The Baptism of Our + Lord – January 12th, Year of Our + Lord 2014
Trinity and St. John Lutheran Churches, Sidney and Fairview, Montana
Remember Your Name - Matthew 3:13-17
"This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
Why did God the Father say that? Do you suppose Jesus needed help, remembering His Name? Or should I say Names? Jesus, tiny little Jesus, laying in a manger, already had a whole slew of names: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Son of the Most High, Holy One, Son of God. Many more would come: the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Way, the Truth and the Life, the Light of the World, the Bread of Heaven, the Son of Man, the Nazarene, the Teacher, the Prophet, Son of David, Lord, and King, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. God the Father’s declares from the cloud, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." Was that for Jesus’ benefit? Was the Father reminding Jesus who He is, originally and eternally, namely the Son of God, as in the second person of the Holy Trinity, God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
I tend to say no. Jesus is God, He doesn’t need to be reminded of anything. Although there is this to consider: apparently God the Father spoke twice, or said one sentence in some divine way that doubles its impact. You see, in telling the same story, Mark and Luke report the Father saying, “You are my beloved Son, with You I am well pleased.” Matthew reports as though the Father was speaking to John the Baptist, or to the crowds, saying look, this one, He is my Son. Luke and Mark report God speaking directly to Jesus, “You are my Son,” as if to encourage and strengthen Jesus with these profound words, just as He is about to enter into temptation, and into the ultimate struggle with sin, death and the devil.
It’s always tricky to try to talk about the person of the man Jesus, distinct from His person as the Son of God, but maybe, in regards to His human nature, Mark and Luke are speaking of the strengthening that Jesus did need, and which He received at various times, as angels ministered to Him after the Temptation, and in the Garden of Gethsemane, and how various women ministered to His needs, throughout His earthly ministry. The Almighty, needing help? That makes no sense. And yet, certainly in the life of Jesus we see the Almighty accepting help. A very deep mystery.
We won’t nail down exactly whether Jesus needed help remembering His Name here this morning, but certainly you and I do. Now, I’m not referring to you forgetting that you are Mabel or Mitchell or Matthew, but rather I refer to you and I forgetting, sometimes on purpose, the Names that we have been given, and the implications of those Names, the Names that come from our to Jesus, the Son of God.
For instance, when needy people, financially needy, or emotionally needy, or spiritually needy people, make unreasonable demands on us, we are tempted to forget that we have been called ‘Christian.’ The word meanings are wandering away from each other these days, but Baptism and Christening historically refer to the same event in the life of a Christian, the wet and wordy public entry into the Church of Christ, that public declaration by God through His minister, splashing a bit of water over you in obedience to Christ’s command. You are Baptized, you have been Christened, that is, Christ has put His Name on you, and so you are properly called a Christian, which means “little Christ.”
And yet, when we “little Christs” are called upon to live out our Name, even just a bit, for the sake of some needy person who has come into our lives, how often do we try to find an excuse to put them off, a rule to judge them by, anything but respond in a way similar to how Christ responded to our needs? We don’t like to do our name, ‘Christian,’ because we know the Christ poured Himself out in order to meet the greatest needs of the most needy people ever, condemned sinners, holding nothing back, giving His all to the ultimate. We don’t much want to do the same, do we? We don’t much want to pour ourselves out for the needy, do we? How often do you and I avoid giving even a little to some needy person, thereby forgetting or denying the name Christian?
There’s another Name we could talk about, maybe not exactly ever used as a name in Scripture, but so clearly and so often applied to us that certainly we could understand it like a name. For we are the ‘Forgiven.’ The Forgiving One, God Almighty, for the sake of the only begotten, crucified and resurrected Son, forgives us, and forgets. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Period. No strings attached. Washed clean again, this time without any water at all. Free forgiveness, that is what God is pushing. And so, we are rightly to be called the ‘Forgiven.’ Amen.
Except… I almost hate to bring it up, but it’s true. We are rightly called the ‘Forgiven,’ but when God puts an opportunity before us to live out this Name, when we have a chance to forgive someone,… oh, well, now, shouldn’t we be careful and make sure the other person is really reformed, make sure that it won’t happen again, before we forgive? It won’t do any good for us to be a doormat, now, would it? We should just kinda-sorta reconcile…ish, all the while cataloging the offense and reserving our anger, just in case they do something again, so then we can really let them have it.
You know you do it. You know I do it. And I know I do it. To actually forgive someone is to give away your power over them. As long as I can nurse the offense and hold it over some one, I can use it to try to control them. But to forgive is to empty yourself, to expose yourself to a sinner, without any guarantee that they will receive your forgiveness, without any guarantee that they will receive your love, without any guarantee that they will love you back.
Remember your Name, baptized Christian, child of God, forgiven one. Remember your Name, because you got it from Jesus, who has already done all those forgiving things that you and I are afraid to do. Jesus, out of love for His Father and love for you, gave up all His power, and He had all of it, He is Almighty God. Jesus gave up the power and prerogative of being the Lord God Almighty. Jesus came to a people, a whole world full of people who did not want to reconcile with God, and He reconciled them anyway, reconciling the whole world to His Father, in His own Body, freely taking on all our sins, freely emptying Himself, exposing Himself to the hatred of sinners, without any guarantee that you and I would receive His love, without any guarantee that we would love Him back.
And yet, He is the Creator and Redeemer. He is the maker of new hearts. And so, even though many, far too many people, reject God’s Son, He did know that others would be turned. Even as He predicted Peter’s three-time denial, Jesus knew He would get Peter back. Jesus predicted Peter’s denials, but then also says to Peter, “once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." All those written in His Book of Life will be re-born, made new, counted righteous, worthy of eternal life. For the joy of sitting at the center of that congregation of redeemed and holy people, Jesus poured out His blood, to forgive the sins of the whole world, including yours, and mine.
Remember your Name. Jesus Christ is the Righteous One, that is, the One without fault, the One totally good, totally loving, totally right with God the Father. Jesus is the Righteous One, and the One who fulfills all righteousness, for you and me. This is what He began to do at His Baptism, identifying with sinners, entering the water as if He had something to repent for, being baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness, for us sinners. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by facing, and rejecting, the temptations that Adam and Eve and all their children give into. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by loving His neighbors as Himself, always, every time putting God and neighbor before Himself, fulfilling the Law’s requirement for love, fulfilling the law, in the place of the whole world. And of course, Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by accepting the full punishment that all the sins of every person of all time require. No one is outside the Atonement of Christ, the blood of Jesus covers all sin, and so He sends His Church to declare repentance and forgiveness, to all people. And so, you are rightly called Righteous, in Christ Jesus, your Savior.