Sermon: The Voice of the Father (Mark 1:4-11)

Text: Mark 1:4-11
The Baptism of our Lord (First Sunday After the Epiphany)
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Some people may have a difficult time relating to God as a father. Fatherhood is an idea that we’re all very familiar with, and we may project our own expectations or experiences of what a father should be, or has been, onto our heavenly Father. Many children grow up in our world who have never had a father say to them ‘You are my dear child’, let alone, ‘I’m pleased with you.’ Many never get that kind of affection, neither in words, in looks, or in hugs. In the Western world, some fathers who think this in their hearts might be too tongue-tied or embarrassed to tell their children how they fell; how delighted they are with them. Many, alas, go by the completely opposite route: angry voices, bitter rejection, the slamming of doors. For many, the word father may bring up memories of abuse or neglect. But, the baptism of Jesus tells us something very important about what our Heavenly Father says to Jesus, and what he wants to say to us.

What the Voice Says About Jesus

If you are looking for a loving Father, then remember these words, dwell upon them. For in a sentence they contain the entire good news of salvation: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

John baptises God in the Flesh! At that baptism of Jesus, heaven itself was ripped open, and the voice of the Father spoke audibly. Jesus was revealed to the world as the long expected messiah.The word ‘Messiah’ means ‘the anointed one’; and the Baptism of Jesus shows us how Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, marked out as God’s son. God speaks to Jesus as a Father to a Son: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

There’s more to the Baptism of Jesus than God identifying him to the world as the Messiah and his Son. He also humbly identifies himself with us, by taking our place, sharing our penitence, living the life we should have lived, dying to make up for our loss. Jesus accepts baptism as an act of solidarity with the entire human race. In Jesus, human nature is cleansed, reborn, restored. Jesus is the new Adam, the beginning of a new humanity. When Jesus was baptised, the world was baptised in HIm. Jesus accepts this mission willingly, and that is partly why God says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

God the Father says this about Jesus, and he never regrets saying it. The Father never regrets having said this through all the days of ministry. Throughout all the lonely nights of prayer, through his betrayal, desertion, humiliation, torture, and death, Jesus remains God’s beloved Son, the one with whom God is pleased. No, the Father never takes back these words. They remain unchanging and unchangeable: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

These words from heaven are especially true when Jesus breathes his last on the cross, and is buried in a tomb. These same words come true in a new and marvellous way when, Jesus is raised and he bursts forth out of the tomb. When he ascends to his Father, and there in glory he intercedes on our behalf, these words become true in a still more magnificent way: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

What the Voice Says About Us

Well, you say, that’s great for Jesus, but what about us? Here’s the great mystery of this day, which makes our Lord’s baptism worthy of a feast. Jesus is the Messiah, and the Messiah represents sinners. What is true of him is true of us. Since Jesus was and is Messiah, God says to us what he said to Jesus at his baptism. And without that word from God we might think that God is angry with us. We might fear that all God has for us is an angry voice, bitter rejection, the slamming of doors.

But, God says to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son” and in saying it to Jesus, he is saying it to you in Jesus. Our baptism unites us to Christ. That’s what it means for us to be baptised. We are in Christ. We have put on Christ. To be in Christ is to be God’s beloved child, to have the heavens ripped opened to you, to have the Spirit descend upon you. Your own baptism into Christ was the moment when, the heavens were ripped open and these words were spoken to you. Our baptism into Jesus means we hear the same voice he hears. The same message from heaven is aimed at us. Rob or Sue or Pat or Bob, or whatever your name may be, God speaks to you as he speaks to Jesus, and says the same thing: “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

The Creator God looks on you through your Baptism and says, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well-pleased.” In Christ, you have fulfilled all righteousness because he has fulfilled all righteousness for you. Jesus is in the waters of baptism with you as your brother, bringing you to your Father. Baptism makes his death yours, his life yours, his holiness yours. Your sins in thought, in word, in deed which all deserve God’s condemnation have been washed away. You are an adopted member of God’s family

The Father declared his pleasure in you for Jesus’ sake. It’s all one and the same thing – your Baptism and Jesus’ Baptism. In Him you were baptised, and your baptism tells you so. “Jesus loves me this I know, and my Baptism tells me so.” You are loved in God’s Beloved Son. In Baptism, the voice of the Father from heaven is directed to us. We are God’s beloved children and God is well-pleased with us when we are united to Christ in Baptism.  The voice of the Father teaches us, that we also, by the washing of water with the Word, and by the Spirit of sanctification, we are made children of God.

The whole Christian gospel can be summarised in this one point: that when the living God looks at you, at every baptised and believing Christian, he says to us what he said to Jesus on that day. He sees us, not as we are in ourselves, but as we are in Jesus Christ. It sometimes seems impossible, especially to people who have never had this kind of support from their earthly parents, but it’s true: God looks at us, and says, ‘You are my dear, dear child; I’m delighted with you.’ Try hearing this passage with your own name being spoken. “You, Matthew, are my dear child, I’m delighted with you.” So, dear baptised saints: reflect on what God your Father is saying to you, both at your baptism and every day since. 

May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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