“The Immanuel of Baptism”                                                              January 12, 2014

Matthew 3:13-17                                                                                Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   Since this is Baptism of the Lord Sunday you might be expecting me to preach on the meaning of baptism for the Christian.

A.    After all, Jesus himself was baptized and baptism is one of the two sacraments of the United Methodist Church.

1.     This sermon could be an opportunity for us to have a bit of a conversation about why people should undergo baptism and what happens when a person is baptized, but today I want to begin by focusing on the conversation that occurred between John the Baptist and Jesus at the River Jordan.

B.     Matthew tells us that “Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.” (Matthew 3:13)

1.     OK, that sets the stage but then Matthew informs us that John would have prevented Jesus from having John baptize him.

2.     Generally, when someone, especially a relative, makes a journey of several days for the purpose of asking you to do something, you do it.

3.     And what Jesus was asking John to do for him John had been doing for anybody and everybody who came to him.

4.     “Simon, you want to be baptized. Step into the water.”

5.     “Judith, you’ve told me you want to experience baptism. The water is ready so I will baptize you.”

C.     Now the people who had been coming to John for baptism were sinful people.

1.     They had messed up in life; they had done something wrong; actually many things wrong; and had strayed from God’s ways.

2.     I mean, if they had had to fill out an application and they had any integrity, they would have listed all sorts of misdeeds and after reading the list John could have said, “Oh, I’m really turned off by what you’ve done and I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I don’t want to be anywhere close to you. Get away from me.”

3.     But he doesn’t say that to them.

4.     Back in Matthew 3:5-6 we were told, “Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

5.     John was practically a one man assembly line doing baptism after baptism after baptism.

6.     He’s on a streak.

D.    And then Jesus comes to him to be baptized and John says, “Whoa there. Let’s slow down. I don’t think this is such a good idea.”

1.     Why doesn’t John think it’s such a good idea?

2.     What, Jesus isn’t worthy of baptism?

3.     John doesn’t say that.

4.     Rather he says that he is unworthy to baptize Jesus.

5.     Why is John unworthy?

6.     He’s been worthy to baptize every other person who has come to him.

7.     Why is he unworthy to baptize Jesus?

E.     I think the answer goes back to something we heard during Advent and Christmas.

1.     Remember when the angel informed Joseph that the child Mary was carrying was of the Holy Spirit so Joseph was to go ahead and make Mary his wife and he was to name the child Jesus, BUT, the child was also to be called Immanuel.

2.     Jesus means “God saves” but Immanuel means “God with us.”

3.     At baptism one’s Christian name is spoken and it seems to me that John the Baptizer realized who was standing before him asking for baptism.

4.     It was God with us – it was God.

5.     No wonder John thought he was unworthy.

6.     John and everyone else is unworthy to baptize God.

F.     But you see God wanted humanity to truly understand what He was trying to communicate.

1.     I am with you.

2.     I am one with you.

3.     I am flesh and blood like you.

4.     I am willing to rejoice with you and to suffer with you.

5.     I am without sin but you are full of sin so I will be baptized in order that my purity and sacrifice will cleanse you of sin.

G.    Now put yourself in John’s bare feet.

1.     You’ve been baptizing sinful people, running them through as if you were working in a car wash and from out the blue Immanuel shows up and says “I’d like to be baptized too.”

2.     John recognizes the uniqueness of the situation.

3.     When it comes to God you don’t always know what to expect – like who was expecting God to show up in human form, but there was Jesus, also called Immanuel.

4.     And the holy One, the only holy one in this story, says I want you to help communicate a vital truth – that all the things people will hear during Advent and Christmas continues.

5.     I am Immanuel and I am with you not just for a few days at the end of the year but into the New Year and for all time.

H.    So, today as you remember your baptism which means that you’ve been baptized into the Lord’s life, death and resurrection and into a life of discipleship and service, remember something else.

1.     There’s a blessed connection between you and the Lord for you were both baptized.

2.     God made promises to you at your baptism and one of the things He never wants you to forget is that because of the waters of your baptism God knows your name and He wants you to know He is true to His name, Immanuel, for He is God with you, now and forever.