Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Sermon for second mid-week Lent service: What benefits does baptism give?

                                                                                Mid-Lent 2

                                                                                What benefits does                                                                                 baptism give?



          In the Small Catechism, Martin Luther approaches the Sacrament of Holy Baptism in a very simple and direct manner.  First, he asks the question: “What is Baptism?”  We learned last week that baptism is water.  However, it is not just plain water.  Instead, it is water that has been included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.

          Having established what baptism is, Luther then asks the next important question: “What benefits does Baptism give?”  Of course, inherent in this question is the assumption that baptism actually does something.  This was clearly the belief of the early Church.  It was certainly the belief of the medieval Church. For 1500 years this was the belief of the catholic Church – the universal Church. 

          We know that in the sixteenth century the Reformation took place.  Led by Martin Luther, this was a work to return the church to the truths of Scripture alone, grace alone, and faith alone.  It was a reforming work of removing those things that had crept in that were not from Scripture and were contrary to Scripture.  But it was also a work that retained all the that the Church had always confessed that was true to Scripture.

          However, sadly, this is not all that occurred at this time. There were those who went far beyond this. Instead of a reformation, they brought about a revolution.  There were Christians who began to deny that God does anything in baptism.  They maintained that baptism was only a symbol.  In doing so they created something that had never existed in the life of the Church. They created something brand new.

          Those things that we must do are Law. That which God does for us in Christ is Gospel.  If baptism is only a symbol, then God isn’t doing anything through it.  Instead, it is something that we do to indicate our faith or commitment.  It is a matter of our action.  It is Law.

          However, baptism is not a matter of Law.  Instead, it is God’s Gospel gift.  As the Small Catechism explains, “It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”  In explaining this, the Small Catechism quotes the Gospel of Mark which says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

          God does something through baptism.  Baptism saves.  The Large Catechism says, “This is the simplest way to put it: the power, effect, benefit, fruit, and purpose of baptism is that it saves.”  Of course, when the Large Catechism states this, it is simply repeating what Scripture says.  Peter tells us, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

          Baptism now saves you. That’s what Peter says in a direct and simple statement.  And this verse illustrates what we find elsewhere in Scripture about baptism.  In text after text, Scripture says that baptism does something.  You don’t have to do any work to make the verses fit what the Small Catechism says about baptism.  Instead, they just say it.

          We confess that baptism works the forgiveness of sins.  We do because Peter said on Pentecost, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” This is the same reason that early Church confessed in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.”

          Baptism works the forgiveness of sins because it delivers what Jesus has won for us.  During Lent we prepare to remember Christ’s suffering and death.  Last week in our reading of the Lord’s passion according to St. Luke we heard Jesus say at the Last Supper, “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.”

          Jesus quoted words from Isaiah chapter 53 which speak about the suffering Servant.  He identified himself as the One who took our sins in order to receive God’s judgment.  On the cross of Good Friday Jesus was the object of God’s wrath in our place.  God offered his Son as the sacrifice for us.  Because he did, we now have forgiveness.  Paul told the Colossians, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

          Jesus died as the suffering Servant for us.  But he was also raised up by God on the third day for us.  We saw last week that it was the risen Lord who instituted Holy Baptism as he told his Church to “baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  The crucified and risen Lord now uses baptism to give us the saving benefits of his cross.

          St. Paul told the Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”

          Notice how Paul says that through baptism we have been baptized into Christ’s death.  He says that we were buried with him by baptism into death.  The apostle says that something actually happened through water and the word in baptism.  We have shared in the saving death of Christ.  His death has become ours and so we have received the forgiveness that Christ has won.

          Yet baptism is not only about Christ’s death.  It is also about sharing in his resurrection.  Through baptism we have shared in the death of the risen Lord. And so the apostle tells us, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”  Your baptism is the guarantee that you will share in Jesus’ resurrection on the Last Day.

          And on this we can say even more.  Paul told the Colossians that you have “been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”  Through baptism and faith you are in Christ.  You have been joined to him.  Paul says that not only have you shared in his death but you also already share in his resurrection.

          The Small Catechism says that baptism rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation.  Baptism delivers forgiveness.  It joins us to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of this we have been rescued from death and the devil.  We have eternal salvation.

          Paul expressed this truth when he told Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”  Through baptism you have been clothed with Christ.  The saving righteousness that Jesus won by his death and resurrection now covers your every sin.  When God looks at you, he does not see your sin.  Instead, he sees what Jesus has done for you.  You have been cleansed by the washing of water with the word. You are holy in his eyes.

          The Church does two things in order visually to remind us of this fact.  First, at baptism we place the chrism gown on an infant. The white gown reminds us that through baptism the child has put on Christ and his righteousness.

          Then at funerals we place the funeral pall on the casket at the beginning of the service.  This white parament recalls the exact same truth.  Through baptism the Christian was clothed with Christ.  The person was baptized into Christ. Therefore, the individual died as a forgiven child of God who is with Christ, and will be raised up on the Last Day.  This is true because baptism works the forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this as the words and promises of God declare.



Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sermon for the Second Sunday in Lent - Mt 15:21-28


Lent 2

                                                                                      Mt 15:21-28



          What is Jesus doing up here?  What is Jesus doing way north in the district of Tyre and Sidon?  This is an area along the Mediterranean coast that is north of Galilee.  It is outside the region that was ever part of Israel.  Instead, it had been the home of the evil Jezebel who worshipped Baal.

          This was pagan territory and it was not an area where Jesus conducted his ministry.  When Jesus denounced the cities where most of his miracles had been done because they did not repent he said, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

          Jesus has left the land of Israel because he has just been in conflict with the Pharisees. The Pharisees and scribes had come from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” They had travelled all the way to Galilee to confront this trouble maker.

          Jesus had disputed with them and said at the end, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:

“‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” 

The Pharisees were offended.  And so as Jesus does on several occasions like this when there is conflict, he withdraws.  Our Lord is on a divine schedule.  He will die, but he will not die until it is according to God’s timing.

Our text tells us that Jesus withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon.  Jesus was not there to do ministry.  However, his presence did not go unnoticed.  Matthew tells us, “And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’” 

Whenever Matthew wants us to note that something is surprising or remarkable, he says, “And behold.”  What he describes is certainly surprising.  We learn that a woman of that region approached Jesus.  Matthew calls her a “Canaanite woman.”  This was an entirely anachronistic term.  Nobody in Matthew’s day called people of that area Canaanites. However, it was a term from the Old Testament that emphasized the pagan nature of the woman.

It was surprising that a pagan woman would approach Jesus.  Yet more surprising were the words that she spoke. First, the woman said, “Have mercy on me.”  The woman came to Jesus asking for help. She a pagan, appealed to Jesus – a Jew.

Then the woman called Jesus “Lord.”  In Matthew’s Gospel, this is the term that Jesus’ disciples use to address Christ.  We do not expect to find it on the lips of this pagan.

But most surprising is that she addresses Jesus as “Son of David.”  Matthew begins the Gospel by saying, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  The term “Son of David” identified Jesus as Israel’s Messiah.  This pagan woman – this Gentile - calls out and addresses Jesus as the Messiah of Israel.  She called upon him and asked Jesus to help her demon possessed daughter.

The woman had said things exactly right: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”  She had pleaded with Jesus to help her daughter.  And how did Jesus respond?  He ignored her.  He did not answer her a word.

Jesus ignored her, but this did not stop the woman.  She kept crying out to Jesus.  It reached the point where the disciples were annoyed.  They came to the Lord and asked him, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.”  Apparently, they wanted Jesus to give her what she wanted so that she would just be quiet and go away.

However, Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Jesus said bluntly that he wasn’t here for her.  He was Israel’s Messiah. We are probably surprised to hear this.  But it is not an isolated statement.  When Jesus sent out the twelve apostles in chapter ten he told them: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Our text confronts us with the reality that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.  He was the Messiah for those whom God had taken into the covenant at Mt. Sinai.  He was here, first and foremost, for Israel – for the Jews. As Paul told the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

It is a humbling reminder that we as Gentiles have been included in God’s salvation purely on the basis of his grace.  We had no claim to God’s saving work in Christ.  But God in his mercy has extended it to us as well.  He saving intention included us and he has worked through Israel and her Messiah to give us forgiveness and eternal life. 

Jesus had provided no answer to the woman.  But the woman did not give up.  We learn that she came and knelt before Jesus. She pleaded, “Lord, help me.”  With the woman directly before him, surely now Jesus would help her.

However, our Lord responded, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” Not only did Jesus refuse to help the woman, but he called her a dog.  Now we are used to having dogs as pets that we treat like part of the family.  Perhaps the dog even gets to sleep on our bed.  But in that culture dogs did not hold any such privileged position.  It was deeply insulting to be called a dog.

Yet rather than being angered, the woman replied, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”  She didn’t deny her status as a Gentile who was not part of Israel.  Instead, she asserted that the left overs of what Jesus had to offer were sufficient to help her.

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.”  Our Lord praised her faith, and told her that her plea would be granted.  We learn that her daughter was healed from that hour.

In many ways, it is difficult to listen to this text.  This is not the Jesus that we expect.  We know our Lord to be the loving and compassionate One. And yet he does not seem to be so here.  Instead, he ignores the woman. He rebuffs her.  He even insults her.

Yet upon further reflection, we recognize that sometimes this is the experience we seem to have with God.  We trust and believe in him, and yet problem after problem seems to arise.  We experience continuing health difficulties that weigh us down and wear us out.  We face uncertainty about our career or school plans.  We see family members experience challenges and hardships and are pained by this.

We turn to God in the midst of these things.  We ask for help. And yet things don’t improve.  Perhaps they even get worse.  We call out to God and yet he seems to be ignoring us.  Or worse yet, it seems like he is against us.

At times like this it is easy to waver in doubt.  We begin to question God.  We even get angry at God. There is the temptation to turn away from him.

Today’s text speaks to this experience.  We begin with the content of the woman’s cry: “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”  We do not know how the woman had heard about Jesus.  The report about Christ had gone throughout the region, and obviously it had even penetrated the area of Tyre and Sidon.

She addressed Jesus as “Lord.” We understand in a way that she could not that Jesus is the Lord.  He is the Son of God who entered into our world as he was sent forth by the Father.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, he is Immanuel – God with us.

And he is the Son of David.  He is the Messiah promised by God who fulfills his saving promises.  He is the One who brings rescue and deliverance.  Yet during this season of Lent we prepare to remember that he did so in an unexpected way. Jesus the Messiah came to be enthroned on a cross with placard over this head, “This is Jesus the king of the Jews.”  He died as the sacrifice that takes away our sin and gives us forgiveness.

Buried in a tomb, it appeared that Jesus had been a false Messiah.  Yet King David himself had prophesied in Psalm 22, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.”  David spoke about the resurrection of Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.  On Easter God raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus ignored the woman. He rebuffed her. He insulted her.  And yet the woman kept calling upon Jesus in faith.  She refused to be turned away.  She persistently came to the Lord.

There are times when this is how God deals with us.  God hides his “yes” under a “no.”  He seems to ignore us. Yet he does so to lead us into deeper faith.  He forces us to ignore the circumstances and what they seem to be saying.  He leads us to cling to his word – his word that speaks of Christ crucified and risen for us.

The Holy Spirit has provided the woman in our text as a model for us. She refused to let go of Jesus.  She kept coming to him in faith. She would not be turned away.  She was so confident that Jesus could help that she said even his crumbs were enough.

Like the woman, we persistently turn in faith to the Lord who suffered, died, and rose for us.  God has revealed his love in the death and resurrection of his Son.  He has spoken his great Yes to us in Christ.  In him we have forgiveness and peace with God.  In him we have life and the hope of the resurrection.

Of course, this faith is not something that we created.  It is God’s gift – it is God’s creation.  And so if we are to walk by faith in Jesus, we need to focus our lives on where Jesus is present for us – on where we meet Jesus.  We need to continue to return to those ways that the Spirit of Christ strengthens and sustains faith.  We come to Christ’s Word and his Sacrament for these are far more than crumbs. They are the life giving means by which the Spirit leads us to say, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.”   


















Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Sermon for the first mid-week Lent service - What is baptism?


Mid-Lent 1

                                                                                      What is baptism?



          I once heard about a pastor who had visited the Holy Land.  I was told that he brought back some water from the Jordan River so that he could perform a baptism using it.  I was struck by the amount of effort he had put into this.  The water was obviously very valuable to him.

          As I recall, the pastor had done this in the 1970’s or 1980’s.  Things have changed quite a bit since then, and so I got curious about whether now you can just buy water from the Jordan River.  Sure enough, a quick search on the internet revealed that this is easy to do.  You can get 300 ml – about 10 ounces – for $9.45 at If you have Prime, there is even free shipping and you can receive it in a couple of days.  There are actually a fairly large number of options and church supply houses sell it as well. It wouldn’t be cheap to fill the font, but it also would not be hard to do.

          We can understand why people value water from the Jordan River.  But as we consider Holy Baptism tonight we recognize that the source of the water used in baptism does not make any difference. The water used is water.  In itself it is plain water no matter where it comes from.  Instead, it is Christ’s command and the Word of God that takes any water and makes it into a baptism.

          Water is a material substance that is used by God. It’s not surprising that he chose it since water has many prominent associations.  Water is needed to sustain life.  If you don’t have water, you can’t continue living.  Water also brings death.  It can drown those who are caught up in it.  Water brings cleansing. It washes away dirt and filth.

          God’s choice to use this material substance in dealing with us reflects the way God made us and his creation.  We learn in Genesis 1 about how God made his material creation.  It is a place of water, land, plants and animals.  Again and again we are told that God saw that what he made was good. Finally, we hear at the end of the chapter, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”  God looked at the material world he had made and considered it to be good stuff.

          God created us as part of that material creation. We learn in chapter two, “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”  He created us as the unity of body and soul joined together. Only in this way can we be what God intends.  He created us as people who are located at a place and time in this physical world.

          When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they brought sin into the world.  Sin brought death.  Paul tells us, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”  It brought the rending of body and soul.  Sin also warped and twisted God’s creation.  It brought upon it what Paul calls a bondage to corruption.

          Yet God’s answer was not to abandon and give up on us and his creation. Instead, he did something remarkable. God himself entered creation.  John tells us about the Son of God, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  God located himself in our world through the means of the flesh of Christ.  Where was God for us?  Jesus Christ was God’s located means.  On Christmas Eve God was located in the manger through the flesh of Jesus. That was where God was present for us.

          Jesus Christ was not simply the means by which God was present with us.  He was the means by which God acted in order to deal with sin.  We prepare during Lent to remember that on Good Friday Jesus’ body – his flesh – was nailed to the cross in order to win us forgiveness.  Paul told the Colossians, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

          Paul told the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  Christ crucified was the located means by which God won salvation for us.  This was God acting on Good Friday to redeem us from sin.

          The forgiveness of sins was won as Christ hung on the cross in first century Jerusalem. But it is not given to us there and then.  Instead, God acts to give forgiveness to us here and now. And we don’t have to wonder about how he does this.  He meets us where we are at.  He does this through the located means of water.  God gives forgiveness through water in the font that is applied to our body.

          Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and was buried.  But on Easter he rose from the dead.  He appeared to his disciples on a mountain in Galilee and told them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

          Christ commanded his disciples to apply water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  He instituted Holy Baptism.  Martin Luther says in the Large Catechism, “Observe first, that these words contain God’s commandment and institution, so that no one may doubt that baptism is of divine origin, not something devised or invented by human beings.”

          Baptism is Christ’s gift.  It comes from God.  And what is baptism?  The Small Catechism answers this question by saying, “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word.”

          Baptism is water.  But it is not just plain water.  It is not just plain water because it has been taken up by God’s command and combined with God’s word.  Christ has commanded the Church to use water in this way.  He has combined this water with his word to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Paul tells us that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.”

          It is God’s word added to water that makes it baptism.  In this way it becomes God’s water.  Luther says in the Large Catechism, “What is baptism? Namely, that it is not simply plain water, but water placed in the setting of God’s word and commandment and made holy by them.  It is nothing else than God’s water, not that the water itself is nobler than other water but that God’s Word and commandment are added to it.”

          Baptism is a wet word. It is water in which God’s word is enclosed.  It is this word and commandment of God that sets it apart and makes it to be the means by which God is at work. The Large Catechism says, “For the real significance of the water lies in God’s word or commandment and God’s name, and this treasure is greater and nobler than heaven and earth.”

          When you see a baptism being performed it does not look impressive.  It is simply water being poured on the head as the pastor says, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  But God has claimed that water as the means by which he works through his word.  The Large Catechism says, “Note the distinction, then: Baptism is a very different thing from all other water, not by virtue of the natural substance but because here something nobler is added, for God himself stakes his honor, his power, and his might on it.”

          God has chosen to use water in this way. He has set the water of baptism apart by his command and word.  And so the Large Catechism says, “Therefore it is not simply a natural water, but a divine, heavenly, holy, and blessed water – praise it in any other terms you can – all by virtue of the word, which is a heavenly, holy word that no on can sufficiently extol, for it contains and conveys all that is God’s.”

          In Holy Baptism God works through the located means of water.  He works through water in a font that is applied to our body. He deals with us as a whole person – body and soul.  We know this because God has included this water in his command and combined it with his word.  


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent - Mt 4:1-11


Lent 1

                                                                                      Mt 4:1-11



          Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’”  These are the words that God spoke to Moses as he was heading back to Egypt, after God had called him at the burning bush.  God identified Israel as his son and told Pharaoh to let him go.

          Pharaoh refused and so Yahweh brought ten plagues upon Egypt. The last of these was the Passover as God killed the firstborn of Egypt but spared Israel.  Pharaoh sent the people away, only to change his mind and send his army after Israel. Yahweh delivered Israel as he brought them through the Red Sea but drowned the Egyptians.

          God had rescued Israel, his son, in the exodus.  But Israel immediately proved to be an extremely unfaithful son. In the very next chapter after passing through the Red Sea the people have no food.  They grumble against Moses and Aaron saying, “Would that we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”  In response God gave them manna from heaven as he fed them on their journeys.  But later they would complain about the manna: “we loathe this worthless food.”

          In the next chapter, as we heard recently, the people had no water.  They quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water to drink.”  But Moses replied, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the LORD?” Yahweh had Moses strike the rock with his staff, and water came forth for the people.  We learn that the place was called Massah, because there Israel tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

          Then, after they arrived at Mt. Sinai and Yahweh had brought them into the covenant, Moses went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of testimony.  He was gone for forty days, and during that time the people told Aaron to make them gods who would go before them.  He made the golden calf that the people worshipped.  Only through Moses’ intercession did God spare Israel.  If Israel was God’s son, then it was a very unfaithful son from the beginning. That unfaithfulness continued throughout the nation’s history.  Rather than being a light to the nations bearing witness to Yahweh, they brought shame upon God’s name.

          This is the background against which we need to hear our text this morning.  Israel had been an unfaithful son.  Yet now God had sent his own Son to take Israel’s place.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, Jesus Christ was the descendant of David because Joseph had taken him to be his own. When Herod sought to kill Jesus, Joseph had been warned in a dream and had taken Jesus and Mary to Egypt.  Matthew tells us, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”

          The prophet Hosea had written these words as a description of what God had done for Israel.  But now they found their fulfillment as God brought Jesus – who was Israel reduced to one – out of Egypt in the return to Palestine after Herod had died.  Jesus now stood in the place of the nation. 

Just as Israel passed through the water of the Red Sea, so now Jesus passed through the water of his baptism.  The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus and the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Quoting words from Isaiah chapter 42, God identified Jesus as the Servant of the Lord.  The Servant in Isaiah is at times the nation of Israel. But on other occasions he seems to be an individual.  Jesus Christ was designated as the Servant of the Lord – the individual who stood in place of the nation. 

During the season of Epiphany we considered Jesus’ baptism.  We learned that at his baptism he took on the role of the suffering Servant.  Though without sin, he entered the water of baptism to take up our sin.  He became the One who would fulfill the words of Isaiah chapter 53: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  From the moment of his baptism the purpose of Jesus’ ministry was to obey the Father’s will by serving us – by offering himself as the sacrifice on the cross.

Israel passed through the water of the Red Sea and then entered the wilderness.  Now, immediately after Jesus’ baptism we hear in our text, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  The Spirit who had come upon Jesus at his baptism now leads him into the wilderness to be tempted. Israel, God’s son had failed. Now Jesus, God’s Son goes forth in place of the nation.

We learn that after fasting forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry. So the devil approached him and said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  Israel had failed when they were hungry.  Now the devil tempted Jesus to use his power to serve himself when he was hungry. 

But Jesus was here to carry out the Father’s will.  He was here to serve us.  Our Lord answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  He quoted words from Deuteronomy that expressed how God had used the manna to teach Israel to trust in God. Jesus replied that he was here to keep God’s word as he trusted in the Father’s will.

Next the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple.  He said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” The devil tempted Jesus to force God to rescue him in a dramatic way that would call attention to Jesus.  He even quoted Psalm 91 in order to justify the idea.

But Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”  Israel had tested God at Massah when they had no water.  But Jesus would not put God to the test in order to gain glory. The psalm spoke of trusting in God’s protection and care, not provoking God to rescue.  Our Lord trusted in the Father as he walked the way that led to the cross.

Finally, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. He said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  The devil offered Jesus the quick and easy way to glory. But Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  Israel had worshipped the golden calf, but Jesus would only worship and serve God. Then we are told that devil left him.

Where Israel was the unfaithful son, Jesus remained the faithful One.  He did not submit to the devil’s temptations. This is good news for us, because we aren’t that different from Israel.  We fail to trust God to provide us with daily bread.  We question whether God really cares for us as we put God to the test. We worship and serve false gods as we put a host of different things before God.

The devil tried to derail Jesus’ ministry through the temptations. But unlike Israel – and unlike us – Jesus was faithful to the will of the Father. He overcame the devil as continued in the way of service – as he continued in the way of the cross.

Jesus went to the cross as the suffering Servant who gave himself as the sacrifice in our place.  He said, “The Son of Man came not to served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  He fulfilled the words of Isaiah, “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” He won forgiveness for us and freed us from sin.

Jesus gave himself into suffering and death on the cross for us to fulfill the Father’s will.  But God’s saving will did not end in death.  On Easter, God raised Jesus from the dead.  He vindicated Christ as the Servant who had faithfully carried out God’s will. Because of Christ’s resurrection death cannot hold onto us.  Eternal life is already ours because to die is to be with Christ. And Jesus will raise up our bodies to be like his on the Last Day.

The devil tried to offer dominion and glory to Jesus in a quick and easy way.  But for Jesus the way that went through the cross led to those very things. After his resurrection Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  As the one who possesses all authority Jesus instituted Holy Baptism.  He said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

You have been baptized into the death of Jesus the risen Lord.  His victory is now your victory.  Jesus overcame the devil in his temptation. He defeated sin and death by his death and resurrection.  In Christ, you are already on the winning side. Through faith in God’s gift of baptism your sins are washed away and you are a saint.  You are a child of God.

Through baptism the Spirit of Christ has given you the washing of regeneration and renewal.  You are a new creation in Christ.  The Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in you.  That is why Paul told the Romans, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

It is the Spirit who now leads and enables us to resist temptation.  We see sin for what it is and seek to turn away from it.  Jesus becomes our example as we seek to trust God and do the will of the Father.  Just as Jesus served us, we now serve those whom God has placed in our life.

The nation of Israel was an unfaithful son.  It did not fulfill God’s saving purpose.  But God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to do what the nation could not.  He was Israel reduced to One - the faithful Son who trusted in the Father and carried out his will.  He was the suffering Servant who gave himself for us. 

In the temptation of Jesus, we see Christ overcome the devil as he continues on the way to the cross.  Faithful and obedient he died for our sin.  Yet the cross led to resurrection as Christ gives us life.  Baptized into the death of the risen Lord, the Holy Spirit now leads us to resist sin and to share Christ’s love with others.