Baptism of our Lord, 2014 – Matthew 3:13-17

When I was a child, I did not spend much time with my father. He was always busy. He worked all the time to try to make ends meet and when he wasn’t working, I had three siblings all very involved in school and community activities that – as a supportive parent – my dad needed to be there for. And I didn’t do those kinds of things as a child, I just read a lot. Not really an spectator sport. So with all the other demands on his time, my father just did not have much time for me. So my times with my dad were times that really stood out for me. Now one time that I have always cherished was the first time my dad took me to barbershop practice. No, my dad was not a competitive hair-cutter. He had one thing he did just for himself. He was a member of a Barbershop chorus, called the Caballero Chorus. A group of men gathering each week to sing acapella in four part harmony. Now when I was a little boy, my dad took me with him. Not because I was an aspiring singer with great promise. As I have told many of you in the past, as a child,I could not hold a tune in a bucket. There was nothing about my voice that justified my participation in the Caballero Chorus. Just the opposite. And yet my father took me to rehearsal with him. And when we got there, with all the other men milling around chatting with one another, my father got everyone’s attention. He called out, Hey guys, I’d like you to meet someone. He put his hand on my shoulder looked down at me with love and pride in his eyes and said in a clear strong voice, This is my boy, David. Now the reason that has this always stayed with me was that look in his eyes. It was clear for all to see that my father was proud of me, but why? We were all there to sing, that’s what the Caballero did after all, they came together to sing, my father brought me with him to sing with him and the rest of these men, and I couldn’t sing. And my father’s eyes – though I had no musical talent in which he could legitimately take pride – were filled with that pride that I did not deserve; pride that I had not earned. He loved me; he was well pleased with me years before I had done anything musically that could have justified his good pleasure.

In our gospel text for this morning, we hear the Father’s words to Jesus, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Now we should all expect these words from the Father at Easter. We should expect the Father to be well pleased with His Son when His Son has accomplished something with which He could legitimately be pleased. When Jesus healed the sick; when He gave His sermon on the mount; when He fed the multitude, in each of these cases, we could expect the Father to say “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Why? Because Jesus had in each case done something in which His Father could be well pleased. Three days after Jesus handed Himself over to suffering and death on the cross for you and me, we see tangibly the Father speaking these words in raising Jesus from the dead. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” But the Father first says these words here in Jesus’ baptism. before Jesus had done anything justifying His Father’s good pleasure. I mean, when the Father says these words, what had Jesus done; what had Jesus accomplished in the previous 30 years deserving of His Father’s good pleasure. Based upon the Gospel texts, nothing; nothing at all. All of the things that Jesus did; all that Jesus accomplished with which His Father would be pleased happened after His Father spoke those words. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Father loved His Son; the Father was pleased with His Son, not because of what He did, but because Jesus was His Son. Jesus was not the Father’s Son because of what He did. The Father claimed His Son; loved His Son; was well pleased with His Son, because He was His Father’s Son. And this makes all the difference, because we have been baptized into Christ Jesus.

The act of baptism is an act of adoption. In the 1st century, when a Rabbi baptized a new disciple, he adopted that disciple as his own child. The baptism was a public proclamation by the Rabbi declaring to all that this one being baptized is the child of the one who baptized. This is why John did not want to baptize Jesus. John knew that He could not be the spiritual father of Jesus. John wanted to be baptized by Jesus. John wanted Jesus to say to everyone there, This John is my son. He only acquiesced when Jesus said “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” We hear the Father’s words clearly so that we know Jesus was not John’s spiritual son. The Father’s words tell us clearly that Jesus is and always was His Father’s Son. But we too have been baptized. And as Paul wrote, we have been baptized into Christ Jesus.

In our baptism, God the Father adopts us, not just as His children, we have been baptized into His beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Through our baptism what Jesus accomplished is accounted to us. Paul wrote, “All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Jesus lived and died a truly righteousness life deserving of the Father’s good pleasure; His righteous life and undeserved death was itself truly deserving of everlasting life. And that life deserving of the Father’s good pleasure is given to us in our baptism. We are made deserving of the Father’s good pleasure by baptism into Christ Jesus.

But remember, Jesus too was baptized. And though Jesus life and death was truly deserving of His Father’s good pleasure, all that Jesus did to be deserving of His Father’s good pleasure followed His baptism; all that is attributed to us through our baptism into Christ Jesus followed the Father’s declaration, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And just as the Father declares His love and good pleasure for His Son at His baptism before His ministry; before the miracles; before His teaching; before His suffering and death for us on the cross; so your baptism into Christ Jesus comes undeserved. You are not adopted as a child of God because of any deed, action, or choice on your part, but only because of His love for you. In your baptism you feel the touch your heavenly Father on your head, you see your heavenly Father’s eyes looking down on you with love and pride, and you hear the voice of your heavenly Father saying to you, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”

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