Text: Isaiah 42:1-7
The “chosen one” is a common idea in popular media. Whether it’s in movies, books, television shows, operas, whatever, the idea of a chosen one is probably familiar to us. It’s hard to give an example that everyone’s going to know, so you’ll have to supply your own if these make no sense. Star Wars is in the theaters now. In the original trilogy, Luke Skywalker was the one chosen to bring balance to the Force. When I was in high school, Lord of the Rings was popular. The hobbit Frodo Baggins was chosen to throw the One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom. Last one: the young boy Charlie was chosen to take over for Willy Wonka upon his retirement from the candy business. Whether representing only himself or all people, the function of the chosen one is to do what no one else can. We can see something like this in our readings today.
At the beginning of His ministry, our Lord was baptized by John in the Jordan River. John’s job, as we’ve spoken about before, was to prepare the way of the Lord. He was to preach and teach ahead of Jesus, and to baptize, so that what we heard happen in the Gospel reading today might be revealed to us. When Jesus came up from the water, God the Father Himself spoke from heaven that Jesus is His beloved Son, in whom He is well pleased. This event is a fulfillment of our Old Testament text. At His Baptism, God the Father proclaimed that Jesus is the chosen one for us.
I mentioned last week in the sermon that Epiphany is one of the oldest Church holidays. Originally, it celebrated both Jesus’ birth and His Baptism. Sometimes, other items were talked about on the same day, too, such as the changing of water into wine and the Transfiguration. What’s happened over time is that we’ve spaced these things out so that, now, we can give thought to each of these things in place every year. Today is Jesus’ Baptism, next week the changing of water into wine, next month the Transfiguration. So, let’s talk about the Baptism of our Lord. St. Matthew records for us, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the facts of the matter. The Gospel says,
Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.Matthew 3:13-15, English Standard Version
John the Baptist, the prophet greater than all the rest, would have kept Jesus from being baptized. After all, if Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, why would He who is without sin need to be baptized? Yet, upon Jesus’ Word, John agreed. Then, as soon as Jesus came up from the water, the heavens were opened. The Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove and rested upon Jesus. “And behold,” St. Matthew writes, “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” (v. 17) Here we see all three members of the Trinity. As they were united in purpose at the creation of the world, so now. As the Father spoke then, so now. But, why?
When we heard these texts last year, we looked at what it meant for Jesus to be baptized. It meant that He was becoming united with us in our sin and death, so that we might be united with Him – through our Baptism – in life. Today I want us to ponder the Father’s words: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” This should make us think of the Lord’s words in the reading from Isaiah 42. This is how our Old Testament reading started, “Behold My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen, in whom My soul delights; I have put My Spirit upon Him.” (Is. 42:1) They sound familiar because one is the fulfillment of the other. The Isaiah text is the promise, the Baptism of Jesus (and His ministry after) is the fulfillment. Some 700 years before Jesus’ conception and birth, God promised to send a “chosen one.” This chosen one would be anointed with the Spirit of God to bring His Word to the nations.
Not only would He bring God’s Word to the nations, but, the Lord said through Isaiah (in words addressed to Jesus), “I will take You by the hand and keep You; I will give You as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations.” (v. 6) The chosen one of God would be a sign of His good will toward mankind, His desire to love and forgive. This chosen one would open the eyes of the blind and bring the prisoners out of the dark dungeons. At Jesus’ Baptism, God the Father speaks and shows us that His chosen one is Jesus. Jesus is the promised offspring of Abraham, the son from David’s own body. He was given as a sign of God’s grace and favor, to be His chosen one for us.
What good news this is! You see, apart from Christ we were (and are) eternally lost. We were given to all kinds of sin and evil; we were blind to all the goodness of the Lord. God revealed to us on Sinai what is good and right, He even wrote it on our hearts. These things, however, we did not desire to do by nature. Left to our own devices, we fully merited God’s wrath and were subject to the eternal condemnation of hell – which is the darkest of all dungeons. But, God had mercy so that we might be saved eternally. He promised to send a chosen one who would save us from the Fall, open our eyes and lead us out of prison. This is what Jesus has done for us. He was born for us and lived for us. He perfectly kept God’s Law in our place and, for our benefit, bore the punishment of our sins Himself on the cross. By His resurrection, He broke the bars of death; He leads us out of the dungeon by faith.
By faith in Jesus we receive all His benefits. By our Baptism into Him, we are united with Him. Jesus is God’s chosen one to redeem us from sin. By our Baptism, we become God’s chosen in Christ. In Confirmation class this last week, we started the Lord’s Prayer. We learned that, with the words “Our Father,” God calls us His own children so that we might have boldness and confidence before Him. This is not because of anything in us; we only call ourselves His children by His grace and love toward us in Christ. We see this, this week in our Lord’s Baptism. God the Father put forth His own Son as the chosen one for us so that, by His life and death, we might be redeemed and led out from the dark dungeon of death. Thanks be to God. Amen.