Text: Matthew 3:13-17
Date: Baptism of Our Lord + Epiphany I + 1/8/17
God’s kingdom, His rule of grace, comes to us in the sacrament of Holy Baptism. There we are buried or identified with the blessed death of our Lord for the forgiveness of our sins. There we receive the forgiveness of our sins, faith to believe in the forgiveness of our sins and adoption as sons and daughters in the family of God’s redeemed, restored, renewed creation. We are baptized for the forgiveness of sins.
Today we mark the beginning of our Lord’s earthly ministry as He is baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River. Jesus was baptized. But He was not baptized for the forgiveness of His sins, for He Himself had no sin. He was baptized for the forgiveness of our sins as He there identified with us sinners in order to be our Savior.
He is entering His state of humiliation when, “though he was in the form of God, [He] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” or bragged about, “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant…. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:6-8). In His state of humiliation, He limited Himself to live as we do reserving His divine powers to serve only that which heals, saves and gives life. Nevertheless, though humbled for a season He remained the divine Son of God now in our flesh and in which flesh crucified, raised, ascended He is now living and reigning in the position of power over all as King of the universe. With the spectacular signs at His baptism, the Holy Spirit descending upon Him in the form of a dove and the majestic voice from heaven declaring Jesus to be God’s beloved Son, Jesus’ baptism is more like a coronation, or an ordination and a glorification.
Jesus’ baptism was His coronation as He is crowned with the Holy Spirit to the highest office of Savior of the world. We sing the hymn “Crown Him with Many Crowns” not only in His state of exultation but also as “the virgin’s Son, The God incarnate born” at Christmas; the One “Whose arm those crimson trophies won Which now His brow adorn” in Holy Week; “the Lord of love. Behold His hands and side, Rich wounds, yet visible above, In beauty glorified” at Easter and beyond. Throughout His earthly ministry He never ceases being God. In John 5 Jesus said to the Jews who were seeking to kill Him, “the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22-23). So today the Father honors the Son, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” And we honor the Son saying, Crown Him the Lord of heaven, Crown Him the king, Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns, For He is king of all.” (LSB 525)
Jesus’ baptism was His coronation as King of all. But Jesus’ baptism was also His ordination. In the rite of the ordination of a pastor or priest, by the Word of God, prayer and the laying on of hands, a man is placed into office as a servant of God in the ministry of God. It is called the prophetic and apostolic office of sacrifice, preaching, teaching, healing and shepherding God’s people. Of Jesus’ own evaluation of His ministry He says no more clearly than we read in Luke chapter 4, quoting Isaiah 61, saying,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And having rolled up the scroll he sat down and said to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:18-21).
The Greek text says, literally, the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, because He is “christened,” anointed as a royal monarch and ordained to “evangelize” or preach the good news and then the other word translated “preach,” to announce or proclaim release and liberty, release or liberty from the captivity of sin, spiritual blindness, the oppression of the Law of God, released by the Gospel. The Gospel is all His saving work He came to do by the cross and His resurrection. That day He told them “this Scripture (Isaiah 61) has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And so also this day, and whenever it is preached through the mouths of those sent to evangelize, preach and proclaim the Gospel “this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Today you receive the forgiveness of all your sin by faith in Him who was baptized for you and in whom you are baptized.
Now the mystery follows and continues as long as we are in this body on this side of the fullness of heaven, the mystery of walking in the newness of life (Rom 6), no longer enslaved to sin, free and alive to God in Christ Jesus. But this newness of life, this freedom may not be apparent all the time or even some of the time. For we still struggle. No longer enslaved by sin we are freed to fight against that which still, daily so easily besets us. We even fall and fail, sometimes in little things but also sometimes in great, life-changing ways.
Here there is little better advice than that of our dear Doctor and Pastor Martin Luther who wrote:
“But when trials assail, then the true virtues of the saints come into evidence.” At times “Cries and wailing arise! ‘Alas! We are nothing; we are done for!’ But faith, on the contrary, says: ‘You have not perished; remember that you still have the promise which has been spread out over you just like a very broad heaven. God is taking care of you even if you do not see it or feel it. Only a little cloud has been drawn up, which seems to have swallowed God.’” We must “learn to stand boldly in faith and to think highly of our promises. Do not underestimate yourself, since you have been baptized and since you have God’s Word, have been absolved, and called! Think that the kingdom of heaven has been spread out over you and that not only God but all the angels have their eyes fixed on you. Therefore, even if all things are in confusion, heaven and earth are merged, all the gates of hell (cf. Matt. 16:18) are moved…all you have to say is: ’I am baptized.’ Then all is well with you; in this confidence you will conquer, for God is taking care of you; He will not forsake you, nor will any disadvantage happen without regard to your salvation.”
Jesus baptism is His coronation as our eternal King. It is His ordination to preaching, teaching, healing and ultimately His sacrificial death for us and for our salvation. Finally then today we celebrate His glorification leading to our own. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen 
Luther, M. 1999, c1970. Luther’s works, vol. 6 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 31-37 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works. Vol. 6 (Ge 37:21). Concordia Publishing House: Saint Louis