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The Baptism of Our Lord – January 8, 2023

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The Baptism of Our Lord – January 8, 2023

God gives.  God gives his chosen servant.  God gives his chosen servant for his people.  The people are understood to be Israel.  The chosen servant has been understood in the church’s tradition to be God’s only Son, Jesus Christ.  The remarkable aspect of this verse (vs. 6) comes from what God calls this gift:  His chosen servant, his Son, is the covenant on Israel’s behalf.  Jesus bears in his person… in his body… the Lord’s covenant for the people.  A covenant is a promise.  Jesus himself is the promise.  Remarkably, Jesus is not a sign of the covenant…  Jesus does not point to the covenant… Jesus is the covenant.  Similarly, Jesus is our salvation… Jesus is our hope… Jesus is our life (Gal. 2:20).

This emphasis on the person of Jesus continued in the church for roughly a thousand years.  Then a theologian named Anselm asked the question, “Why did Jesus have to die?”  The question diverted the church’s attention away from the person of Jesus and toward the “work” of Jesus.  Its theologians began to consider soteriology (the work of Jesus) alongside Christology (the person of Jesus).  This consideration led to descriptions of Jesus’ work:  vicarious satisfaction, penal substitution, propitiation, and redemption.  Generally, these words describe 1) Jesus satisfying God’s wrath against sin; 2) Jesus’ paying a ransom to Satan; 3) Jesus as the victor over evil forces; or 4) Jesus as a moral example.

While all these descriptions of the work of Jesus have biblical roots and are helpful to our understanding, they do draw our attention away from Jesus in his person… from Jesus in his physical body and presence… from Jesus who, in his very “beingness,” is our promise from God… our salvation from God… our hope from God… our life from God.  These depictions entice us to look elsewhere than at the sin-drenched man dying on the cross.  Perhaps to heaven, where God’s wrath is being satisfied?  Perhaps to hell, where Satan is being paid off?  Perhaps to the battlefield of good and evil, where the victory over evil is won?  Perhaps to our own heart and hands, where Jesus is imitated in our moral inclinations and deeds?  Taking our eyes off the cross indulges us as uninvolved spectators to the crucifixion rather than convicting us as willing participants.

Table Talk:  Discuss the distinction between spectators and participants.
Pray:  Heavenly Father, I’ve been caught red-handed.  Forgive my sin of killing your Son… your promise… my salvation… and my life… Amen

Isaiah 42:1-9 English Standard Version

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
3 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law.

5 Thus says God, the Lord,
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and spirit to those who walk in it:
6 I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness;
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,
7 to open the eyes that are blind,
to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
from the prison those who sit in darkness.
8 I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.
9 Behold, the former things have come to pass,
and new things I now declare;
before they spring forth
I tell you of them.


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