Jesus didn’t look like much.
As he approached the crowd gathered at the Jordan River, he looked like an ordinary human being. He wore ordinary Jewish clothing. He had the traditional Hebrew beard. He travelled by foot like so many ordinary people. He didn’t look all that powerful. Yes, as a carpenter, he probably had the power to swing a hammer – or saw through a piece of olive wood – but…to save? To be this long promised, powerful, Lord and Messiah?
Jesus entered the water with John. It looked like every other baptism John had performed. He spoke God’s Word. He used water. Droplets trickled down Jesus’ beard. A few drops hit the surface of the gently flowing waters of the Jordan.
…a rumble. An incredible sight as the heavens split in half. A schism takes place within the clouds and a bright shining light appears with its aim directly over Jesus. THAT’S POWER.
…a dove. Glowing with awesomeness. Hovering and glistening with the ethereal mysteries of the ages. The Holy Spirit himself appears and lands on Jesus – harnessed by Jesus. THAT’S POWER.
…a voice from heaven. For all to hear. Booming. With the bone quaking power of the Almighty Creator Himself. The Words of the Divine enter air. Divine syllables echoing throughout the air unlike any human voice ever heard before. THAT’S POWER.
… “This is my Son.” Divine. Jesus too was from heaven. The Only One for whom God ever made such a powerful appearance and gave such a powerful voice of approval too was Jesus. He was God’s one and Only Son. He too had God’s incredible, eternal, almighty power – power to walk on water, rebuke storms with mere words, feed thousands with only smidgens of bread, drive out demons, and reach past the icy grip of death to return loved ones to one another. THAT’S POWER!
… “With Him I am well pleased.” Perhaps the most powerful truth of all. Jesus had the power to please God Almighty. A power that human beings – dead in sin – do not have the power to do. A thing that humans only have the power to imagine that they have the power to. Jesus had the power to refuse he advances of sexy woman, to withstand the allure of lust, to refuse the mind numbing drink, to rebuke the group of gossipers, and not engage in the sinful pride that comes with defeating sin. If you are a sinner who has ever been tempted by temptation, then you know THAT’S POWER TOO!
Make no mistake about it this morning. Jesus’ baptism was filled with POWER! It was unlike any baptism ever seen before or after. No matter how many fireworks hey have going in the background, special effects added with video editing software. Jesus baptism was POWERFUL and UNIQUE.
And yet…I dare say it wasn’t the most powerful baptism ever. In fact, I’m not even sure it was in the top couples of thousands.
Picture your traditional baptism. A pastor in an ordinary robe. A font filed with water. A woman approaches the front. Some words are spoken. The congregation looks on in anticipation. It looks pretty ordinary. Water is poured on her head. She uses a towel to dry off. Pastor leads in prayer.
It doesn’t look like much.
But Scripture says there is so much. In His Word, God gives us a glimpse at the powerful and incredible things that happen in Baptism. That happened at your baptism. That will happen at your baptism.
Take a look at three very powerful things:
1) Washing Away of Sins.
There was a man named Saul who had a lot of sins. He had taken it upon himself to attack and destroy the Christian church in its early stages. He had falsely accused. Thrown into prison and murdered the church of God. Then, he met Jesus.
Shortly after he met Jesus, a disciple of Jesus came to Saul. He assured of him of forgiveness and said the words of Acts 22:16 says, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away.”
Talk about incredible power! Baptism wiped out the repeated, awful, persecution sins of the Apostle Paul.
Similarly Acts 2:38 was spoken to people who had literally and actually been involved in the killing of Jesus. They killed the Messiah talk about an awful. Sin.
But listen to what Peter says would happen in their baptism, “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins!” Did you catch that? Their sins would be destroyed. The incredible amount of guilt they had before their Almighty Father above would be obliterated. They would be forgiven.
Baptism is the most powerful stain fighting agent around. It doesn’t just get rid of grass stains, spaghetti stains, or Nacho Cheese Doritos stains. It gets rid of the guilt and consequence of sin. It washes your soul of the messy, grimy disgusting sins you’ve committed before the eyes of your heavenly Father.
2) Saving from Punishment.
This makes sense. God hates sin. He punishes sin. He’s entirely good so He cannot excuse sin in the slightest, but He must punish it in all of his wrath.
But what does it mean when Baptism washes away your sins? When, in God’s eyes, you don’t have an ounce of sin on you?
1 Peter 3:20 states it so matter of factly “Baptism now saves you not removal of dirt from the body, but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.” It saves you because it pledges that your sins are forgiven. It gives you confidence to stand before God and say; “I have been baptized. I have been washed. God, there are no sins on me!”
This confidence comes from God. It comes from his blessing of baptism. It comes from faith in what Jesus gives us in baptism.
Look at Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Saved from what? Saved from God’s wrath! He will not punish you, bcause you no longer have sins.
It’s like you changed sides. I think back to my grade school C team basketball days. Once we played an opposing team with only 6 players. Then, two of them got hurt. But we didn’t quit! Our coach simply took one of us every two minutes and subbed us in and onto the other team. We put on their jersey. We were on the other side.
Baptism is like that. It changes our sides. It puts us on God’s side. We no longer deal with his wrath, but with his love!
3) Give Eternal Life.
Ponce de Leon. That’s the name of a 16th century explore who was convinced that he could find water that would allow him to live forever. A fountain of youth. He sailed down to Florida, St. Augustine area and looked for something to save him from death.
Ponce de Leon is dead. He didn’t find the fountain of youth.
Too bad. It was nearer him than he thought. The fountain of youth.
The water of life is nearer you too. It’s Baptism. Look at Romans 6: “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. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
Baptism gives us eternal life! It’s Jesus’ personal promise to you that you’ll live?
HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?
Now we get the crux of the matter. How is this possible? You got some kind of special formula for water? Does your church have it’s water mailed in from the Holy Land? Do you give the water some kind of special blessing? I know there’s such a thing as Vitamin Water, but what is this? Spiritual Vitamin Water!?!
There are a few misnomers to watch out for. A few ways the devil tries to divert our attention – when we think of where the power for Baptism comes from.
*Some say, “The amount of water. If you don’t go totally under, then it didn’t really count. You might have missed some sin in the upper left corner of your split ends!”
*Some say, “Your age. If you believe when you are older and more mature, then it counts more. When you are young, it doesn’t matter. You are too young to mean it.”
*Some say, “Your commitment. You need to be totally committed. If you sin afterwards, then you weren’t committed and you need to do it again. Then, again. And again. And again.”
*Some say, “Your experience. Then, you think you are saved because you had a good experience until you hear someone come along and describe experiencing sin ooze out of their body in Baptism! Suddenly, you aren’t so sure.”
If we think the power in Baptism comes from us, our dedication, and our confession then what happens when those things are weakened? Suddenly, Baptism has no power!?!
But Look at where God’s Word says the power in Baptism comes from:
Acts 2:38 “Be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.”
Romans 6:13 "Don’t you know that…(we were) baptized into Christ?”
1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism…now saves you. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.”
Baptism is not just mere water. It is water connected with God’s Word. It is water connected to Jesus.
The very same Jesus who showed us his power in the Gospel. The same Jesus who had the heavens open up for him at his Baptism. The same Jesus who is connected to and working with the Holy Spirit. The same Jesus who had God the Father’s Almighty approval. The same Jesus who is divine…who is God’s Son!
This is the same Jesus who speaks at Baptism. It is his power that obliterates sin. It is his strength that defeats the devil. It is He alone who has conquered death and he alone is the reason that we based our assurance in Baptism upon!
To clean an old stain, I’ve heard you need more than plain water. You need lemon juice or nail polish…or maybe some tomato juice.
To clean sin you need more than water. You need water connected with God’s Word and united with his Promise. The promise of Jesus our Savior!
This isn’t an either or. This isn’t a grace or works thing. Scripture plainly says that baptism and belief go together. That is something mirrored in Mark 16:15 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”
If you believe, be baptized. Trust that God will do a powerful and awesome thing for you.
If you have been baptized, believe. Believe that God has done powerful and awesome things for you.
If you have kids and believe, have them baptized. Because think of the truthful things you will be able to say to them:
- When your kid comes crawling into your bed because they are scared of the dark, you can say, “Jesus baptized you. He is with you.”
- When they fight with their sister, sit down for a time out, and say, “I’m sorry,” you get to say, “You are forgiven. By Jesus. Remember – He baptized you to wash that sin away!”
- When your kid comes crying to you because they got suspended from school and they are feeling very guilty and sad, you can assure them, “But you were baptized into Jesus.”
- When, God forbid, your child gets sick and is in danger of death, you speak to them and assure them, “If you should die before you wake, we pray the LORD your soul to take – and we know he will. Because you are his child. You have been baptized!"
Jesus’ Baptism was pretty powerful isn’t it? Then again, God has done a lot of powerful things with water. Destroyed the world. Split a river in half. Walked upon it.
But there is nothing more powerful than what he did in your Baptism. He slayed Satan’s power. He destroyed sin. He obliterated your guilt. He opened the gates of eternal life to all who believe.
This is most certainly true. Amen.