Greeting: Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Text: 9) At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10) As Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. 11) And a voice came from heaven: 'You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased."
Introduction: The event recorded in the Gospel Lesson from Mark 1 have been given a number of titles. It has been called "The Baptism of Jesus." It has also been termed "The Anointing of The Lord." Today we are going to give it a different title. We are going to call it "The Day The Savior Went Public." It was the day, when at age 30, Jesus went to the Jordan River and openly requested that John baptize Him. It was the day that God the Father spoke words of encouraging approval about His Son and commissioned Him for His saving work. It was the day that God the Holy Spirit visibly touched Jesus and strengthened His human nature as He began His Messianic task. It was the day when Jesus stepped out of the shadows and declared His readiness to assume His public ministry.
In the business world, leaders of companies talk about "going public." In the past, these companies were smaller and rather private ventures. But now they have grown to the point where they desire more capital and welcome investors. So now shares of the company are offered for sale so the public can own a part of the company. When Jesus went public, He wasn't putting Himself up for sale. Rather, He was leaving His private life behind and entering into a very public life of service to others. Some people talk about returning to private life after a time of public service. For Jesus, there would be no return.
The Day That Jesus Went Public is the day He gave clear notice that His life's great work has begun. The years of quiet preparation were over. The time of active implementation of the Father's plan had begun.
1. He Got A Special Anointing From The Holy Spirit
This special day was made so by several unique events and interactions. One of these events was that Jesus received a special anointing from God the Holy Spirit. Anointing people for special purposes was a practice that God had established already in Old Testament times. God had established three special positions of spiritual leadership to help His people. They were the position of high priest, the prophet and the king of Israel. All the men who served in these positions were anointed with olive oil to indicate that God had chosen them and was setting them apart for sacred service.
On the bank of the Jordan River, right after His baptism, Jesus was anointed, not with olive oil, but by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit, in the form of a dove, landed on Jesus as a visible sign that God had chosen Jesus and was setting Him apart for service as the Christ or Messiah. As the Christ, Jesus assumed the three-part position of being the Ultimate High Priest, Prophet and King for God's people.
The Spirit's anointing of Jesus also included the imparting of an invisible, but most important and precious gift. At this time, when Jesus was to undertake a strenuous, three-year public ministry of preaching, teaching, healing and contending with both human and demonic enemies, the Holy Spirit imparted to Jesus special gifts and powers to make Jesus' human nature stronger for the difficult tasks He had to complete.
This anointing and imparting of special gifts and strength has been promised by God hundreds of years earlier through the words of the prophet Isaiah. In the 11th chapter of his book, Isaiah spoke of the Messiah with these words: "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse, from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him - the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, and He will delight in the fear of the Lord." On the day that Jesus went public He received this special anointing from the Holy Spirit - an anointing that would make Him strong to succeed in His work of saving us.
2. He Heard The Loving Approval Of His Heavenly Father
On the day Jesus went public, He also received another important and valuable gift. Jesus heard the loving approval of the heavenly Father. When the Spirit appeared visibly and imparted special strength, the Father spoke audibly to His Son and imparted wonderful encouragement to Him. He said to Jesus: "You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased." In a very direct and personal way, God the Father declared His limitless affection for His Son. The Father, along with the Holy Spirit, loves Jesus with all His being.
And while openly declaring His love for Jesus, the Father also voices His approval of Him. The heavenly Father is perfectly pleased with Jesus. His Son's earthly life, lived out for these first 30 years, has been absolutely flawless, entirely perfect, and tremendously pleasing to a holy God. By declaring His pleasure with Jesus, the Father is announcing to His Son and to us that Jesus is worthy and approved to proceed to carry out the great work of rescuing sinners from their thoroughly flawed and divinely displeasing lives and the terrible punishment their imperfection deserves.
This message of loving approval was a great encouragement for Jesus. The Father had given Him His clear, unqualified, public endorsement. He had assured Jesus that He had prepared well for this time and had proved to be faithful to this point. Knowing that the Father loved Him and encouraged Him would carry Jesus through the non-stop duties and difficulties that lay ahead of Him. This encouragement and approval would help sustain Him until His danger-filled mission of rescuing sinful rebels was complete. The Day That Jesus Went Public, He heard the most important words He could hope to hear. He heard the loving approval of His heavenly Father.
3. He Gave Comprehendible Comport To The Sinners He Serves
On that day of Baptism and Anointing and Approval, our Lord Jesus not only received gifts, He also gave some. We should be sure to know that He gave them to us. Everything that happened in and by the Jordan River to Jesus that day speaks a comprehendible comfort to sinners like us, the very people Jesus came to serve.
Consider the place where Jesus came that day. He came to the Jordan River in the desert region of Judea. Jesus came to the place where John the Baptizer was preaching his message of contrition for sin and faith in the Messiah. John was baptizing the repentant to give them the assurance of the forgiveness of their sins.
Now who would go to such a place where these things were happening? Well, the people who would go there would be sinful people who were willing to listen to what God had to say to them. They were people who cared to hear what God thought and determined about their unfaithful hearts and disloyal lives and the terrible judgment these things called for. They were also people who were willing to hear God's gracious plan and promise to save them by forgiving their sins and separating them from their guilt and deserved punishment. They were the people who desired the truth - as terrible as the Law pronounced it and as beautiful as the Gospel proclaimed it. They were the people who found God's great blessing for their souls and eternities.
If we had lived at this time, this is exactly the place where we should have been. The desert region of Judea is a hot, arid and barren piece of real estate, but it was the best possible place for an imperfect person whose life does not gain God's approval to be. It is the place where people faced their flaws honestly and where they received God's all-sufficient pardon through the prophet's preaching of God's Word.
It was to this place where sinful people congregated and admitted their guilt that Jesus came. By coming to the Jordan and being baptized by John, Jesus gave us a comprehendible comfort, a most soothing consolation that we can easily understand and heartily appreciate. By joining sinners in Baptism, our sinless Messiah is putting Himself on our level. He is declaring that He is to be the sin-bearer of everyone else, to be the God-designated agent who represents all sinners in facing God's judgment. One Christian scholar explains Jesus' action this way: "Here Jesus associates with sinners and places Himself in the ranks of the guilty. He does this, not because He is guilty and desires to save Himself. He does this because He is at one with sinners and is the Bearer of divine mercy to all people." By His Baptism, Jesus also indicates that He fully accepts His mission of bearing the sins of all sinners.
This action of Jesus gives us great joy. For the job of salvation, you and I need a worthy Savior. This work requires a far better person than you or I or any other mere human being we could find. This work requires Jesus Christ - and only Him. He is not just a person who offers comforting words and gives it a nice try. No, Jesus shows up to take on the nastiest, most tormenting and most difficult work possible and to see it through to success. Not all rescue attempts succeed. Just two years ago, on 11 January 2013, the French military attempted a rescue operation in Bulo Marer, Somalia to free a kidnapped hostage, Denis Allex, from the militia group called Al-Shabaab. The operation of 50 French Special Forces and 5 helicopters failed. Denis Allex was executed by Al-Shabaab soon after. Jesus Christ was not going to fail in His rescue mission of our lives. What comprehendible comfort He gives us. How blessed we are to know about that special day almost 2,00 years ago - that day when the Savior went public. Amen.