Epiphany 1 - The Baptism of our Lord
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. 2He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.” 5This is what God the LORD says— he who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Dear fellow redeemed,
Today we celebrate the baptism of our Savior Jesus as he began his journey to the cross. To the surprise of John the Baptist, Jesus asked John to baptize him, because Jesus desired to fulfill everything his Father required of him for the salvation of all people.
Hundreds of years before this event, the prophet Isaiah spoke of our Savior, his baptism and his work. Isaiah answers the question for today: WHAT KIND OF SAVIOR DO WE HAVE? Everyone was waiting for the Messiah to come. Isaiah explained that the Savior wasn’t just anyone – he was special; he was unique; he was one of a kind.
What made our Savior one of a kind is the fact that he was God’s Servant (and, in fact, ours). Even though the true God has many servants, our Savior was the only one with this kind of introduction, for this Servant would carry out the work of salvation for the whole human race. The true God endorsed this Servant for a task that no other servant could do. He was to bring justice to the nations. He would serve all people – both Jew and Gentile the same. We call this justice – justification, that is: God, through his Son and chosen Servant Jesus, would declare the whole world free from sin. This task would be impossible for any other servant of God to complete.
This chosen Servant of God needed and received the power of God to complete the task. That is why the true God placed the Holy Spirit on him. Isaiah speaks of it here and it was fulfilled when our Savior, Jesus, was baptized. The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at his baptism. The true God was delighted with his Servant Jesus and declared it before all who were there: This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased [Matt 3:17]. God was saying, “This is the One.” Those around who heard it might have remembered the words of Isaiah in our text: Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom I delight.
So, with the Holy Spirit on him, and with his focus being the justification of the whole world, how would he accomplish this? He would not come in with a shout, or with a powerful army surrounding him. No, he came meek and gentle and full of love. Like the prophet Zechariah described in chapter 9 verse 9 that this Servant would enter Jerusalem righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey. He entered Jerusalem as our Suffering Servant, and in the days following, that would become crystal clear. He was riding to his death and for our salvation.
Jesus wasn’t discouraged or hesitant. He boldly faced his accusers and The Accuser. He was truly focused on redeeming the whole world and bringing hope, and freedom, and peace to every person and nation. Jesus alone was chosen for this work because only he – the sinless Son of God – could complete it perfectly according to all that the true God required. All people have been declared not guilty in his sight.
Because the task would be difficult [more than we could ever imagine], the true God promised and provided all the strength and support necessary to make it all happen. He suffered injustice, false witness, mistreatment, scourging, ridicule, and the indignity of death on a cross – all this – and the true God was there to support him and sustain him right up to the moment of death. Jesus accomplished the task; nothing more needs to be done.
Isaiah said that this Servant, our Savior Jesus, would be a new covenant – not a covenant based on the law, but rather a covenant based on the Gospel. Under the old covenant, the blood of animals appeased God. However, under the new covenant, only the blood of Christ established peace between the true God and mankind. By faith in Jesus alone, you and I have this blessing for all eternity.
Jesus brought other spiritual blessings to mankind: he brought spiritual insight so that we are able to see the grace and mercy of the true God revealed in God’s holy Word; he brought spiritual freedom from the bondage of sin. Such spiritual blessings enable us to trust the true God more, and to rejoice that Satan has no power over us unless we give it to him.
We have the comfort and joy of knowing and believing that we have been chosen by the true God to be his own; that we have been declared “not guilty” through the saving work of Jesus; that the Holy Spirit has been placed in us at our baptism; that we have been brought to faith through water and the Word; that we are continually led by the Holy Spirit to remain faithful to our Savior; that we have been enlisted by our Savior to spread the Good News of our salvation everywhere; and that our Savior will keep us safe and sustain us each day. We are thankful for such love and we dedicate our hearts to him alone.
WHAT KIND OF SAVIOR DO WE HAVE? We have a Servant who was approved by the true God; the only one able to accomplish the plan of salvation; the one who loves us so much that he was willing to suffer and die in our place, redeeming us from sin and its consequences; the only one who deserves our thanks and praise – now and forever. This Savior is Jesus! Amen.