sandal straps was a task only reserved for the lowest in society. Usually, it was a menial task only given to slaves. Back then, disciples would perform all sorts of service for their teachers, but untying sandal straps was off limits. Too gross! Too demeaning! John is saying he wouldn’t be worthy of doing even this task for the Savior to come. This Savior is so amazing, he would not only be able to baptize with water, but also with the Holy Spirit. He would be able to pour out the Holy Spirit on people. Pentecost was an example of this when Jesus sent a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit over his disciples and allowed them to preach the gospel in different languages they had never learned. But that’s a sermon for another time. Just know this Savior was unlike anyone else who would ever walk the earth. This Savior would change hearts and take away sin. And he was coming very, very soon.
A short time later, the Savior did come right up to John. He came from a small town called Nazareth, which no one expected. But it was definitely the Savior. As Jesus walked up to where John was baptizing. John shouted, “Look, the lamb who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).” Here was the one whose sandals John was unfit to untie. It’s not recorded for us here in Mark, but Matthew shows a small disagreement started after Jesus asked John to baptize him. The purpose of baptism is to receive the forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit working faith in your heart. But Jesus didn’t sin. There was no evil to wash away. He met all the righteous requirements of God’s law. He was perfect and therefore he didn’t need baptism like we do. Jesus told John to baptize him anyways to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus was baptized as a concession due to his humiliation: the sinless Son of God received the baptism meant for sinners because he would be the sin-bearer. Like he did his entire life. Jesus stood in the place of sinners. By his baptism, Jesus completely identified himself with humanity’s sin and failure, becoming our substitute.
This is what John the Baptist didn’t want you to miss. He wanted people to repent so they were ready to see Jesus as who he truly was. He is the one who dies for our sins and carries us on his shoulders to heaven. Jesus is the one whom God the Father looked down on and said, “You are my Son, whom I love. I am well pleased with you.” Since Jesus is our substitute for sin, God is also pleased with you. When God looks at you, he sees what Jesus did and the perfection Jesus covers us with.
Part of repentance is having your heart ready to hear about Jesus, what he’s done and what he wants you to do. When we repent, we look at Jesus and recognize what a gift he is to us. He is a free gift, but we hold on to the promise of this gift through faith. So what role does baptism play in all this? We receive Jesus when we hear God’s Word, but also in a more physical way through baptism. John the Baptist understood this. After all, baptism was such an important part of his work that he became known as John THE BAPTIST. We join Jesus through baptism. Baptism is an awesome promise given by God that he will work forgiveness and faith through water and the Word. And this promise lasts throughout your lifetime. It works whether you haven’t quite reached 1 year old or if you are coming around the bend to year 110. This promise is always there for you. If you fall away from the faith in your lifetime, the promise does not disappear. It is still waiting for when a person repents and recognizes Jesus once more. It continues to work on you and in you. It’s a promise that strengthens and encourages believers every day. Frankly, it’s a promise that saves.
Let me explain with a story. In our first year of marriage, Sarah and I locked ourselves out of our apartment. It was an accident, but it was still our fault. Inside our apartment we had this closet right by the entrance. We had placed a board game inside the closet and must not have pushed it all the way back into the closet. Then we left on a trip. When we got back, we found that even when we unlocked the door, we couldn’t get it open very far. The closet door had opened up. Apparently, the board game had fallen at just the right angle so that it opened the closet door and had wedged itself in a way that it was braced by other stronger items. It held the closet door into the entrance door at just the right angle so it was impossible for us to open without breaking the entrance door. Of course, we didn’t know all this had happened at the time. We just knew the door would not open. Nothing was working. We couldn’t use a coat hanger to remove whatever had fallen because the closet door blocked all attempts. We walked to the apartment office and no one was there. It must have been a holiday because even the 24-hour help line was closed. All our close friends were away. We were totally shut-out. Or were we? We suddenly remembered that one of our windows was unlocked and we might be able to finagle our way in through there. There was only one problem: We lived on the second floor. It was also high up for a second floor, a lot higher than normal second floors. We had nothing to climb with and when we checked, the ladder that was always available for tenants had disappeared. Suddenly struck by inspiration at the exact same time, Sarah and I had this grand idea to pull the car around to the side of the building where there were no gutters and then have me climb the car, jump off the roof of the car, grab hold of the roof of our apartment building, clamber up on the slanting roof, open the window, remove the screen, climb through the window, and finally go around and remove whatever was blocking the door. Easy-peasy. What could possibly go wrong? We pulled the car around and I jumped. Things didn’t go like we planned. As a I jumped, the car roof indented down, lowering my jump. At the same time, I remembered something I hadn’t thought of: I had just recovered from knee surgery and couldn’t jump as high as I used to. I barely grabbed hold of the apartment roof noticing that if I fell there were only metal electrical boxes and air conditioning units below to catch me. As I was hanging there, stuck, I thought, “How did I get into this position?”
In life, we do this all the time. We get stuck in a hopeless position. How did we get in this position? Sin. We get enveloped in our sins, thinking it’s a good idea and then we get stuck in them. Our sinful nature means we never had a chance. We were born in this sinful position and all of us add sins from our daily living to make our position worse. We are totally at fault and we are helpless when it comes to earning eternal life. We would just fall to our certain deaths. We simply need someone to come rescue us. This is where baptism comes in. Baptism is just what we need. It’s what gets us out of a tough spot. It creates faith in our hearts so we can cling to Jesus. If you already have faith, baptism strengthens it. It reaches towards the promises God gives us and clamps onto it with a death grip because it really is the difference between death and life. Your baptism is effective because it won’t let go of the promises of God. God is the only way to be saved. Jesus is the only way to heaven. He helps you away from sin and death. He removes the immovable obstacles of sin and the devil and then unlocks the door to heaven with his own innocent suffering and death. He carries you through the uneven terrain of life to get you safely home with him. John the Baptist shows us why baptism is so important. It’s important because baptism joins us to Jesus. Jesus would later command us to baptize all nations in the name of the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit because baptism clings to the one who saves. It works repentance in us, recognizes Jesus as the Savior, works faith, and latches on to the promises of forgiveness in Christ. Through baptism, we join Jesus. And Jesus takes us to our heavenly home. Amen.