Dying to Live
The Baptism of Our Lord A
January 12, 2014
This last week, I have been reminded of something this week about our faith which I sometimes overlook. It seems like whenever this fact is forgotten, that something happens to remind me. This last week, a member here at Zion Lutheran Church died. Just off the high of Christmas and Epiphany, celebrating the birth of the Life o the world, death happens. There is no getting around it. Christianity is a life and death business. Because Life Itself has come to taste death, and the beginning of the end all starts in the waters of the Jordan River.
Every year we hear about the Baptism of Jesus right after the Christmas season. It’s is what we need to hear, what we need to be reminded of, what we need to focus on again and again. How many times have we taken this for granted. How many times have we thought about how we already know this story? How many times do we try to forget the seriousness of this sinful world and that death comes to us all? How many times do we take for granted the importance of Jesus’ baptism?
Jesus passes through the waters of the Jordan River, crossing into the Promised Land as Israel reduced to one, living as the perfect Son of God so that we might be sons and daughters of God. Even John the Baptist recognized that Jesus had no sin to be forgiven of. John needed to be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. Yet, Jesus had to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. “All righteousness.” Not half. Not part. Not He’ll save you if you just ask, or if you make a decision, or say a certain prayer, or feel Him in your heart, or be a good enough Christian. We have no righteousness of our own to earn or deserve. Do you want to be righteous? Do you want to be holy? Do you want to be a “good Christian” and be faithful? The shortest and best way is baptism and the work of baptism, which is suffering and death.
All too often we jump from Jesus’ baptism to our own. But we don’t get to our baptism from Jesus’ except first by going through the cross and the resurrection. At His baptism, Jesus insisted on bearing our guilt. His baptism was not His own. By His baptism in the Jordan Jesus took upon Himself the obligation of the sins of the world. His destination was sealed in the water of His baptism. At the Jordan, the Lord of life stepped into death. For since the wages of sin is death, the baptism of Jesus pointed relentlessly to His cross and death. That is where we as the Church point one another and the world.
Everything God wants us to do, He has already done in His Son. Everything God wants us to do, He has already done in His Son, and He continues to work in us in and through Jesus Christ. There’s a link between the life Christians lead and their living Lord. That link is baptism.
This is how St. Paul can say that we who are baptized into His death are also baptized into His life. When God calls a person to faith, He bids them to come and die. In order to live, you must die. “A do-it-yourself approach to the Christian life is doomed from `the start. Reform a sinner and you get a reformed sinner. Discipline a sinner and you get a disciplined sinner. Educate a sinner and you get an educated sinner. In every case, you still have the same sinner you started out with. No, the Old Adam will not be tamed or reformed or disciplined or educated. He can only be killed. And this is just what God does; in Holy Baptism we are put to death and buried. But since it is the death and burial of Jesus, it makes all the difference in the world. His death and burial brings with it resurrection and new life. By Holy Baptism the Triune God crucifies our Old Adam, buries our sin, raises us as a new creation, and clothes us in Jesus Christ—thus giving us a whole new life to live. This is the authentic formula for Christian living.” Harold Senkbeil, Dying to Live: The Power of Forgiveness, p 79.
When baptized into Christ, your reality changed. Present experience beside the point, Paul urges you to count yourself to be what Baptism says you are in Christ: dead to sin. And as Christ lives to God so you, like him, are living to God in Christ Jesus. Walking the walk and talking the talk comes only through baptism because through Baptism you are connected in death and in life to the only one who truly could talk the talk and walk the walk.
Baptism is a deadly thing. Baptism kills. At your baptism, God’s applies Christ’s death to you so that you receive the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice. Baptism connects you with Christ’s work. Jesus was intent on dying our death. And die He did. Suffering and hanging on a cross. It was a borrowed death. It was our death. But it brought life to us. Thus our Baptism is our grave, a watery grave. Holy Baptism, then, is both our tomb of death and our womb of life. Baptism kills you in order that through Jesus you might be raised back to life. All that is his by His nature as the Son of God becomes yours by His grace. Faith receives what Christ accomplished on the cross, Baptism delivers it to you.