Baptism Has Power!

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The Baptism of Our Lord
Luke 3:21-22


What does baptism look like?  Just a simple ceremony, often it’s held in a church and a pastor pours water over the head of a child or an adult a few times and says a few words, right?  Or perhaps it takes place in a hospital room after a child’s birth and a mother or father scared for the life of their child pours water over the head of their new-born.  And perhaps the doctors stand back for a second while the parents do that, but then they rush in to do the “real” saving work, right?  Such a seemingly mundane or arbitrary ritual am I right?  But don’t be fooled by the what seems to our eyes to be powerless, or mundane, or ordinary.  Baptism has power! Because of Jesus and so Baptism has power for you.


What did the scene of Jesus’ baptism look like?  Well, perhaps a little different that what you and I are used to.  There was John, preaching down on the banks of the Jordan river.  He’s dressed in his camel hair outfit and this strange charismatic figure is calling out to the masses of people, “REPENT! Turn away from your sins your sins and turn back to the Lord!”


These people were coming down to him in droves.  Dozens if not hundreds of people coming to him day by day as John preached and baptized. And each and every one of them was a sinner.  The Gospels tell us there were the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the power-hungry, the greedy – you name it – they were all going out to John.  All were sinners.  Except one.

One who John said, he wasn’t even worthy to stoop down and untie his sandal. And it’s this one sinless one – he comes down to John to be baptized!  The other Gospel accounts tell us John was surprised that Jesus came down!  And no doubt!  Why should Jesus need to be baptized!?

This is why – Jesus didn’t shy away from these droves of sinners coming down to John.  He didn’t hold himself above them, thinking himself better than them.  No, these were the people that he came to save.  As Luke records, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.”

And then as he kneels to pray – heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”


For many of us, that statement, You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased, just brings us back to that initial question that even John the Baptist had, “Why should Jesus be baptized?”  It’s important that we see what’s going on here.

Jesus is identifying with all the sinners who came to John.  Let’s not pass over that too quickly!  Jesus identifies with the sexual immorality and the lust of the prostitutes, the greed of the tax collectors and the self-centeredness of the pharisees.  Jesus identifies with us!  We, who because of our own lusting, greediness, and self-centeredness rightly deserve to be swept off of God’s threshing floor and burned up.  Jesus identifies with those who deserve hell.  Truly, as St. Paul reminds us, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us!

This is what Jesus came to this earth to do.    This baptism was Jesus anointing, the very meaning of the word “Christ” is anointed one.  This was him looking out at the crowds of sinners and saying, “I’ll take the same baptism as the tax-collector, and the prostitute, and the pharisee, and the depressed person, and the greedy business man, and the harsh father or angry mother.”

Then, talk about a display of power, the heavens are torn open.  Heaven, that was once closed to sinners, is opened now again over this man Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one.  Jesus baptism was a mighty display of power.

PT 2: For you


The Father spoke, the Son – in the flesh – stood in the water and the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove.

Heaven that was once closed to sinners is now opened wide above this Jesus.  Then the Holy Spirit flies out of it as a dove.  A Dove.  After the flood, the dove was the one that returned with the olive branch, proclaiming peace to Noah’s family.  They had passed through the water and were saved.  In the context of Jesus baptism this makes perfect sense.  That the Son of God passed through the water, in place of the sinner.  Now the baptized child of God needn’t fear the almighty God Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It didn’t matter if you were the person in front of Jesus in line, or the person right after him, or you were baptized 2000 years later.  You are connected to him by your baptism.

And so when we hear the those Word’s spoken over Jesus, “You are my son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased!”  Guess who else that applies to?


See, make no mistake about it, in baptism God makes a promise to you.  Baptism isn’t something that believers do as a rite of passage, it doesn’t mark membership in a church, baptism is not a promise that we make to God.  Because of Jesus, baptism is a powerful promise that God makes to us.

We see this in a similarity between Jesus baptism and our baptism – that it is a powerful act of God and God alone! In his baptism Jesus takes on this role of messiah because we can’t do anything on our own to merit heaven, we can’t on our own call ourselves “children of God,” rather if left to our own devices we end up in hell.  We can’t look up to God and demand that he love us for anything we’ve done, or said, or thought.

In this the infant child or adult are alike!  Neither is able to save themselves by nature.  This is why we are baptized into Christ.  Because he did it for us.  That when the Father looks down from heaven and sees you – in light of his son – he says you are my child whom I love and with you I am well pleased.  This is his declaration, not ours!  And because of that powerful declaration, in baptism the Holy Spirit grants us a powerful peace and comfort.

And what a comfort for us!  When we look back at a life of sin.  When we wonder if we might be really forgiven for the sins of our youth, or the sins of yesterday or this morning.  Remember the Power of your baptism.  God declared you his own child.  If you ever doubt your forgiveness, let that be your prayer “Lord help me remember my baptism, when you promised to save me too!”

What a comfort for parents!  Maybe you worry in prayer incessantly for a teen or young adult that they would remain in the Faith.  Or perhaps your kids are still young and you worry about the world they are growing up in, the temptations they will no doubt face, the trials they will go through or what Satan will throw at them.  Pray boldly as you hold them in your arms or in your heart!  “Lord you promised!  May they remember their baptism and save this one too!”


So, yea, when we see a baptism, it might appear to be something mundane.  The heavens are not ripped open and fireworks don’t start going off.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things to shame the strong.  Don’t be deceived by appearances – your baptism has power!  God the Father has opened heaven to you, because Christ Jesus took our place, and as we remember that – the Holy Spirit grants peace and comfort to the sinner.  God the Father, the Son + and the Holy Spirit keep us and hold us in the powerful promise of our baptism.  Amen.

Your Triune God’s Baptismal Treasure

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Baptism of our Lord
Mark 1:4-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, a new TV show aired in the United States in 1997 on PBS. It was called the Antique Roadshow. In fact, the show is still running. What happens in it is that it travels around to different cities in the United States where people are invited to bring in various old antiques that they have lying around in their home. They bring them in and share a little about what they know about this item, perhaps it was handed down in their family from several generations, it’s been gathering dust in their attic, and they wanted to know a little bit about this thing. Then there’s an antique expert who talks about the history of the item, where it was from, who made it, etc. And then, typically, the expert will ask the person how much he or she thinks that this item is worth. Then the expert shares what they figure it would sell for at an auction. Sometimes the antique is worth an extraordinary amount and the owner is shocked that this thing that’s been sitting in their attic collecting dust is the most valuable possession that they own.

But did you know that you have such a treasure, such a gem, such a pearl, such a prize? It’s a treasure that can so easily be forgotten about, left collecting dust in the attic of our minds, left rather unappreciated as we go about our day-to-day lives. We’re celebrating, today, the Baptism of our Lord. This gives us not only the opportunity to review what a treasure Jesus’ baptism was for us, but also what a treasure our baptism is for us. Just like the Triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – was involved in Jesus’ baptism, so also the Triune God was involved in your baptism.

When Jesus was about 30 years old he went from the town where he grew up, Nazareth in Galilee, to John the Baptist who was baptizing in the Jordan River. Now, perhaps one of the first questions that comes to our minds when we consider the baptism of Jesus is, “Why was Jesus baptized?” I mean, we’ve gone over this morning part of the meaning of baptism for us. We were born sinful, we were born with sin that we inherited from Adam and Eve, we were born dead in our sins and enemies of God. We needed to be reborn, we needed the forgiveness of sins in baptism. But Jesus didn’t. Jesus was the lamb without blemish or defect, Jesus had no sin, Jesus was born sinless and remained sinless his whole life. Why should he be baptized? In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, John the Baptist tried to deter Jesus, “I should be baptized by you, and you come to me?” He understood. So, why should Jesus be baptized?

Well, in order to understand Jesus’ baptism, let’s look to what the Triune God did at Jesus’ baptism. First of all Jesus is there. Jesus willingly went to the Jordan River to be baptized. By being baptized Jesus was officially beginning his work of redemption. Yes, Jesus was perfect from conception, yes, Jesus was carrying out our salvation every second from his birth to his death and resurrection, but here Jesus is showing us what that work means. He comes as our substitute in order to save us. Jesus receives the same baptism as tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners, like you and me. Jesus not only had to live a perfect life for us, but he also had to receive the punishment for our sins. Jesus identification with sinners began at his baptism and would end with his treatment as a sinner on the cross, when God would let all of his anger and wrath for sins fall on Jesus. Jesus’ baptism marked him for his work as our substitute.

But the Holy Spirit was also present. “He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.” In the OT God foretold that the Messiah would be the “anointed One.” In fact, that’s what Messiah and Christ means. Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism. In the OT, prophets, priests, and kings were all anointed. Someone would take some kind of canister of oil and pour it over a person’s head, this act designated them as either a prophet, priest, or king. When Jesus was baptized He was anointed by the Holy Spirit to be our Prophet, Priest, and King. He came as the Prophet to tell us about God, as a Priest to offer himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, and as the King to defeat our true enemies – sin, death, and Satan on the cross.

And finally we’re told that the Father was present too. “And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” God the Father announces to all that He is pleased with the work that the Son has come to do on behalf of sinners. He is pleased with His Son who came to rescue sinful, fallen humans, like you and me.

What a treasure Jesus’ baptism was for us! But that’s not it! Not only was Jesus baptized with us but He has joined himself to us through the baptism he has given to us. And we see this blessing of this same Triune God in our baptism.

But again, is this a treasure that we’ve left to collect dust in the attic? For many of us our baptism was such a long time ago, maybe when we were very little babies, we have no recollection of it, it didn’t look like a whole lot- a few drops of water, a few words spoken. On the outside it looks rather simple, rather mundane, rather obscure, rather unimpressive. It’s easy to brush past it as not that important. Or, maybe we forget what our baptism means for us every day of our lives. Our sinful nature attacks us, Satan tempts us, and it can be so easy for us to forget what our baptism made us and has done for us and we give in as if we couldn’t say no to temptation and sin.

Well, let’s take this treasure of baptism, dust it off, and be reminded once again of what a treasure it really is. The Triune God was involved in your baptism. You were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of them was involved.

First, the Son, Jesus. Did you know that when you were baptized you were connected to Jesus? Jesus’ baptism marked him as the substitute for sinners who came to do in every way what you and I were supposed to do perfectly. And not only that, but Jesus came to receive in Himself the punishment for sin that was properly to be ours. He did that with his death on the cross. What baptism does is it intimately connects the person who is baptized to Jesus. The Bible puts it this way, “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too may live a new life.” And also “All of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.” In other words, through baptism, you were connected to Jesus; everything that Jesus was and did becomes personally yours.

Second, the Holy Spirit was involved in your baptism. We’re told that through baptism a person receives the “gift of the Holy Spirit.” We’re also told that baptism is a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Jesus told Nicodemus that flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to Spirit and that the way to enter the kingdom of God is being born of water and the Spirit. In other words, when you were baptized God the Holy Spirit entered your heart, your soul. He worked faith in your heart to believe in Jesus.

And finally, God the Father was also involved in your baptism. The way God brings children into this world is amazing. God chooses to use a father and a mother. God’s family plan is that that father and mother care for and nurture and feed and protect that child. It’s also God’s intention that the father and mother not only provide for the physical well-being of that child but also the spiritual. Providing for the spiritual needs of a child first means bringing that child to the baptismal font where the child is adopted into a new family. Because of sin we’re born dead, we’re born enemies of God, and outside of his family. Through the gracious waters of baptism God adopts a person into His eternal family. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit so that having been justified by His grace we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.

Because of the work of Jesus as your substitute and Savior, because of the work of the Holy Spirit working faith in your heart through baptism, God the Father looks at you and can say about you exactly what he said about Jesus: “You are my son, my daughter, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

You know what that means? That means that you have a treasure worth infinitely more than any treasure discovered on the Antiques Roadshow. In fact, you have a treasure worth infinitely more than any treasure in your house. In fact, you have a treasure worth infinitely more than all the treasures in the world combined. Why so? Because through your baptism you have the forgiveness of sins, through your baptism you’re a child of God, through your baptism you have been freed from sins shackles so you can live a new life- not enslaved to sin- you can make changes, through your baptism you have a treasure in heaven that will never perish, spoil, or fade, no matter what! Amen.



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5th Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 6:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,

I like to fish. We didn’t fish much when I was growing up, but I’d say that since I’ve lived here in Bemidji for the last 6 years, I’ve fished probably ten times more in the last 6 years than I did in the previous 26 years combined. Last weekend we had some relatives visiting so we went fishing a couple of times and actually caught a few nice fish. We brought them home and cleaned them. So, afterward we were left with some nice fish filets and the unusable fish remnants. What do you do? The filets go in the fridge or freezer, but what about the rest of the fish? I’ve heard they make nice compost and since we have a garden I just threw the fish remnants in our compost bin. That was a mistake. Warm weather plus rotting fish doesn’t make a very nice smell, nor does it help reduce the fly population. Apparently, what I should have done, is bury the fish remnants in the ground. You see, that way, they’re gone, the stench is gone, the flies don’t find them, they’re gone. That’s the power in burial. We bury dead things, right?

The word that we’re focusing on this week is “buried.” You see each of us needed to be buried. We don’t like to hear this, but each of us was far worse than dead, rotting, stinking, fly-infested fish entrails. Remember how God describes our original state born into this world? We’re born dead in sins, hostile to God, enemies of God, we hated God, didn’t want anything to do with God, we were born into this world spiritually lost in our sins and condemned to eternal death. That is who we were. And God would have been perfectly fair, perfectly just, perfectly right in burying us in hell- out of his presence forever. I mean, you wouldn’t put a partially rotted, fly-infested dead fish on your kitchen counter, would you? Why should God do anything else rather than be done with us and our sinfulness forever?

But what did God do? He did the unthinkable. We’ve talked through it each week so far in this series: He atoned for our sins making us at one with him again, He reconciled us to himself changing our relationship from enemies to His own dear children, He clothed us with a perfect righteousness. How so? He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to live the sinless and perfect life in place of all people, to die on the cross for each and every sin, and to rise from the dead as proof of the world’s forgiveness. Forgiveness of sins, life and salvation have been won for all people. And God gives it as an absolutely and totally free gift.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone enjoys the eternal benefits of God’s saving work in Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Through faith I receive all the blessings God freely won for me in Jesus. How does God work faith? He works faith through the gospel. The gospel in Word when we hear in the Bible of God’s saving work. And the gospel in the sacraments. In the sacrament of Baptism, through water and the Word, God writes His name on that person, washes away all their sins, adopts them into His own family, clothes them with Jesus’ perfect robe of righteousness, and makes them an heir of eternal life.

In fact, describing the blessings of baptism Martin Luther wrote in the Large Catechism: “In short, the blessings of baptism are so boundless that if our timid nature considers them, it may well doubt whether they could all be true. Suppose there were a physician who had so much skill that people would not die, or even though they died would afterward live eternally. Just think how the world would snow and rain money upon such a person! Because of the throng of rich people crowding around, no one else would be able to get near. Now, here in baptism there is brought, free of charge, to every person’s door just such a treasure and medicine that swallows up death and keeps all people alive.” What a blessing to treasure!

But now, here’s the question: If God has saved us totally by His grace, freely, there’s nothing I have to do or can do, why not live any way that I want? Why live any differently than before? Why change? Why fight against sin? Or the Satanic thought will enter our minds, “God forgives me anyway, I’ll just do this sin or that sin, it’s not really a big deal.” “I’m just an angry person, that’s who I am, I can’t change.” “That’s just the kind of language I use, that’s who I am, I can’t change.” “My wife should have known that’s who I am, even though this causes huge problems in our marriage, that’s who I am, I’m not changing.” “I know I have this pet sin, I’ve tried to stop, I can’t, it’s no use, I can’t change.” What sins are you struggling with? What temptations do you continue to give in to? Which lies of Satan do you continue to believe? What rotting, stinking, maggot-filled fish are you carrying around with you?

See what God says: “We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” And then God brings in baptism: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” You see, your baptism intimately connected you, united you to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Everything that Jesus accomplished is now yours. Think of it like this: a person becomes rich, how so? Through his or her own ingenuity, diligence, and effort. This rich individual then gets married. How does all that wealth then become the new spouse’s? By grace. By simply being married that person now has an equal share in all the wealth of the other. That’s what baptism did. Through your baptism you were intimately connected to Jesus. His death became your death to sin, His burial became your burial where your sins were left in the grave, His resurrection to new life became your resurrection to a new life.

Jesus came once to suffer for sins. The only reason people could lay their hands on Jesus while on earth was because He came to deal with our sins, He came to die for our sins, but now that our sins have been paid in full, now that Jesus has risen from the dead, Jesus has nothing to do with sin anymore. No one can harm Jesus any more, no one can lay their hands on him anymore, when Jesus returns in glory no one will be able to touch Him or put Him to death. He’s done with sins. That means we’re also done with sins, we’re dead to sin. “Our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.”

Yes, we carry around with us a sinful nature. Yes, we have an old sinful self that clings to us and tries to bring us down into sin every day. But that sinful nature was drowned and buried in the waters of our baptism. And even though it springs to life every day because of what God has done for us in baptism we have the power to say, “No” to sin. We have the power in Christ to change hurtful, wrong, sinful behaviors. We have the power to bury the dead fish and be done with it. We are no longer slaves to sin. Our sinful flesh, the world around us, and Satan himself have lost their tyrannical power over our lives. How so? You were baptized, buried with Jesus in death and united with Him in resurrection.  You have the power to live a new and holy life.

One of the awesome pictures of baptism that God gives us compares baptism to a wedding. In Ephesians 5 God tells us how a husband is to love his wife and this is what God says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Whenever I read that passage I think about my own wedding day when Katie and I were married. On that day I didn’t see Katie at all until she was walking down the aisle with her dad. I have this image burned into my mind of that moment. I was standing up front and I saw her, my bride, decked out in a beautiful white wedding dress, hair done just right, make up on, no blemish, no wrinkle, no stain. And I remember thinking, “That’s my bride!” It took my breath away. Jesus says that He’s that bridegroom in front of church and you’re his bride. He washed you clean with His own blood shed on the cross, in the washing with water through the Word in your baptism He made you His, holy, blameless, without stain or wrinkle or any kind of blemish. He says, “You take my breath away.”

Now, would that bride, beautiful, no wrinkle, stain, or blemish on her wedding day, decide to go and clean out the pig pen and roll around in the filth and dirt and manure? No way! Just so, we who have been baptized into Christ, clothed with His garments of perfection, do we really want to roll around in sin, in selfishness, bitterness, jealousy, anger, envy, hatred, giving into sinful lusts and passions? No way! That’s not who we are! We’ve buried that stench in our baptisms!

This week, every morning when you wake up, remember what happened at your baptism. You were buried with Christ in the tomb, your sinful nature was drowned, although temptations may come, sin has no power over you, you can live a new life, washed, cleansed, and forgiven. So, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Amen.

“He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Amen (Titus 3:5, 7)

“No greater jewel, therefore, can adorn our body and soul than baptism, for through it we become completely holy and blessed, which no other kind of life and no work on earth can acquire.” (Luther)

Rejoice in Your Baptism!

1st Sunday after Epiphany
Acts 16:25-34

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, how much joy do you have? I’m not talking about “happiness” is a feeling that can easily fluctuate and is really derived from the word “happenstance.” But joy is something else. Joy is something that lasts and is present no matter what. So how much joy do you have? How joy-filled is your life? There’s so many little things of life that can rob us of joy, isn’t there? So many distractions, so many worries, so many problems. Weeks of frigid, biting temperatures, then the heater breaks, all kinds of traffic and red lights – when you’re in a hurry, groceries need to be bought, clothes washed – when your to-do list is a mile long. So many things in life can rob us of joy, right? Well, in our text this morning we see two instances of incredible joy. How did they get it? Can we have that same joy?

Paul is on his second missionary journey with Silas. Paul was intending to go to the area of Bithynia but was prevented by God from going there. He then had a vision at night of a man from Macedonia saying, “Come to Macedonia to help us.” And Paul concluded they should share the gospel in Macedonia which is north or Greece. So off they went and they went to Philippi which was a Roman colony without very many Jewish people. While he was there a slave girl who was possessed by a demon kept following Paul and Silas. Supposedly this demon enabled the girl to foretell the future and so her owners made a lot of money from her. But after this demon kept calling out after Paul and his companions he drove the demon out of the girl in the name of Jesus, but in doing so he also drove out her owner’s hope of making money. Because of that a raucous was started and a flash mob formed and they seized Paul and Silas and brought them before the magistrates of the city who had them stripped and beaten.

The Jews administered something called the “forty lashes minus one”; 39 lashes, 40 was considered the death penalty and too cruel. But these aren’t fellow Jews. These are Romans and Romans don’t count. Apparently the magistrates would have their men beat criminals until they gave the signal and here the verb is given in a tense that means they kept beating and beating them. And all of it completely illegal, not only were they totally innocent but it was illegal to punish a Roman citizen in this way without a fair trial, they just figured Paul wasn’t a Roman citizen. Paul and Silas endured not only excruciating pain here, but also a horrible disgrace having been stripped of their clothes and beaten. And since Paul and Silas were considered highly dangerous Jewish agitators, the magistrates wanted to look more into their case so they had them locked up in prison. They told the jailer to keep them securely.

A jailer had a lot of freedom as to how he was to keep his prisoners. But since they ordered him to keep them securely he took no chances. Jailers at this time were held responsible with their own lives for the securing of their prisoners. Earlier in the book of Acts we’re told about Peter’s miraculous escape from prison and we’re also told that Herod had the guards executed when they couldn’t explain how Peter had escaped. So this jailer had Paul and Silas put in the inner cell – so maximum security – and fastened them into stocks, which served a dual purpose: both to secure prisoners and to further torture them. You put your feet in these stocks and they could be spread apart so to give your muscles excruciating pain and cramping. Bleeding, bruised, sore, no ibuprofen or Tylenol or bandages or pain reliever, sitting in a dark dungeon, the last place in the world we would figure they could do mission work, but it’s the very place where the Lord was about to give them mission work to do.

Now, this past week, I’ve been battling a cold, it hasn’t been much fun, but because of it I know I haven’t been quite as upbeat and joyful as I could be, I’ve been somewhat irritable, maybe a little cranky, perhaps you can relate, how easily when the slightest thing goes wrong we can become pessimistic, irritable, cranky, upset, and not only diffuse our own joy but the joy of those around us and then I read this and think, “How silly of me!” If anyone had any reason to become bitter, angry, upset, curse or swear, perhaps we might be willing to give Paul and Silas a pass on that, right? Certainly the jailer was probably thinking they were going to spit at him, call him all kinds of nasty words, curse at him, try to cause a raucous, I’m going to guess he thought of everything except what they did. In the stocks, in prison, bleeding and sore, and what do Paul and Silas do? Pray and sing hymns to God!! Really?? What’s up with these people?!?

Of course we don’t know what they were singing, but I’m guessing they weren’t singing some weary, somber song. Likely they were singing Psalms. And about what? Was it songs of deliverance in line with God’s will? Songs of God’s power and might? Prayer of strength and patience to bear their crosses? Prayers for salvation and conversion of many?

Then about midnight there was such a violent earthquake that it shook the foundation of the jail and released the doors and knocked off the prisoners chains. Coincidence? Or might God be acting in a very powerful way? What is intriguing here is that then no one leaves? Why not run, seize the opportunity, escape prison and punishment? But Paul is a take charge kind of guy. Perhaps he said, “Sit tight.” And the prisoners were connecting the dots, “This Paul guy is sure different, he sure trusts in his God, and what just happened is incredible.”

The earthquake woke the jailer up who seems to go out to check on the jail and seeing the door open and no prisoner in sight was filled with panic and ready to kill himself. If the prisoners escaped he would have been held liable. He figured he might as well be his own executioner, he might as well end it all, when all seems lost he might as well end it with a quick death. (What a difference from the apostles who were happily singing amid suffering, shame, and danger, he’s ready to end his life before he’s even certain of what has happened or what will happen!)

But then without missing a moment Paul shouts out, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” What?? The prisoners haven’t left? He doesn’t have to die? Really? This man had just been staring death in the face, now here’s these two astounding men who were singing after being beaten and tortured, who are not in any kind of fear after a massive earthquake, and who haven’t done the normal thing and ran away! No longer does the jailer have to fear Rome and punishment for having lost some prisoners, but now there’s something else he needs to worry about: Paul’s God! He’s on the wrong side of that God. He doesn’t say, “Boy, I’m really interested in your God, tell me more about him.” Paul’s God is his enemy right now. He’s doomed, all he wants is to escape punishment from Paul’s God.  So he falls trembling before them and takes them out and asks, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And notice what Paul and Silas didn’t say. They didn’t say, “Now my dear friend, this is no small matter, for a godless, reckless human being like you this is going to take a long and hard extensive cure that we’ll have to prescribe for you.” Nor did they say, “Well, friend, we must elaborate to you an extensive course on all the articles of the Christian faith before you are fit to make a decision as to whether you really want this or not.” No! They simply say to him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” Receive the gift God has given you in Jesus! Trust in Jesus as the Savior that you need! And you will be saved. No conditions, no stipulations, no fine print here.

Then the disciples spoke the word of the Lord to him and all those in his house. Then the jailer took them and washed their wounds and probably with the same bucket of water he was using to clean them up he and his family were baptized right then and there. And what a reversal! Now, instead of causing the apostles more pain, he’s feeding them and caring for them. Then we’re told, ‘He was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God- he and his whole family.

How could the disciples sing and pray to God when they had been ruthlessly beaten and were singing in prison? How could this jailer be suddenly filled with joy? How can you and I have joy when life isn’t so nice, when problems come, when things are annoying? We have the same joy as the apostles and this jailer. The apostle Paul was once on the other side abusing, persecuting, putting Christians to death, the jailer was once on the other side – putting God’s people in the stocks, the fact is, you and I were once on the other side too – by nature we were dead in sins and enemies of God. And yet in incredible grace a man named Jesus walked up to the Jordan River and was baptized – fully relating to human beings in every way and beginning his work that will lead Him to one place: a cross, an agonizing death taking upon himself the sins of the world, the sins of you and me. Why? All in order to forgive Paul’s sins, to forgive the jailer’s sins, to forgive your sins! And then he gave you the faith to believe it! For many of us he first gave it to us when a pastor spoke our name and poured water on our heads and said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In your baptism you were connected to Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection, in your baptism your sins were forgiven, in your baptism you were given new spiritual life, in your baptism you were adopted into God’s family, in your baptism your name was written in the book of life, in your baptism God saved you!

Look at what God did for you on the cross, look at what God did for you personally at your baptism! And since God did the work for you in your baptism, you know it’s true and it can never be taken from you, that means you can rejoice in your baptism as God’s child today and tomorrow, you can rejoice in your baptism if you’re in pain and hurting like Paul, you can rejoice in your baptism if you know you’ve done many things in life you shouldn’t have like the jailer, you can rejoice in your baptism amidst all the problems and struggles and challenges of life.

So, you too are filled with joy because of what God in His grace has done for you. Rejoice!

From Blindness to Sight!

3rd Sunday in Lent
John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.  Amen.  In the name of Jesus, who has brought you from spiritual blindness to sight, dear friends in Christ,

We humans tend to appreciate something more after we’ve had to live without it, don’t we?  The human eye is an amazing creation of God.  It’s fascinating how it works.  It filters light as objects reflect light and color and detail.  The light enters into the eye and contacts with 2 different kinds of cells totaling some 107 million different cells.  When the light interacts with these cells it produces a chemical reaction that creates an electrical impulse transferred through the optical nerve to the brain that processes the information.  That’s not mentioning the many different muscles in the eye that contract and expand, the eyelids that protect the eye, and the pupils that dilate or contract automatically based on the amount of light available.  The human eye is really an amazing creation of God.

Now try to imagine living without it.  What would life be like?  I know what it’s like to have poor eyesight.  I’ve had glasses or contacts since the end of grade school.  I can relate to straining to see something, if I take my contacts out everything 3 feet from my face is a blurr.  And perhaps you know the struggle, as I’m told, as you get older its almost inevitable that at some point your eye sight gets worse.  But our text deals with a man with whom none of us can really fully relate because none of us were, as he was, born blind.  Imagine life without sight.  No colors, no beauty, no reading.  But imagine further what life was like in the 1st Century at the time of Jesus.  There were no ADA laws, there were no social security benefits for the disabled, there were no schools for the blind, there was no such thing as Braille available.  Rather, you had to look forward to a life of begging for your survival.  And you know what it’s like for beggars.  “Do they really need it?  Is this a scam?  Are they just going waste my handout on alcohol, drugs?  What did they do that brought them to this point?”  On top of that, imagine the loneliness.  Never getting to see the face of your mom or dad, never getting to look a friend in the eyes.  And then on top of that there’s always that temptation: what did I do to deserve this?  Is God punishing me for something that I did?  Even Jesus’ disciples had this idea that this particular suffering could be traced to a particular sin: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.”

There’s this idea in the human mind that the reason why some people suffer more than others is because they must have sinned in some special way so that God is punishing them.  So, no doubt, many would have looked at this blind man and instead of having hearts of pity and mercy viewed him as a specially guilty person before God.  Is he worse than others?  Perhaps its easy for us to slip into that same kind of thinking.  Do we who live in America and enjoy many, many conveniences consider ourselves more favored by God than the person in the 3rd world country who owns just one set of clothes?  Are we quick to assume that a person’s suffering is judgment from God for a specific sin?  But what does God tell us?  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  There is no difference.  We’re all sinful.  But then why this suffering?

Jesus said, “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  God was going to go on display in this blind man’s life.  Then Jesus spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  Now the man could feel this man applying something to his eyes as if to indicate to him that He was about to do something to his eyes.  Then Jesus told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  Now imagine what must have been going through this man’s head: Jesus had said that God was going to go on display in his life, Jesus said He is the light of the world, Jesus touched him, Jesus spoke with him, how could he not go and do what Jesus told him?  He went, he washed, and he came home seeing!  Can you imagine his excitement?  To see for the first time!  All of a sudden for the very first time he could see water, he could see the road, he could see the sun, he could see people.  No more begging, he could learn to read, he could learn to work.  His whole world must have had new meaning and new life!  This is amazing!  This is awesome!  This can’t be anything other than God’s power!

But then notice what happens.  First, his neighbors and friends can’t believe him, can’t understand, they question him, this can’t really be the same guy, can it? I can almost picture this man wanting to scream, “I was blind but now I see!!  Jesus healed me! Can’t you see that!”  Then they bring him to the religious elite of the day, the Pharisees.  Again, you’d think there would be amazement, rejoicing, awe?  But what happens?  The Pharisees get all uptight about this, this can’t possibly be true, they put the man in the hot seat, interrogate him, harass his parents, and even resort to insulting him.  They accuse Jesus of “doing work” on the Sabbath and therefore He can’t be from God for He breaks their Sabbath laws.  Through it all I can just imagine this man looking at them, “Can’t you see!!  This is amazing!”  But through it all something else is going on as well with this blind man, not in the eyes, but in his heart.  First he says Jesus is a prophet.  That got them even more uptight.  Then he simply put the simple logic before them: I was blind, now I see.  No one ever hears of this sort of thing happening.  It must be a miracle.  Miracles come from God.  This Jesus guy is from God!  Furious, they threw him out.  They refused to see it.

We shake our heads at their foolishness.  But we must remember that we were no different.  We, too, were all born into this world maybe not physically blind, but certainly spiritually blind.  If left to our own, we could never have made sense of this life.  On our own we would be blind to what true love means, blind to any answer to guilt, blind to a life after death, blind to meaning and purpose in this life, blind to a God of love who saves.  And yet in many ways we continue to close our eyes and blind ourselves.  Have we at times been blinded by our rage or anger?  Have we been blinded by the sparkles of this world’s greedy temptations?  Have we been blinded by the foolishness that wealth can buy happiness and peace?  Have we been blinded by our own pride and arrogance and selfishness?  Has our own self-righteousness blinded us from seeing the love and care of our spouse?  Blinded us from being loving and caring to our spouse?  In many ways you and I shut the eyes of our faith and act as if we are blinded in unbelief.  That’s sin and for that sin we ought spend an eternity of blindness in the darkness of hell.

But Jesus didn’t want that for this man born blind, nor does he want that for you and me.  After this man was thrown out and picked himself up and dusted himself off.  Did he recall the promises of God in the OT?  The promises that spoke of a Savior who would come and give sight to the blind and cause the lame to leap?  Then Jesus found him.  “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Jesus asked.  Where is he?  Where is Jesus?  Where is the one who healed me?  I want to see the Messiah, my Savior!  And Jesus said, “You have seen him!”  With his own eyes he saw his Savior and worshipped him.

You’ve seen your Savior too.  Jesus has opened your eyes to see him.  Jesus has washed you too, not in the waters of Siloam, but in the waters of your baptism where Jesus forgave all your sins.  Jesus has touched you too, not with mud on your eyes, but with His blood that He shed on a cross paying for all of your sins.  Jesus has opened your eyes and changed how you see yourself.  No longer are you a blind beggar facing eternal darkness, but Jesus has made you his own child and an heir of eternal life.  He has made you the light of the world.  Through the eyes of faith you see what the self-righteous skeptics and scoffers of this world have blinded themselves from seeing.  You see heaven secure, you see future glory with your Savior, you see death having been defeated, you see God as your dear Father!  You see life with a purpose and meaning, you see a God who remains in control, who can even use suffering and pain to put on display the work of God in the lives of people!

You were blind, now you see.  You are a miracle of God!  What joy!  What gladness! What peace!  What confidence!  What excitement!  What a reason to give thanks to God!  What a reason to tell others of this God who turns blindness into sight!  Amen.