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I invite you to turn to our second lesson for today, Acts chapter 10, as Peter encourages us to think about the Baptism of our Lord and what it means.
The gentile Wise Men had come to worship Jesus. It was always God’s intention that salvation in Jesus be proclaimed to all people, Jews and Gentiles alike. But Peter needed some convincing. To do that, God gave him a vision of a sheet filled with unclean animals and told him to kill and eat. When Peter objected, God warned him not to call anything unclean that he had made clean. After the vision was given a third time, while Peter was mulling it over, there was a knock at his door. Men sent by the gentile centurion Cornelius were there to ask him to come to his house and tell him the good news about Jesus. Peter saw the connection. The vision from God was preparing him for the invitation. Without the vision he might not have agreed to go, or at least would not have entered a gentile’s house. But he went and God blessed the word as he shared it.
He started his message to Cornelius and those who were gathered at his house with Jesus’ baptism by John. The Bible tells us that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Because of that we aren’t surprised that when Jesus came to be baptized, John questioned him. Why would Jesus need to be baptized? He had no sin. He didn’t need to repent or to be forgiven? But Jesus insisted. Although he didn’t need baptism for his forgiveness, submitting to baptism showed that he was willing to take our place in every way. He was ready to enter his public ministry and accept the mission the Father had given him to live and die as our substitute.
At his baptism, God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. The choice of the word anointed is significant. The Hebrew word Messiah, and the Greek word Christ, both mean anointed one. The promised Savior was to be the anointed one. In the Old Testament, anointing was God’s way of letting people know who he had chosen to serve as his Prophet, or Priest, or King. And, often after someone was anointed to one of these positions, we are told that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. God gave them the strength they would need to carry out the office to which they were installed.
John testifies that seeking the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus in the form of a dove was a sign God had given him so that he would know for sure who the Messiah was. It was a sign for all who saw it that said, “Here he is. This is the Messiah. This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Take note. He is about to begin his official service as your prophet, priest and king.”
After his baptism Jesus was immediately tested, being tempted by the devil himself as he fasted for 40 days in the wilderness. Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus passed the test. He returned from the wilderness and went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the Devil, because God was with him.
As our great prophet Jesus traveled from village to village proclaiming that the kingdom of God was near. When people heard him speak, they marveled at his words because he spoke with authority, not like the scribes and pharisees. He didn’t offer opinions. He proclaimed, “thus says the Lord.” After reading from the prophet Isaiah in the Synagogue in Nazareth he declared, today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.
He didn’t limit his proclamation of the good news to Galilee. He came to Jerusalem, and traveled in Judea; he even went to Tyre and Sidon, Perea and Samaria. Still today he serves as our prophet as, after his ascension, he gave some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastor/teachers. He gifted people with the ability to proclaim and apply his words that the Holy Spirit caused to be recorded and preserved for us in the Bible.
He traveled throughout Israel doing good, proclaiming the good news of the Gospel, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil. He showed that he is king. Although he usually kept his power as God hidden, he showed it when he healed the sick, the lame and the leper. He showed it when he calmed the storm, walked on water, turned water into wine, and fed 5000 with just a few loaves of bread and a couple fish. He showed it when he raised the dead and cast out demons. Peter proclaims Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He has the power to cast off the oppression Satan brought on us when Adam and Eve to fell into sin.
Did you ever notice that, through his miracles, Jesus shows us that he has the power over everything that troubles us, and gives us a glimpse of what it will be like when we live with him in heaven? Are you troubled by the weather? Jesus has power over even the strongest storms, and there won’t be any storms in heaven. Are you facing illness or incurable disease? Jesus has power over it, and there won’t be any sickness or disease in heaven. Are you tempted and troubled by Satan and his lies? Jesus has defeated Satan. Call on Jesus’ name and Satan has to flee. He has no access to heaven so there won’t be any temptations there. Of all the things we face because sin is in the world, and because of our own sins, death is the most frightening. Jesus has power over death. He defeated death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. In Jesus, death has become a sleep. He will wake us up and take us to the place he has prepared for us where there is no such thing as death- only life in perfection forever.
At his baptism, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power to serve as our prophet and our king, but the office that John called attention to most clearly was the office of priest. He did that when he pointed to Jesus and spoke those familiar words, look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Jesus became the God/Man so that he could be God’s perfect lamb. He became the God/Man so that he could live under God’s law and keep it. Did we ever need that! People blithely say, “I know I’m not perfect, no one is.” But they don’t realize, what I hope you do, that the failure to be perfect means that you should be condemned. You should spend all eternity with Satan in the fires of hell for your sins. We haven’t kept a single one of the commandments perfectly. If not in deed, as least in thought, we have broken every single one of them multiple times. But Jesus offered to be our substitute. He offered to satisfy God’s demand for perfection by taking our place under the commandments and keeping them perfectly for us, and the Father accepted his offer. At his baptism, and again at his transfiguration, the Father spoke from heaven declaring that he was well pleased with him. Jesus is the spotless lamb of God who lived without sin in our place.
What happened to spotless lambs in Old Testament Israel? They were sacrificed as constant reminders that the payment for sin, the satisfaction of God’s justice, requires the shedding of blood. Usually the priest offered a lamb on God’s altar, but Jesus is both the priest and the lamb. He offered himself. He went to the cross and allowed the father to vent his fierce and righteous anger against the sinners of the world, his righteous anger with you and me—he allowed the father to vent that anger and condemnation on him so that it would not have to come on us.
As the perfect lamb, and the perfect priest, Jesus sacrificed himself once for all people of all time. His priestly job of sacrificing is complete. But he continues to serve as our priest at the right hand of the Father where he is constantly interceding for us.
At his baptism Jesus was anointed as our prophet, priest and king. He didn’t need the forgiveness offered in baptism, but we do, so he submitted himself to baptism in our place. He attached his righteousness to it so that we might be cleansed of our unrighteousness through it. He officially began his work and ultimately accomplished everything he needed to do to be the Lamb of God who has taken your sins away. Trust that he is still serving as your prophet, making sure you hear his word; as your king ruling everything for your good; and as your priest, pleading with the Father to grant you forgiveness and eternal life for his sake.