The Baptism of Our Lord

January 13th, 2013
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During the Epiphany season of the Church Year, we observe and thank God for the baptism of our Lord. Which, of course, causes us immediately to ask, “Why was Jesus baptized?”

In His Baptism, Jesus Takes His Place with Sinners

Our Lord Jesus is baptized “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:13–17). He partakes of a baptism for sinners in order that He might be our substitute and bear the judgment we deserve. In the water, Jesus trades places with us. Our sin becomes His sin. His righteousness becomes our righteousness. Our glory, therefore, is in “Christ Jesus, who became to us . . . righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:26–31). Jesus is the “chosen” One sent from the Father to release us from the prison house of sin and death (Is. 42:1–7). Baptized into Christ, we also become the chosen ones, beloved of the Father. We cross the Jordan with Jesus (Joshua 3) through death into the promised land of new life with God.

Introit: Ps. 89:1, 26–28; antiphon: Liturgical text, Ps. 89:20
Psalter: Psalm 85 (antiphon: v. 9)
Old Testament: Joshua 3:1–3, 7–8, 13–17 or Isaiah 42:1–7
Gradual: Ps. 72:18–19
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:26–31
Verse: Ps. 143:10
Matthew 3:13–17

Luther’s hymn on Baptism is a wonderful way to observe this festival and great even in our Lord’s life: To Jordan Came our Lord the Christ

To Jordan came our Lord the Christ,
To do God’s pleasure willing,
And there was by Saint John baptized,
All righteousness fulfilling;
There did He consecrate a bath
To wash away transgression,
And quench the bitterness of death
By His own blood and passion;
He would a new life give us.

So hear ye all, and well perceive
What God doth call baptism,
And what a Christian should believe
Who error shuns and schism:
That we should water use, the Lord
Declareth it His pleasure;
Not simple water, but the Word
And Spirit without measure;
He is the true Baptizer.

To show us this, He hath His Word
With signs and symbols given;
On Jordan’s banks was plainly heard
The Father’s voice from Heaven:
“This is My well-beloved Son,
In whom My soul delighteth;
Hear Him.” Yea, hear Him every one
Whom He Himself inviteth,
Hear and obey His teaching.

In tender manhood Jesus straight
To holy Jordan wendeth;
The Holy Ghost from Heaven’s gate
In dovelike shape descendeth;
That thus the truth be not denied,
Nor should our faith e’er waver,
That the Three Persons all preside,
At baptism’s holy laver,
And dwell with the believer.

Thus Jesus His disciples sent:
Go teach ye every nation,
That lost in sin they must repent;
And flee from condemnation:
He that believes and is baptized,
Obtains a mighty blessing;
A new-born man, no more he dies,
Eternal life possessing,
A joyful heir of Heaven.

Who in this mercy hath not faith,
Nor aught therein discerneth,
Is yet in sin, condemned to death,
And fire that ever burneth;
His holiness avails him not,
Nor aught which he is doing;
His inborn sin brings all to naught,
And maketh sure his ruin;
Himself he cannot succor.

The eye of sense alone is dim,
And nothing sees but water;
Faith sees Christ Jesus, and in Him
The Lamb ordained for slaughter;
She sees the cleansing fountain red
With the dear blood of Jesus,
Which from the sins inherited
From fallen Adam frees us,
And from our own misdoings.

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  1. Bonnie Walter
    January 10th, 2010 at 21:28 | #1

    I really like this translation of To Jordan Came our Lord the Christ. Where did you get this translation? It’s not in LSB.

  2. Jon Bolt
    January 9th, 2012 at 10:16 | #2

    My friend commented on your post shared on facebook. Since I can’t comment there because we’re not friends (yet) I thought I’d share this here:

    It’s from Pastor Fisk’s Worldview Everlasting

  3. John Eidsmoe
    January 9th, 2012 at 12:30 | #3

    Pastor McCain, I always appreciate your writings. But I am puzzled by your statement that “In the water, Jesus trades places with us. Our sin becomes His sin.” I’ve always understood that our sins were laid upon Jesus when He was on the Cross, not at His baptism. Could you please explain this?
    Thank you,
    John Eidsmoe

    • January 9th, 2012 at 12:37 | #4

      Christ’s entire life was one of propitiatory living, doing and self-sacrificing, the ultimate sacrifice being, of course, on the cross.

  4. Joe
    January 9th, 2012 at 21:08 | #5

    I have heard that Jesus goes into the water to purify it. For when the words are spoken, it is no longer mere water.

    I’m probably not being too clear. Thanks. Joe

  5. January 9th, 2012 at 21:19 | #6

    @Bonnie Walter

    That is a variation of Massie’s translation found in the LCMS hymnal previous to TLH (Ev. Luth. Hymn-Book, e.g.). I’m actually thinking TLH may not have included the hymn, but that’s so outrageous it may not be true. More recent hymnals use a variation of Elizabeth Quitmeyer’s rendering.

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