13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
A man had a horn full of oil, but he wasn’t heading home to make a meal. Instead, the oil was to be poured over the head of the new king or priest in Israel. It was a signal that God had chosen to set apart that man as one of his representatives. Looking back, it seems like an odd practice – anointing a guy’s head and face with oil – but when you think of the promise that God connected to the oil, it becomes a beautiful picture of God’s power and blessings. That new king or priest was the Lord’s anointed one. He wasn’t just the best candidate for the job after rounds of rigorous interviews and an in depth background check. He wasn’t just the next available in the family line. He didn’t get the most votes. He wasn’t the best looking or the strongest. He was the Lord’s decision, the Lord’s choice, simply because the Lord chose him.
Today, God is showing us his choice on the banks of the Jordan River. You could call it an inauguration in a way, because Jesus had already been chosen by God long before this. He had already claimed the title of God’s Anointed One. Do you remember what the angels said to the shepherds on the day of his birth? “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” That name, Christ, is the title Jesus was given. It’s Greek for “anointed, chosen one.”
But is the Jordan River really the place where this type of introduction should happen? Is that what we would expect for Donald Trump’s inauguration this week? They’re going to take him to a river to be baptized. Maybe that’s not the place we would expect for Jesus. If God wanted to show people his choice for the job of Savior, wouldn’t it be in a palace or at the Temple? That would make sense. After all, Jesus had already gone through the humble stuff. He was born so inconspicuously in Bethlehem. There was a good reason for that, to fulfill God’s promise. Magi had seen his star and came from afar to fulfill God’s promise that Jesus is for all people of all nations. And they brought treasures to worship Jesus, but then Joseph had to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety from Herod. That also kept a different promise God had made in the Old Testament. When it was time for him to be introduced and revealed to people as the Messiah, the Christ, as God’s Anointed One you’d think that would be the time to make it a big deal.
However, Jesus’ job was not to be a big deal. He didn’t need the pomp and circumstance of a royal inauguration. He didn’t need the accolades and attention as the Chosen One. God proves to us time and time again in his Word that he doesn’t do things with human wisdom. He uses simple things so that we won’t look for eye-popping wonders but simply trust the eye-popping love and forgiveness of God’s Anointed One, Jesus Christ.
So Jesus the Christ shows up at the Jordan River to be baptized by John. While it doesn’t make sense to John, it makes perfect sense to God’s Anointed One. No, Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized to wash sins away. He’s God’s perfect Son. There is no evil in him. There is no drowning of Jesus’ sinful nature, because he doesn’t have a sinful nature. But God’s Chosen One needed baptism to fulfill all righteousness. See, Jesus’ job was to come and fulfill all things for us. To make us right before God, he needed to do everything right, according to God’s perfect specifications. Only then would Jesus fulfill his role as the right choice for us. His whole life, Jesus Christ needed to be our substitute. Living for us and in our place, Jesus walks into the Jordan River to be baptized. He is anointed with power by God in his role as the Anointed One, God’s Chosen One.
And at this point God cannot stay quiet. He booms from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” And God the Spirit descends in the form of a dove over Jesus. This powerful display confirms what has been true ever since he was conceived in the womb of a virgin: God’s choice was a good one. Jesus’ baptism points us to the one who was set apart as our Savior and substitute. It shows us the one who rightfully had the title “Anointed One,” or the Christ. Jesus’ baptism displays for us the power that God gives in baptism, power that Jesus had as the Christ and power that he would use to fight for us and carry out this job of salvation. Jesus is God’s perfect choice for you and me.
But you know, God has used baptism for people other than Jesus. People like you and me. God has made the choice to set us apart as his children. God has made the choice to give you the title of his chosen one. God made that choice to make your heart his home. God did that with something so simple, like water and his almighty Word.
And I don’t know about you, but that’s when I start to wonder, did God make a good choice on me? I mean, what have I done to deserve it? Why would God want someone like me? Why would he choose you? Because spending a little time examining my life I don’t really find the kind of life that a chosen child of God should have. Maybe you know what I am talking about?
You’re driving around town on a weekday just after 5pm. You need to make a left turn onto Divide Ave from 18th and it’s not going well. Maybe those are the times when your attitude stinks. Then you get onto State only to find it backed up more than three blocks. You didn’t know it was possible but your poor attitude just got worse. Or you get home from a busy day where your no-good boss had it out for you again and the kids weren’t smiley and welcoming, but they were just whining about this and crying about that. And all of the sudden you didn’t see them as the blessing that God has given you to love and nurture. Were there times this week when you measured your satisfaction in life by what you have or what you have done? Were there times when you didn’t care much about anyone but yourself?
Maybe you have no clue what I’m talking about. Maybe your week was exactly what God wants. Your heart was pure. Your attitude was selfless. You had nothing in mind this whole week except loving God and loving people. You never wavered for a moment. You lived for Christ with every ounce of energy you have. Every decision, every act was in perfect harmony with God’s will. Was that your week or was it more like mine?
Why would God chose someone like me or someone like you to be his children? Why would he want us when our hearts didn’t spend every moment wanting him? Why would God call us his chosen people? It doesn’t make sense. I have not, cannot, and will not ever deserve that from God. I have not, cannot, and will not ever please God with my life to earn his choice. But do you remember why God chose the men to be anointed as kings and priests in the Old Testament? It wasn’t because they had the popular vote. It wasn’t because their past was squeaky-clean. It wasn’t because they were the smartest or strongest. God anointed them because he chose to do it. It was his choice not based on any qualifications or human conditions. He simply made the choice with his amazing grace.
Brothers and sisters, God doesn’t find people who are pleasing to him and select them as his people. God makes people pleasing to him. That’s so important to remember. God doesn’t find people who are pleasing to him; he makes them pleasing.
Do you know how God does that? Baptism! In baptism God chose you to be in his family. He replaced your cold, dead, sinful heart with a new heart that filled with faith and hope and love. In your baptism God made you his own. See, baptism is not me doing something for God. Baptism is God doing something for me. And that’s the way it has to be, because I could never do enough for God. A sinner can’t make a perfect God change his mind about you. But a God who loves you and choses you can change the way you live. That’s what God did in baptism. He chose you to live a new life as his own child.
Do you remember what happened when Jesus was baptized? The heavens opened and God’s voice thundered, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” God was stating the facts that the Savior Jesus was his Anointed One, his own dear Son, who was in the world to do his Father’s will and bring salvation for us. Jesus didn’t need baptism to be chosen as God’s Son and our Savior. He needed baptism to show us who he is. He needed baptism to fulfill all of God’s righteousness for us.
For us, we need baptism to give life to our cold, dead hearts. We need baptism to change our identity. We need baptism to empower us with God’s grace. And that’s what God has done. At your baptism heaven wasn’t ripped open but God was saying. “You are now my child. I love you. And I make your life pleasing to me.”
That’s not all. Because the Spirit was there, too. At your baptism, the Holy Spirit found a new home. He entered your heart and planted the seed of faith there. And he’s been there ever since, using the Word and using the sacrament as the food that feeds your faith and makes it grow. This is happening whether you notice it or not. The Holy Spirit is in your heart and life. And he is giving you the power to say no to the pleasures and treasures of this world. He is giving you the confidence to follow your faith wherever it leads, even if people think you are weird for it. He is continually there, using God’s Word when you read or hear it, to keep you set apart as a holy child of your Father. He is making you the perfect choice.
You are God’s chosen child. But for what? I mean, the men that were anointed in the Old Testament were set apart and chosen to serve as kings or priests. Jesus was anointed at his baptism, because he was God’s Anointed One, the Christ, and he was fulfilling his role for us. But what are you chosen for? If God chose you at your baptism, then what does he have in mind for your life?
Well, I can tell you some things that you don’t have to do. You don’t have to leave here today with this heavy weight of expectation on your back, as if it is your job to save the world. See, we already have a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ. And he was the perfect choice. You don’t have to leave here today thinking that you have to find ways to make God happy with you so that he won’t punish you. He has already punished Jesus in our place. He has already made you his own child. He is the one who makes you pleasing, not the other way around. You don’t have to leave here today and look for eye-catching feats of faith.
What you can do is live as a chosen child of God. If that means you try a little harder so that your attitude won’t stink, then your baptism and the power of the Spirit empowers you. If that means you stop thinking about all that you have or all that you want out of this life, so that you can spend more time thanking God for his eternal life, then your baptism and the power of the Spirit enables you. If that means you spend just a few extra minutes each day with your Lord in his Word and prayer, then your baptism and the power of the Spirit helps you.
Remember, just as Jesus is God’s Son, God has made you his child. Just as Jesus was set apart as the Christ, to be our Savior and substitute, he has set you apart to live in faith and hope. He has chosen you to thank and serve him and live with him forever. It’s his perfect choice. And thank God it is.