Ever done something really bad? Something especially awful? Something that has haunted you throughout your life? Something that pops into your memory during the quiet peaceful moments and turns them into unsettled seconds of torture?
I imagine that's what the Jewish people felt who had killed Jesus. He was innocent. He hadn't harmed them in any way. Upon farther examination, they had killed a miracle worker! In fact, they consciences may have even pricked them to learn the truth: "They had killed the very son of God! How could God ever forgive them for that?"
In a moment of complete despair, they realized the error of their ways. They called to one of Jesus' disciples. Perhaps they were wondering, if there was any way for them to make it up to God? Could they feed the disciples? Could they help them share their message? If they were better people, could they in any way warrant an ounce of God's forgiveness? Or even less the blow of his wrath?
They asked Peter, "What should we do?"
Peter did not tell them to start making amends to God with their offerings. He didn't ask them to work really hard to make it up to God with their prayers. He didn't even tell them to go on some kind of courageous spiritual journey to earn forgiveness.
His reply was much simpler:
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." (Acts 2:38)
Did you see that? Peter's prescription for the people who were bogged down by the atrocious sin of killing the very son of God was repentance and baptism!
Take a look at that word "repentance." Repentance means "to turn." These people were to do a 180 degree turn from their sinful pride in themselves to a humble reliance on the LORD.
What better way to do it than to trust his promise in the simple act of baptism?
"God, I'm going to be baptized into your name. Trusting that in doing so, you will give the gift of forgiveness won for me with your death on the cross. Not that I am earning it by being baptized, but that you are giving it in my baptism."
This is the very promise that Jesus himself had given his disciples. He said, "Go and make people who follow me by baptizing them!" (Mt. 28:19)
And this is so personal. To the thousands who were baptized on that day of Peter's sermon, it was extremely personal. To the many who had been hearing echoes of his voice screaming, "Crucify," they now heard the soothing tones of Peter's proclamation: "You are baptized into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
At your baptism, the same was/will be true too. The promise is specifically for you! The devil can't come into my head and say (as he does when you hear a sermon) and say: "The forgiveness that the Pastor is talking about is not for you. It's for the others in this church. Not you. You are too pathetic."
In baptism, God's Word battles these accusations in a very specific way. There is no doubt who is being baptized. There is no doubt who the forgiveness of sins is for. There is no doubt for whom Jesus died on the cross.
May this voice of comfort soothe us with the forgiveness of sins now and always!
PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me remember my baptism with fondness today. Thank you for the wonderful blessing that you gave me in baptism. Thank you for the forgiveness of sins that you gave, very specfically, to me. Thank you Jesus for earning this forgiveness on the cross. Thank you Holy Spirit for making it mine through faith in Jesus. Amen.