"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

1 Epiphany proper B1 (Jesus’ Baptism)
Rev. D.K. Schroeder
Mark 1:4-11 Sermon                                                 
January 11, 2009 

THE BEGINNING OF A MINISTRY 

TEXT (vs. 9-11):  “At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’" 

            Back in 1971, the famous Hollywood director, Norman Lear produced and directed a comedy movie entitled, “Cold Turkey.”  The movie had a great cast too.  It starred Dick Van Dyke, and also included such greats as Bob Newhart, Tom Poston, Jean Stapleton, Edward Everett Horton, the comedy team of Bob and Ray, among others.

            The plot of the movie centered around a big tobacco company and a small town in Iowa.  As an advertising stunt, the fictitious Valiant Tobacco Company offered the sum of 25 million dollars to any town that would successfully quit smoking for a period of thirty days.  The tobacco executives portrayed by Bob Newhart and Edward Everett Horton felt that their money would be secure, thinking that no town could successfully persuade their entire population to quit smoking for even thirty days.

            News of this offer reached the people living in the also fictitious Eagle Rock, Iowa, population 4,000.  The town had a rapidly declining economy, spurred on by the closing of a military base.  The 25 million dollars would be just the economic “shot in the arm” that this poor town needed. (Incidentally, the movie was filmed in the real town of Greenfield, Iowa, about halfway between Des Moines and Omaha.)

            Dick Van Dyke plays the part of a local pastor, the Rev. Clayton Brooks.  He, along with the mayor of the town promote the idea, and provide the organization and motivation for the entire town to quit smoking. 

            One of the scenes in the movie shows Dick Van Dyke on stage, wearing his clerical collar, and having a rather heated discussion with a group of the locals.  One angry person says, “Yeah Reverend, it’s easy for you to stand there and tell us to quit smoking.  You don’t smoke, so it’s no skin off your nose!”    

            He then responds, “I know it isn’t easy; I quit smoking some years ago.”

            It’s then that someone tosses a lit cigarette up on the stage.  Someone yells, “Go ahead Reverend!  Pick it up!”  And the crowd voices agreement.

            Dick Van Dyke then picks the cigarette up and looks at it.  Then he says, “I don’t know how easy it is to rekindle an old habit…. (then he takes a drag off the cigarette)…but I’m sure going to try.”

            I know it sounds like a stupid thing for him to do.  But it did accomplish one thing.  It put him in the same boat as everybody else in the town.  He would be joining them in their attempt to quit smoking by going through it again.  In effect, he was sharing their burden with them.  He would be going through the same hardships and withdrawals and temptations.  In fact it would even be harder for him, because it has been authenticated that it is a lot more difficult to quit smoking the second time than it is the first time.

            Even though it wasn’t the smartest thing for this pastor to do at least health-wise, it was just the type of motivation the people needed.  No longer was he the person standing up in front pointing the finger.  No longer was he the pietist in the ivory tower.  His nicotine-stained fingers were just as dirty as everybody else’s.

            Now this might sound like sort of a strange way to lead in to our text for today.  But I’d like you to keep this in mind as we see what is going on here at Jesus’ Baptism.

            We’ve just completed the celebration of Christmas.  It’s at Christmas where we are reminded that God’s Son didn’t minister to the people from an ivory tower far away.  He took on the actual flesh and blood of humanity.  Not only did he do this, but when you compare Jesus’ birth to the rest of the population, he did so making use of every disadvantage he could.

            Let’s first consider Mary.  If a woman was in the final term of pregnancy, she wouldn’t normally make a trip by donkey.  Most women in her condition would have stayed at home.  Most babies wouldn’t have been born in a stable like Jesus was.  Most babies would have had at least a midwife in attendance, and not farm animals.  Most babies would have had something cozy to keep them warm, and not swathing bands, which were strips of rags used as bandages.

            Jesus’ entrance into the human race had absolutely no advantage over anybody else.  Nobody could point to Jesus and say, “Well look at you!  See how easy you have it!  You don’t know what it’s like to have it as tough as we do!”

            In our Gospel reading for today, we fast-forward about thirty years from the Christmas story.  It’s time for Jesus to begin his work on earth.  And to begin, he goes to his cousin John who is baptizing people in the Jordan River.

            This is a complete surprise and a shock to John.  He knew who Jesus was.  John was baptizing as a sign of repentance.  People were coming to him who were sorry for their sinful life and had resolved to amend it with God’s help.  They were seeking forgiveness and restoration.

            So why was Jesus there?  Jesus was the sinless Son of God.  He had nothing for which he needed to repent.  There were no sins on his record. 

            Furthermore, John realized that he himself was a sinful human being.  It didn’t make any sense as to why Jesus would approach a sinner such as himself for something like Baptism.  It would seem more logical for Jesus to be baptizing him.  He’s the one that needed forgiveness.

            If we look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the second chapter, we read in verses 5-7:    “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”

            Even though John had trouble grasping the whole concept of Jesus being baptized, it was part and parcel of the Son of God taking on the flesh of humanity.  And what’s more, he did so to establish Baptism as a sacrament, as a means of grace, as a way by which God would directly come to people.  Jesus began his ministry by being baptized, and thereby instituting Baptism as a means of grace for all people.

            Our Gospel lesson for today describes the gift of the Holy Spirit at Baptism in very clear terms.  At Jesus’ Baptism, God made a grand entrance, the likes of which nobody had ever witnessed.  If we look at verse 10 we read:  “…he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” 

            Can we even fathom what kind of sight that must have been?  Heaven didn’t only open up, but it was torn open!  The sky was literally ripped apart!  God is very good at doing things with a dramatic effect, and this was certainly no exception.  And then the Holy Spirit makes an entrance so profound that nobody could have missed it.  This heavenly dove descends upon Jesus.

            And then there’s the voice from heaven speaking.  Remember this was long before speakers and public address systems were ever invented.  But the voice was louder and more clear than any P.A. system could have made it.  There was no mistaking what the voice was saying and who was saying it.  Verse 11 of our Gospel reads:  “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’"

            The Bible tells us in many places that the Holy Spirit is received at a person’s Baptism.  In Acts chapter 2 verse 38 we hear Peter saying: Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”   

            The Holy Spirit is a necessary ingredient in a person’s conversion and salvation.  In I Corinthians chapter 12 verse 3 the Apostle Paul reminds us:   “…no-one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” 

             The Apostle Peter in his first epistle, chapter 3 verse 21 connects Baptism and salvation when he writes: “…baptism…now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”

            And finally, Jesus himself tells us in John’s Gospel, chapter 3 verses 5-6: “…I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”

            At the occasion of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, God demonstrated in a very grand fashion that the Holy Spirit is something that is received at a person’s Baptism.  Jesus institutes this as a sacrament, as a means of grace.

            Baptism is the way that even the youngest person alive can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which in turn creates a saving faith in Jesus Christ their Saviour.  The conversion of such a person is every bit as glorious as the scene recorded for us in Mark’s Gospel this morning.

            Jesus’ Baptism is yet another way that he comes down to the level of humanity.  He did it himself, and he commands us to do it as well.  It is a very simple act indeed, using an earthly element and the Word of God; but it has everlasting and eternal heavenly rewards.

            At the beginning, I used the story line from the movie “Cold Turkey” as an illustration for our Gospel lesson this morning.  You might think it is odd, and some might even feel it is objectionable that I used the character of a Pastor portrayed by Dick Van Dyke who picks up a lit cigarette off of a stage as a point of comparison with Jesus taking on the flesh of humanity.  However the point is valid.  For each one to effectively perform their task, they had to put themselves in a position that was either equal to, or below that of the people they were serving.

            The Pastor character had to take up smoking in order to get the whole town to quit smoking.  Jesus Christ had to become true man and take up the cross in order to redeem the whole world from sin.

            As we look at ourselves and our own lives, we can indeed be thankful that Jesus did what he did for us.  Jesus experienced all of the things we do, and even more.  He had the temptations, the trials, and the physical traits we all share as members of the human race.  He kept God’s law perfectly in our place, and died the death we all deserve because of our sins.  He did this so that through nothing but faith in him alone we would be saved and share eternity with him.  Even though a movie actor picking up a cigarette seems trivial in comparison to what Jesus did, yet each one did what they had to do to get the job accomplished.

            Jesus began his earthly ministry by instituting the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  He ended his earthly ministry by instituting the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.  In both cases, he did this for us.  God the Holy Spirit works through both, and he does so for our higher good.  Through the waters of Baptism we receive the gift of faith and forgiveness, and thereby become members of God’s family.  Through the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper we receive the forgiveness of our sins and strength for our faith. 

            Through these sacraments God comes to us.  He gets down on our level.  He does this so we will come to know Jesus our Saviour and receive the gift of grace he offers to each and every one of us, which is the forgiveness of our sins.  He does this because he loves us.  He does this because he wants us to live with him forever. 

            Therefore, let us always thank our Lord Jesus for coming down to our level by taking on the flesh of humanity, and being the Lord and Saviour of our lives.

1 Epiphany, proper B1 (The Baptism of Jesus)
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 1:4-11 Sermon
January 11, 2009

Hymns:
53 "Brightest And Best Of The Sons Of The Morning" (now playing)
--- "When Christ Our Lord To Jordan Came"
--- "Now Honor The Lord"
--- "To Jordan's River Came Our Lord"

THE BEGINNING OF A MINISTRY


TEXT (vs. 9-11): "At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"


Back in 1971, the famous Hollywood director, Norman Lear produced and directed a comedy movie entitled, "Cold Turkey." The movie had a great cast too. It starred Dick Van Dyke, and also included such greats as Bob Newhart, Tom Poston, Jean Stapleton, Edward Everett Horton, the comedy team of Bob and Ray, among others.

The plot of the movie centered around a big tobacco company and a small town in Iowa. As an advertising stunt, the fictitious Valiant Tobacco Company offered the sum of 25 million dollars to any town that would successfully quit smoking for a period of thirty days. The tobacco executives portrayed by Bob Newhart and Edward Everett Horton felt that their money would be secure, thinking that no town could successfully persuade their entire population to quit smoking for even thirty days.

News of this offer reached the people living in the also fictitious Eagle Rock, Iowa, population 4,000. The town had a rapidly declining economy, spurred on by the closing of a military base. The 25 million dollars would be just the economic "shot in the arm" that this poor town needed. (Incidentally, the movie was filmed in the real town of Greenfield, Iowa, about halfway between Des Moines and Omaha.)

Dick Van Dyke plays the part of a local pastor, the Rev. Clayton Brooks. He, along with the mayor of the town promote the idea, and provide the organization and motivation for the entire town to quit smoking.

One of the scenes in the movie shows Dick Van Dyke on stage, wearing his clerical collar, and having a rather heated discussion with a group of the locals. One angry person says, "Yeah Reverend, it's easy for you to stand there and tell us to quit smoking. You don't smoke, so it's no skin off your nose!"

He then responds, "I know it isn't easy; I quit smoking some years ago."

It's then that someone tosses a lit cigarette up on the stage. Someone yells, "Go ahead Reverend! Pick it up!" And the crowd voices agreement.

Dick Van Dyke then picks the cigarette up and looks at it. Then he says, "I don't know how easy it is to rekindle an old habit.... (then he takes a drag off the cigarette)...but I'm sure going to try."

I know it sounds like a stupid thing for him to do. But it did accomplish one thing. It put him in the same boat as everybody else in the town. He would be joining them in their attempt to quit smoking by going through it again. In effect, he was sharing their burden with them. He would be going through the same hardships and withdrawals and temptations. In fact it would even be harder for him, because it has been authenticated that it is a lot more difficult to quit smoking the second time than it is the first time.

Even though it wasn't the smartest thing for this pastor to do at least health-wise, it was just the type of motivation the people needed. No longer was he the person standing up in front pointing the finger. No longer was he the pietist in the ivory tower. His nicotine-stained fingers were just as dirty as everybody else's.

Now this might sound like sort of a strange way to lead in to our text for today. But I'd like you to keep this in mind as we see what is going on here at Jesus' Baptism.

We've just completed the celebration of Christmas. It's at Christmas where we are reminded that God's Son didn't minister to the people from an ivory tower far away. He took on the actual flesh and blood of humanity. Not only did he do this, but when you compare Jesus' birth to the rest of the population, he did so making use of every disadvantage he could.

Let's first consider Mary. If a woman was in the final term of pregnancy, she wouldn't normally make a trip by donkey. Most women in her condition would have stayed at home. Most babies wouldn't have been born in a stable like Jesus was. Most babies would have had at least a midwife in attendance, and not farm animals. Most babies would have had something cozy to keep them warm, and not swathing bands, which were strips of rags used as bandages.

Jesus' entrance into the human race had absolutely no advantage over anybody else. Nobody could point to Jesus and say, "Well look at you! See how easy you have it! You don't know what it's like to have it as tough as we do!"

In our Gospel reading for today, we fast-forward about thirty years from the Christmas story. It's time for Jesus to begin his work on earth. And to begin, he goes to his cousin John who is baptizing people in the Jordan River.

This is a complete surprise and a shock to John. He knew who Jesus was. John was baptizing as a sign of repentance. People were coming to him who were sorry for their sinful life and had resolved to amend it with God's help. They were seeking forgiveness and restoration.

So why was Jesus there? Jesus was the sinless Son of God. He had nothing for which he needed to repent. There were no sins on his record.

Furthermore, John realized that he himself was a sinful human being. It didn't make any sense as to why Jesus would approach a sinner such as himself for something like Baptism. It would seem more logical for Jesus to be baptizing him. He's the one that needed forgiveness.

If we look at Paul's letter to the Philippians, the second chapter, we read in verses 5-7: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Even though John had trouble grasping the whole concept of Jesus being baptized, it was part and parcel of the Son of God taking on the flesh of humanity. And what's more, he did so to establish Baptism as a sacrament, as a means of grace, as a way by which God would directly come to people. Jesus began his ministry by being baptized, and thereby instituting Baptism as a means of grace for all people.

Our Gospel lesson for today describes the gift of the Holy Spirit at Baptism in very clear terms. At Jesus' Baptism, God made a grand entrance, the likes of which nobody had ever witnessed. If we look at verse 10 we read: "...he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove."

Can we even fathom what kind of sight that must have been? Heaven didn't only open up, but it was torn open! The sky was literally ripped apart! God is very good at doing things with a dramatic effect, and this was certainly no exception. And then the Holy Spirit makes an entrance so profound that nobody could have missed it. This heavenly dove descends upon Jesus.

And then there's the voice from heaven speaking. Remember this was long before speakers and public address systems were ever invented. But the voice was louder and more clear than any P.A. system could have made it. There was no mistaking what the voice was saying and who was saying it. Verse 11 of our Gospel reads: "And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.'"

The Bible tells us in many places that the Holy Spirit is received at a person's Baptism. In Acts chapter 2 verse 38 we hear Peter saying: "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

The Holy Spirit is a necessary ingredient in a person's conversion and salvation. In I Corinthians chapter 12 verse 3 the Apostle Paul reminds us: "...no-one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit."

The Apostle Peter in his first epistle, chapter 3 verse 21 connects Baptism and salvation when he writes: "...baptism...now saves you also-not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ..."

And finally, Jesus himself tells us in John's Gospel, chapter 3 verses 5-6: "...I tell you the truth, no-one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit."

At the occasion of Jesus' Baptism in the Jordan, God demonstrated in a very grand fashion that the Holy Spirit is something that is received at a person's Baptism. Jesus institutes this as a sacrament, as a means of grace.

Baptism is the way that even the youngest person alive can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which in turn creates a saving faith in Jesus Christ their Saviour. The conversion of such a person is every bit as glorious as the scene recorded for us in Mark's Gospel this morning.

Jesus' Baptism is yet another way that he comes down to the level of humanity. He did it himself, and he commands us to do it as well. It is a very simple act indeed, using an earthly element and the Word of God; but it has everlasting and eternal heavenly rewards.

At the beginning, I used the story line from the movie "Cold Turkey" as an illustration for our Gospel lesson this morning. You might think it is odd, and some might even feel it is objectionable that I used the character of a Pastor portrayed by Dick Van Dyke who picks up a lit cigarette off of a stage as a point of comparison with Jesus taking on the flesh of humanity. However the point is valid. For each one to effectively perform their task, they had to put themselves in a position that was either equal to, or below that of the people they were serving.

The Pastor character had to take up smoking in order to get the whole town to quit smoking. Jesus Christ had to become true man and take up the cross in order to redeem the whole world from sin.

As we look at ourselves and our own lives, we can indeed be thankful that Jesus did what he did for us. Jesus experienced all of the things we do, and even more. He had the temptations, the trials, and the physical traits we all share as members of the human race. He kept God's law perfectly in our place, and died the death we all deserve because of our sins. He did this so that through nothing but faith in him alone we would be saved and share eternity with him. Even though a movie actor picking up a cigarette seems trivial in comparison to what Jesus did, yet each one did what they had to do to get the job accomplished.

Jesus began his earthly ministry by instituting the sacrament of Holy Baptism. He ended his earthly ministry by instituting the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. In both cases, he did this for us. God the Holy Spirit works through both, and he does so for our higher good. Through the waters of Baptism we receive the gift of faith and forgiveness, and thereby become members of God's family. Through the sacrament of the Lord's Supper we receive the forgiveness of our sins and strength for our faith.

Through these sacraments God comes to us. He gets down on our level. He does this so we will come to know Jesus our Saviour and receive the gift of grace he offers to each and every one of us, which is the forgiveness of our sins. He does this because he loves us. He does this because he wants us to live with him forever.

Therefore, let us always thank our Lord Jesus for coming down to our level by taking on the flesh of humanity, and being the Lord and Saviour of our lives.

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