“Now Is The Time!”
I. For Jesus to step in line with sinners (13-15)
II. For the Father to state a line of acceptance (16-17)
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“When it’s the right fit, it’s the right fit. You know it. I just felt it.” That was the quote in the newspapers headlines summarizing what Packer’s ex-coach Mike Holmgren had to say about his new coaching job in Seattle. Many had wondered whether or not he would leave the Packers and move on to a job with more responsibility. But if you would ask him, “Why now? Why not a year from now, or even never?” He would probably say, “Now is the time.”
You have the privilege of being the first worshippers to experience the new Sunday worship time format at Morning Star. Will it stay this way with an 8:00 and 10:30 service? Possibly. We’ll have to wait to hear what people have to say after the experimental period. But with the growth of our congregation to the size it is, and the starting of a brand new year, we realized that now is the time to experiment with two Sunday services.
Sometimes we aren’t sure if “now” is the right time for things. At the Jordan River, about 30 years after Jesus was born, now was the time. Could you go back and stand on the shoreline of that river in the wilderness, you would be nodding your head in agreement, “Yes, now is the time!” Time for what? It’s time for Jesus to be baptized. He hadn’t been baptized as an infant as many times we see in our worship services. His baptism was different. He was baptized for a totally different reason than our reason for baptizing.
This morning we stand on the banks of Jordan River and nod our head in agreement with Jesus. He’s saying, “Now is the time!” It’s time: I. For Jesus to step in line with sinners; and II. For the Father to state a line of acceptance.
I. For Jesus to step in line with sinners
A. John the Baptizer was at the height of his preaching and baptizing ministry. The popularity polls had him ranked extremely high. In Matthew’s gospel account we read right before our lesson that John had lashed out at the Pharisees and Sadducees for being hypocritical. These two groups didn’t really think they needed to be baptized, but were just following the crowd to do the popular thing.
But then along comes Jesus. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (13,14). Line up with the people along the banks of the Jordan and you can picture what was taking place. You can almost see John putting out his hands to Jesus saying, “Wait, wait! You don’t need me to baptize you. You should baptize me.”
It’s like if the Chicago Symphony Orchestra would say to you, “Would you play us a number so that we might have some soothing music to which we can listen.” You would say, “Wait a minute! You should play for me. You’re the professionals. You don’t want to hear me.” Or Brett Favre saying to you, “Would you throw me some passes so I can catch some footballs from your golden arm.” You would say, “Wait a minute! You’re the two-time M.V.P.. You should throw to me and show me how to throw!” In the same way, John recognized Jesus as one who didn’t need repentance or forgiveness in baptism. John knew that Jesus was much greater than he was, and that he wasn’t even fit to tie Jesus sandals. And now Jesus wants to be baptized by him? John’s thinking, “This is backwards! This shouldn’t be happening this way!”
B. But listen to Jesus’ response, “‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’” Then John consented” (15). Jesus was saying, “At another time, John, you would be right in what you’re thinking. But NOW is the time for this baptism. Let it be so NOW.” The question we come up with is, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized NOW?” It was not that Jesus needed to get his sins washed away. He was sinless. When he says it was to fulfill all righteousness, he doesn’t mean he was following some law. Baptism isn’t a law to be followed. It’s purely good news, gospel, from God.
He did it because it was what his Father in heaven wanted him to do. It was showing that NOW at the age of 30 he was going to carry out his public ministry. It was NOW that he began the course of work that would take him to the cross. It was NOW that he began the public mission of being the sin-bearer of the entire world. The time was now for Jesus to step in line with sinners. Just like we hear in 2 Corinthians 5(:21), “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Now was the time for Jesus to publicly step in line with all sinners and count himself as one of them, though he had done nothing to be in that line.
C. Take a look at the line and look what Jesus did. All sinners, you and me included, are lined up single file in a row, waiting at a mammoth gate to stand before our holy Creator. We’re going to have to answer to him and await his punishment for every time I was jealous over Christmas presents, every time my thoughts thought of repulsive things, every time I failed to have that holy Creator be the most important person in my life. But then Jesus jumps in line right to the front. He’s going to be first to meet this Judge. He walks through the gate and pulls it shut behind him. He isn’t going to let us bear that burden of having to walk the straight line of God’s demands to be right with him. The gates shut. Jesus isn’t going to let anyone else come in and take the pounding pains of punishment for stepping out of line with God. At his baptism, “Now is the time!” Now is the time for Jesus to step in line, to the front of the line, with sinners. He’s going to do what they needed done. Now is the time for him to step in line.
II. For the Father to state a line of acceptance
A. We’re not told every detail of Mike Holmgren meeting with the Seattle Seahawks owner and president. But you can almost picture part of what took place. The Seahawks write their $30+ million dollar offer on a sheet of paper and slide it across the table to Coach Holmgren. Pondering it overnight, he tells them the next morning, with, of course, a big smile, “I accept your offer.”
At his baptism, Jesus had slid himself into our place and offered himself to our heavenly Father. At Jesus’ baptism, “NOW is the time, for the Father to state a line of acceptance.” You can see and hear the Father say with, of course, a big smile, “I accept your offer.” He states a line. It’s a line of acceptance.
B. Check out what happened after Jesus was baptized, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’” (16,17). Jesus walked up out of the water on to the shoreline and look what happened. The sky opened up and heaven’s glory was seen. We’re not just talking a break in the clouds. We’re talking glory and majesty shining down from heaven itself. It was spectacular display. God was clearing his throat ready to state his line of acceptance.
C. He did this in two ways. First of all, God the Holy Spirit, looking like a dove came down upon Jesus. It reminds us of our first lesson today from Isaiah (42:1), “I will put my Spirit on him.” And in our second lesson Peter said, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power…” (10:38a). The Father’s line of acceptance included sending the Holy Spirit to bring power to Jesus to carry out his task of standing in the line of perfectness and punishment for sinners. Jesus was human too. He needed the Holy Spirit to give him that energy boost to carry out this big task.
God wasn’t going to have his line of acceptance simply done with a symbol. He would state it too. Jesus was about to do such a momentous thing that there was no way God was going to keep quiet. He had to speak. Look at how loaded the one sentence from heaven really is. “This is my Son.” The son of Mary you see standing on the Jordan River’s bank is truly God standing there. “Whom I love,” says that God’s heart saw his pride and joy who had willing taken on the task of serving us. “With him I am well-pleased.” God wasn’t ashamed that his Son came down from his heavenly throne for sinners. He was elated that his Son was willing to take their place even to the point of sacrificing his own life. Now was the time for God to say at Jesus’ baptism, “Outstanding, Son!”
D. Now was the time for God to state his line of acceptance of his own Son. Look at what that means for you. It now means that God accepts you. Because of what Jesus did with his perfect life, the grueling death, and his victorious rising from the dead, God accepts you. With a big smile God says, “I accept the offer. You can be near me forever.” When we see Jesus’ baptism and remember our own baptism, “Now is the time.” Now is the time to rejoice over the Father stating his line of accepting our substitute.
Concl. Could Jesus have waited until he was 40, 50 or 60 to be baptized? He could have, but he knew his Father’s timetable. NOW was the time. It was now time for him to be set apart as our prophet, priest and king. It was now time for him to publicly speak God’s Word, to be set apart as the Lamb of sacrifice who takes our sins away, to be our ruling one who defeats our enemy the devil. Jesus knew that at 30 years old it was now time to give another display of our triune God showing himself as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus knew that now was the time and he wasn’t going to wait any longer to step in line for us sinners and to hear his Father’s line of acceptance. All these events surrounding Jesus’ baptism were done so that you and I can confidently state, “NOW I know that God accepts me.” Amen.