Ps. 29; Isaiah 43:1-7; Romans 6:1-11; Luke 3:15-22
Redeemed, [T]hus says the LORD, he who created you, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine … Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life …” (vv. 1, 4).
Isaiah prophetically described Jesus, new Israel’s new man. St. Luke presents Jesus and JB in the Jordan, suggesting an array of baptismal imagery to its conclusion on the cross; the place of the Father’s forming his new creation though his Son; the place of the church’s redemption; where Jesus handing over the HS to the Father, we receive his Name as “Christophers”.
First, we dispense of an error insinuated into the church over the last 500 years, the notion that our baptismal re-creation involves human activity, consent, or decision any more than Adam and Eve were involved on creation’s sixth day.
Baptism, which is to say, re-creation is wholly the work of God. Baptism does not describe what we do toward God; rather who we are in Christ. By the power of the Word, we are begotten from above (Jn. 3:3, 7), birthed out of the church for a new Name.
What child, begotten by the will of man ever selected his DNA; was involved in parental procreation; or presumed to select his own name; none! What child ever decided about maternal nourishment and teaching, or determined the measure of his father’s discipline in forming his character and outlook; none!
No matter how self-willed a child, it is the parents who repeatedly redeem, return, and restore children to family. Parents neither seek nor accept the child’s consent or approval; a simple “thank you” (Eucharist) is the son or daughter’s only appropriate response.
It is the same with Baptism; none of us makes a “decision for Jesus” nor do we effect, trigger, or initiate our wholly gracious salvation. God’s decision for us has already been made in his election at the cross; applied through Baptism’s water and Word, just as “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:2, 3).
As the Baptized mature, our spiritual DNA eventually manifests to override our sin nature (Ps. 51:1). By gifting of the HS we grow from faith to faith increasingly taking on the sacrificial likeness of Christ.
Put aside presumptions that we have anything to do with salvation other than receiving Baptism’s grace in hospitality and thanksgiving; acknowledging God’s love who beholds us, “precious” possessions.
We return to Scripture’s variegated imagery of God’s love; Jesus as Redeemer. We might term, “The Baptism of Our Lord” as “The Pentecost of Our Lord”. Jesus wadded into the water of John’s drowning for repentance and rose to receive the HS’s descent as incarnate Dove.
Jesus, begotten from above (Ps. 2:7; Heb. 5:5); entered into Office by “water, blood, and Spirit” (1 Jn. 5:8). Jesus, word of God, was destined for fire on the cross, making him, in the resurrection, “the church’s NT Baptist” bestowing death to sin and resurrection Life (Rom. 6:4, 5; Acts 2:1-4).
Of Jesus’ obeisance, the Father declared, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk. 3:22), whom God elevated and affirmed his new Israel, new “Firstborn Son” in service him (Ex. 4:22) to a new exodus out of this world’s desert into heaven’s NT worship.
Observe, JB denying himself the Christ, confessed unworthiness to loose the sandal straps of Jesus, alluding to the biblical account of Ruth. Boaz, great ancestor of Jesus, sought and received the “sandal” of Naomi’s next of kin, signaling Boaz’ right to redeem Naomi and her property in the Promised Land; and declaring his intent, by marriage, to redeem Ruth as well, Naomi’s foreign-born daughter-in-law. With the man’s sandal Boaz received the kin’s right of redemption, exceeded all legal expectations of God’s Old Covenant for love.
In the NT Jesus is the church’s Boaz who redeems us to a place in a new Land, new Zion, the Church catholic, the place of salvation for all men and women who enter Baptism.
Consider the demands on Jesus as kinsman redeemer; his bride price. A kinsman-redeemer was a blood avenger having the right and obligation to slaughter wrongdoers toward his family. The problem is that we are all wrongdoers (Rom. 3:23) upon whom God’s anointed should execute heaven’s fire (cf. Lk. 9:54, 55).
The author of Hebrews designates the bride price, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22). God is the author of life located in the blood, of which God requires a strict accounting (Gen. 9:4-6; Lev. 17:11).
That Jesus was baptized into sin as Servant for the world’s salvation is exemplified through the Prodigal Son parable (Lk. 15:11-32). The prodigal’s father is cypher for God; the prodigal, estranged Gentiles; and the elder brother “firstborn Israel” who refused service to the father as kinsman-redeemer to his younger brother.
At our Baptism Jesus is our elder Brother in sacrificial fidelity for rescue by the Father’s love, will, and worship in the new creation. On the cross Jesus offered his blood for the life of the world, a Life for life.
To secure the release of his beloved Israel, from Egypt, God killed its firstborn males, animal and human. That blood and killing would symbolically be redeemed in sacrificing a lamb which blood was smeared over Israelite doorposts and lintels as the Angel of Death Passed-over, a sign of Christ’s blood for our redemption.
Israel’s life came at a cost; Life for life. Israelite male firstborns were dedicated to God unless redeemed by a lamb (Ex. 13:13). Thus, in Jesus, Israel’s sole unredeemed “firstborn” God promised, “all the firstborn of my sons (pl.) I redeem” (v. 15).
Jesus, Mary’s firstborn, forty days after birth and thirty-three days after his circumcision blood was spilt (cf. Ex. 4:25, 26) was dedicated to his Father in the temple, as the only unredeemed Firstborn of Israel, to be “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36); destined for sacrifice and an “Abomination of Desolation” (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14); God’s provision for Abraham’s only son (Gen. 22:14), and abundant love of you and I.
In Baptism, we have been redeemed in Christ’s death and raised to newness of eternal life (Rom. 6:3, 4). God redeems all his firstborn sons and daughters by his self-offering as God’s blood-avenger of new Israel. Baptized into Christ we possess the HS and his purifying fire for eternal life.
The church, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thrown into Babylon’s furnace of idolatry, walked about with the Son of Man in super-heated flames (Dan. 3:25) Who for love took God’s vengeance for His own (cf. Lev. 19:18; Rom. 12:19; Heb. 10:30).
In the Christ, God established a one-to-one metric; a Life for our life; grace apart from man’s decision. Amen.