The Father is So Pleased
The Baptism of Our Lord
The Father is So Pleased
Text: Mark 1:9-11
What does it take to make someone happy? It depends on the person I suppose. It used to be that you could give almost anyone on our staff a Big Mac and a Large Fry and a Diet Coke, and we would all be pleased as Punch. A new year and a few resolutions later, now most of us would be pleased with something that A) we are allowed to eat that B) actually tastes good, too.
Ladies, what does it take to make a husband happy? Probably not much. Fill his belly and let him be a scrubby bum on the couch watching the NFL playoffs maybe? Then he would be pleased.
Guys, what does it take to make a wife happy? Oh boy, where do we start? (No, we won’t say that!) This is a little more challenging though. Don’t forget her birthday . . . or an anniversary . . . or Valentine’s Day . . . or any other possible day you could give flowers and a card. Help with the wash and the dishes. Listen without watching TV at the same time. Let her hold the remote control. Communicate. Maybe (hopefully!) then she would be pleased.
But what would it take to make God happy? How could you please God? Jesus had a conversation with a man about this one time. A suitable answer was given: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and love your neighbor as yourself.
If we want to please our God, it takes a lot more than a Big Mac and a Diet Coke or a Hallmark card and some flowers. God expects us to love him. Wholeheartedly. Not a little bit. Not here and there. Not when we remember to or when we have time. All the time, with everything we’ve got. God wants us to love him first and best and thus to give him our first and best.
And while we’re at it, God expects us to love neighbors, too. Not just the quiet couple next door that gives you some of their fresh grapefruits. Not just the people who are kind and polite to you. Not just the people who look like you or talk like you. Jesus teaches us that everyone is our neighbor—family, friend, or foe. And God does not just want us to be polite or cordial or to mind our own business or to help out here or there when convenient. God wants us to love every last person in this world—family, friend, or foe—with the same kind of love that we would have for ourselves.
Perfect love for God. Perfect love for neighbor. That’s what would make God happy and please him. Now if that sounds like pretty high expectations, you’re right. God has said it this way before: “Be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy.” God’s expectations mean that he wants us to be perfectly holy and righteous like he is.
But there’s one glaring problem—I haven’t done this. I haven’t met God’s expectations the way he wants me to. Love him first and best? Maybe sometimes. But the rest of the time I’m thinking about myself first. What do I want to do? How can I make my life better? How can I help myself? I call myself a Christian. I believe in God. I go to church. But if you look at my calendar, if you look at the way I spend my time, if you look at the way I spend my money—all of it screams out that I come first, not God.
What about loving my neighbor? Maybe sometimes again. I definitely love my family. You should see the Christmas gifts they got! I definitely love my friends. I hang out with them all the time! But those people who don’t look like I do or act like I do? Those quiet, strange people? I try and avoid them. And loving my enemies? No thank you! I call myself a Christian. I believe in God. I go to church. But if you look at the way I treat others, if you look at the way I talk about people, if you look at what I say in Emails or text messages—all of it screams out that I love myself, but I do not love my neighbor as I love myself.
That brings us back to the original question. Does this make God happy? God sees it all—my life, my actions, my conversations, my technology usage, my interactions with others—all of it. Does the way that I live my life please my Father in heaven? Not a chance.
That leads to a bigger problem: If I mess up at home I know there’s a price to pay. I put the big ol’ foot in my mouth and I’m in the dog house. I owe Becky an apology. I owe her a nice dinner. I better clean the house and fold the laundry. I might need to give her a long shoulder rub, too.
If my children mess up then they go to timeout in their rooms. They might have to pay the price of having a red hinder or extra chores or early bedtime. If I mess up at when then I go on probation or I get a warning. I have to pay the price of working overtime. I have to do the job all over again. I have to regain trust.
But with God the stakes are higher. There’s a bigger price to pay for messing up, or as he calls it—sinning. God tells us that the wages of sin is death. God wants us to love like he does. God wants us to be like he is. If we’re not, that’s a problem because unholy people cannot be with a holy God. So there’s a price to pay. You die.
And sinners who die separated from God don’t go to the dog house. They don’t go in time out. They don’t go on probation. And they definitely don’t go to something some humans invented called purgatory. Sinners who can’t please God with their living go to hell.
This is not just a big problem, this is an eternal nightmare. Since we all are going to die eventually, and we all will either go to heaven or to hell, we need something so that our Father can be pleased with us and let us into his heaven. But we can’t give God a Hallmark card and a box of chocolates. We can’t try extra hard to make up for it. We can’t make a wish and pray we get lucky. We need something bigger to pay the price. We need something better to please God.
So this morning we gather together and we hurry out to the Jordan River. And as the choir anthem you just heard described, “We stand, watching, on the banks wide-eyed,” because there is quite the sight to see today. Not the strange man with the big voice and the funny camel-skin clothes named John. We’re there to see the person he’s baptizing—Jesus.
Soon, our eyes open even wider as the heavens are ripped open and the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and is lighting on Jesus. Then we don’t know if we should run and hide or jump for joy as the Father himself thunders down from heaven, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Aha! There in waters of the Jordan we see exactly what we are looking for—someone whom God loves and with whom he is pleased.
Jesus didn’t need baptism, as if he had sinned. But he told John that day that he was doing this, “to fulfill all righteousness.” That was Jesus’ objective in this world. He was here to fulfill all righteous—to be perfectly righteous and holy in everything he did—which is what God demands of us. And Jesus was. From his birth to his circumcision to his presentation in the temple to his baptism here, Jesus did everything God required. This baptism was just the beginning of his public ministry. Every moment of the next three years was also filled with righteous perfection. And his Father was so pleased.
But then came the payment part. “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus didn’t sin and didn’t need to pay the price. But he knew we did. So, “God demonstrated his own love in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18).
This is why we see this fantastic sight this morning on the shores of the Jordan River. The Father beamed from heaven in joy and pride over the chosen Savior—his own Son. “Yes, this is my Son, whom I love; with him I am so pleased.” With this glorious event the Father was letting every fallen, sinful human know: “Here is the One who will change everything for you.”
And Jesus has. Jesus lived a life that was righteous and pleasing to God. Jesus suffered hell and died to make the payment for sin. And now he offers this life and death—his own life and death—to you, by faith. Anyone who trusts in Christ and who is baptized into Christ receives the blessings of what Christ has done. “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27).
At some point in your life you had an incredible change take place in your life. You were washed with water as someone spoke the powerful words you heard about 30 minutes ago, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And with that, you were changed. All of your mistakes, your faults, your failures, your blunders, and your booboos—all of your sins were erased from God’s sight. Everything that was unpleasing was gone. And that payment of death and hell that you needed to make was credited to your account.
When you were baptized into Christ, you were clothed with Christ. In that instant of your baptism, your life was covered with Christ’s righteous life and your payment had been made. Everything God would ever want or demand of you belongs to you through Jesus, which means, that at the very moment you were baptized, the Father beamed from heaven and said, “Yes, you are my son, you are my daughter, whom I love; with you I am so pleased, too.”
Now there will be a few bumps along the way on this side of the eternity Christ has given to me. Satan and my sinful self want me to shake off Christ’s clothes every day. I’m going to fight. By God’s grace and with God’s strength I’m going to fight that sin like my eternal life depends on it.
But I know that the reality is that I will still stumble. I will still make decisions here and there that aren’t even close to pleasing my heavenly Father. I will do things and say things that make God anything but happy.
But then as I lie on my pillow at night, staring at the ceiling and replaying another day’s worth of sin and guilt, suddenly I remember: One time, a long, long while ago, someone made the sign of the cross over my head and my heart to mark me as a redeemed child of Christ just before he poured water on my head and spoke only a few words. I’ve been baptized. I’ve been washed. I’ve been clothed. I’ve been forgiven. As I lie there at night I remember: It feels like I am drowning in my own sins, but the reality is that my sins have been drowned in Christ’s blood through baptism. So I close my eyes and I sleep in peace.
Before I know it, the alarm is blaring and another new day has begun. I’m apprehensive. I’m worried. I know what the day brings. Temptation. Sorrow. Persecution. I’m worried because I’m bound to stumble and fall again on this new day. But then suddenly I remember: That sign of the cross, that water, and those words didn’t go away overnight. They still apply. They’re still mine. I’m still baptized. So I begin that day by drowning my sinful nature in the waters of baptism once again and I put on that clothing of Christ once again, and I’m ready to start my day also in peace.
It’s a rough and tough and sad and sinful world we live in. But this is how I can begin and end my day each and every day in this weary world. I belong to Christ and Christ belongs to me in baptism. His life is my life. His death is my death. Day after day after day I trudge through trouble and I stumble through sin with that very peace and confidence of Christ in my heart.
Until finally, one day, my Father will call me to his home. And there he will meet at the gates of his heavenly home with outstretched arms and beaming joy as he will say, “Yes! You are my son, whom I love; with you I am so pleased.”
Posted on January 11, 2015, in Church, Sermons and tagged Baptism, Church, Cleansed, Father, Forgiveness, Happy, Holy Spirit, Infant Baptism, Jesus, John the Baptist, Mark, Mark 1, Pleased, Sermons, Son, The Baptism of Our Lord, Washed. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.