“On Good Authority”

The Baptism of Our Lord (B)
“On Good Authority”
January 7, 2018

Sermon Text: Mark 1:4-11

Peace be unto you from our Savior, Lord and King, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

Seriously? Is anyone going to believe this stuff – the account of our Lord’s baptism as recorded and reported by St. Mark… or that which is found in the other two readings for today… or actually anything and everything found in Holy Scripture?

Life makes us skeptical. This world and our experiences in it make us skeptical. What to believe? What is true and what is not? Who can we trust?

Whether you buy into the whole “Fake News” issue of today and what is happening in the news media – print and electronic… even on their best days when the cardinal rules of journalism are being adhered to regarding only reporting substantiated facts while diligently seeking to eliminate all bias and leaving editorialization to the editorial page, one still needs to take what they read, hear and see with a grain a salt. That is to say, it seems that one must be very careful as to what amount of credence, weight and import is placed on information received from various sources.

My friends, it is hard to believe that we are now in the third season already of this new Church Year. We already observed Advent and Christmas and are now in the Season of Epiphany.

In the first… in the Season of Advent… the focus was on the arrival of the Messiah as we remembered and got ready to celebrate His first coming, the Babe of Bethlehem… as well as His second coming on the last day when He will judge the nations… judge those still living and those who are dead, regardless of how long they have been in the grave because they won’t be anymore!  And yet, in regard to all of this, from the world’s standpoint, it is so easy to remain skeptical… and even easier still to simply not believe it at all. That it is all fake news. That it all falls under fables and fairy tales.

Then came the Season of Christmas… the celebration of Christ’s birth and the adoration of our Savior who came to earth. “Really?” the world says… adding, “I don’t think so.”

Now in Epiphany, the hearts and minds of the faithful turn to some of the wonderful ways in which this Jesus, born of Mary, is shown to be… revealed to be… the very Son of God and the true Savior of the world.

Beyond what the angels and all the heavenly host declared the night of His birth…

Beyond what the shepherds saw in that cattle stall and what Simeon and Anna experienced in the temple, including Simeon having the great privilege of holding Christ in his own arms and blessing Him…

Beyond the account of the wise men coming, expending great effort, having the firmest resolve and bearing some of the costliest of gifts and their worship of the Infant Jesus…

Beyond the news of the killing of an untold number of infants in Herod’s attempt to do away with the One truly born King of the Jesus and in truth King of the Universe…

Beyond all this, we have now before us the account of our Lord being baptized by John in the River Jordan… the event that launches Christ’s ministry and mission in earnest as He identifies Himself with all mankind in His baptism, comes out of the water and begins a three-year trek that will take Him to the cross.

It is there that He will die in our place. It is there that He will bear our sin and be our Savior by offering up the one perfect sacrifice, namely Himself… His Body and Blood… in full payment for iniquities.

Again, the unbelieving world with one voice can be heard to say “I don’t think so” … to it all. And this includes God the Father’s own attestation and affirmation of who this Jesus is, claiming Him as His Son in whom He is well pleased. Pleased that He is His Son. Pleased in what He is carrying out, the salvation of all mankind… the salvation of all the world that by and large will reject both… their salvation and their Savior.

So why are we different, my friends?  And I know that is a loaded question!

Why do we believe all this while the vast majority of people who have lived, are living and will live, do not… will not?

Why are we willing to accept all that is found in Holy Scripture to be true, factual and right and that it is without any error whatsoever?

And not only that, why are willing to live in this faith and die in this faith… in this belief? Why are we willing to suffer all rather than fall away from this faith?

Why are we not willing (and will fight any attempt) to alter any part of Scripture and the one true Christian faith on which it is based?

It is because, dear brothers and sisters, that faith, our faith rests “on good authority” … the best authority… the highest authority… namely the Word of God!

Where the world says, “I do not believe you God! I do not believe what you have so wonderfully, mercifully, graciously, lovingly revealed about Yourself… about who You are, what You have done and are doing, will do for us for all of eternity. In fact, I do not believe in you!

We, on the other hand… confess the opposite. We confess our full belief in God and everything He says in Holy Scripture to be true, holy, divine, inerrant… for it is His inspired Word… the Word God “inspirated”… that is, the Word He breathed out by His Holy Spirit upon those who wrote the same, all that is in the Old and the New Testaments, as they were navigated by the Spirit.

And through this Word, this same Spirit has given to us the great epiphany that is before us today in our Gospel lesson… our Lord’s all-important baptism and God the Father’s acknowledgement of His Son and His saving work.

Through this Word, the Spirit gives us all the epiphanies… all the other revelations and realizations wonderfully found herein. To each of them… everyone of them… we say “Amen” firmly believing it all through the rock-solid faith instilled in us, yes, at our own baptism.

Rejoice my friends… now and always… at all that has been lovingly revealed to you… Who has been revealed to you. It is our Savior, Jesus, in whom God the Father is pleased… and so are we… pleased and so very thankful. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“On Good Authority?”  1/7/18  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL