The Baptism of our Lord – January 11 & 12, 2014
“Behold!” … We don’t say that much anymore do we? But for this very reason, because it is seldom used and will likely grab our attention, it is a good and helpful Bible word to use, especially during this season of Epiphany.
“Behold!” means – “Look here! Take notice! Give your full attention!” Isn’t it frustrating to be talking with another person, but their attention is drawn away to something else? (cell phone, TV, music, etc.) We want to “call them back” to “behold” what we are wanting to tell them!
Do you remember “show and tell” in school? It was a time when all in the class were to stop what they were doing and (behold) give their full attention to the person who was “showing and telling.”
This weekend we celebrate the Baptism of Jesus and celebrate with the giving of the Bibles to our 2nd graders, in fulfillment of the promise that parents and sponsors (and we, the congregation) make at infant baptisms – “to place into their hands the Holy Scriptures, bring them to the worship services of God’s house, etc.”
In the Gospel reading, we read of Jesus’ baptism: “As soon as Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and (John) saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Jesus, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17
Jesus’ baptism was the beginning of His public ministry in which He perfectly fulfilled and obeyed the only plan of salvation for all mankind – obediently submitting to His Heavenly Father – taking the full punishment for our sin and the sin of the world so that we might live under Him in His kingdom and serve and love Him through eternity.
We have the great privilege of witnessing and celebrating many baptisms here at Holy Cross. What do you “behold?” Some water poured on the head, a few words said – nothing too spectacular? But there’s a profound difference between the way things are seen and heard through sinful human eyes and ears and the “new” eyes and ears received through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. The ONLY WAY to receive the eternal benefits of God’s “SHOW and TELL” is first of all to “BEHOLD” with the “eyes and ears of faith.”
John the Baptist had “eyes and ears of faith.” When Jesus came to be baptized, “John tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You…'” (Matthew 3:14) John’s baptism was one of “repentance,” meant for sinners. Therefore, when Jesus came to be baptized, John could “see” his own need for the forgiveness of sins, and he knew that Jesus did not need it. But with the “ears of faith,” John heard Jesus reply, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this (be baptized) to fulfill all righteousness.” (v.15) Jesus was baptized as THE sin-bearer, the One who takes away the sin of the world! But only “eyes and ears of faith” receive this “show and tell” truth.
In today’s second reading, Romans 6, God’s Word “shows and tells” us that through Holy Baptism, “all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Romans 6:3-4) Through Holy Baptism God DAILY renews and changes us. God gives us these GREATEST BLESSINGS so that we might have new lives, through Him.
Dr. Charlie Shedd tells about two brothers in a small northwestern community who, many years ago, were caught stealing sheep. Frontier justice ordered them branded on their foreheads with the large letters “S.T.” (“sheep thief”). One brother left the home place to try to hide his shame. But wherever he went people would ask the meaning of those letters. He never could hold a job and drank Himself to death on skid row. The other brother, Thomas, decided to stick it out on the home farm. Through the help of the local congregation he turned to the Lord in repentance, was baptized and gradually became active in all sorts of service programs. As the years went by, God worked a mighty change through Thomas who became so noted for his kindness and generosity that nobody ever talked about the brand on his forehead. After a long life of service, Thomas died and had one of the biggest funerals the town had ever known. As one young boy went by the casket, he asked a friend standing nearby, “Just what does that brand, ‘S.T.,’ on Tom’s forehead really mean?” To which his friend replied, “I don’t know for sure, but I think the letters stand for ‘St. Thomas.'”
BEHOLD! God had taken a “sheep thief” and made him into a “St. Thomas.” God works the same miracle in you and me, by faith. Through His SHOW and TELL of Holy Baptism, the “Behold” of preaching, teaching and learning of His Holy Scriptures, and the “Behold” of the rich blessings of the Lord’s Supper, God also makes us “changed people,” changed from “sinners” to “saints.” So that as God continues His work in us, like “St. Thomas,” we show and tell the grace of God by our words and deeds, as we daily serve our family members, the fellow members of our church and community, and even those we have never met across the world through our mission offerings and prayers through District and Synod.
BEHOLD, what a blessing to have a gracious God who loves to SHOW and TELL, especially working through you and me as His own dear sons and daughters “whom He loves, and because through our baptism we have died with Jesus and been raised with Him – He lives in us and through us so that God the Father also says about us: with whom He is well pleased.”