God & Son Are in Business
Rev. Kurt Lantz Baptism of Our Lord Isaiah 42:1-7
January 08, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear children of God through Holy Baptism,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a family run business, a Father and Son operation, just like you see advertised in those types of small, service-oriented companies that have been in existence for more than a generation. They usually have a high degree of dedication to their work, because it bears the family name. They are usually very skilled and experienced because the knowledge of the trade has been handed down father to son and the business has been their life. It is in their blood. I am not trying to advertise for Morse & Son Funeral Chapel or Sutton & Son Appliances, but God & Son Justification.
There really is only one Man for the job, and that is what today’s Old Testament Reading emphasizes. The LORD says, “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” (Isaiah 42:1). There is only one servant in mind here, only one person who can get the job done.
The people of Judah were looking all over the place for help. They were scrambling in order to get their lives and their nation sorted out. They looked to Egypt and to Assyria and to Babylon. They made payment plans and negotiated contracts, but the roof was falling in. The waters were rising. Egypt had at one time been on top of things, a real international leader. They had long ago protected the children of Israel during seven years of famine... and then held them in slavery for 400 years. Judah didn’t want to go to such loan sharks again. Assyria might be helpful. They seemed to be on the rise. Their stock was increasing. But enlisting them would mean giving up control, and their northern cousins hadn’t had a good working relationship with them at all.
The problem was that these nations and the gods they worshipped were not at all interested in saving Judah or its people. They were only interested in how much they could squeeze out of them, before they would be dried up and dissolved. The gods of humanity are greedy and oppressive and destructive. Wherever we turn for salvation we find giant corporate demons ready to pillage and devour our nation, our people, our identity as the children of God. Yet we keep looking around for some kind of a good deal: Who is offering the best warranty to stave off death, a service contract in case we break down, a popular brand name that everyone will recognize, a bright shiny finish that will impress the neighbours?
The sad thing is that our God would have liked to see us take responsibility for the upkeep ourselves. He provided all of the training and knowledge in His holy Law about how to live a righteous life and how to be a good and positive influence in our family, our community, and in the whole nation. That is the way it was with Judah and Israel, too. They were His chosen people to carry His name before the nations of the world. They were to show through their faith and charity that there is one God who has the salvation of all nations as His goal; one God who has made this His business in service to fallen humanity; one God who is only interested in doing away with all oppression and captivity and suffering.
But we were not up for the job of living faithfully before the world. We could not put our trust in Him alone. We could not follow His holy Law and respond to His outpouring of love and concern for us. We could not be that light to the nations that would reveal that this one God, in contrast to all others, is not in it for what He can get out of it. He is in this business in order to give Himself to it. He is looking to give justice to the nations.
So He selected a Servant to carry out the job, the only one competent to do so, the only one who has proved Himself faithful to the task. He chose Him for this sacred appointment. He delighted in His work. He put His Spirit upon Him in order to carry out His will. And He did not hide this from us, but revealed it to all at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River. “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17).
“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.” We can stop searching the yellow pages for a Saviour. We can stop googling for life repairmen. We can look where our loving and compassionate God has directed us and see that for the task of bringing justice to the nations and justification for all peoples, God & Son are in business.
His Chosen Servant is His Son. The Father is well pleased in Him. He will uphold Him for this job, back His every move, supply Him with all that is needed. He has bestowed upon Him His own Spirit not just for a supply source of power but also for the mercy and compassion that this job of justifying the nations requires. Where all others have failed and can only fail, He cannot fail. Where we have failed, He will get the job done.
When John the Baptist protested that Jesus should not have come to be baptized but to baptize John, Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). For there to be all righteousness, not just for Jesus and for John but for all, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and God announced Him to be the one to get the job done and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. For all righteousness to be fulfilled for me and for you and for all the nations, Jesus was baptized, standing in the water, uniting Himself to us through this sacred washing.
For everything to be right within and among us all, Jesus was baptized by John and we are baptized into Christ. Through Holy Baptism His righteousness covers us. We sometimes show that by bringing the babies covered in a white a garment. And we remind ourselves of that when the youth are confirmed in their baptismal faith wearing white gowns and when men serve at the altar wearing white vestments. Their own righteousness would not set everything right. They wouldn’t be able to get the job done. Our sins destroy our righteousness at every age, infant, youth, and adult. We are all in need of the righteousness of someone else, someone who could get the job done; the righteousness of the Chosen Servant of God to bring justice to the nations, to us and to all.
He fulfilled righteousness for everyone, not by arguing and quarreling and shouting in the streets to prove His point; not by breaking down those who are vulnerable and exploiting their weaknesses in order to show His superiority; not by quenching out the last spark of faith in those who are struggling to maintain some light of hope in their lives in order to prove that they are not good enough, strong enough or bright enough for Him. No, Jesus did not employ those tactics of hypocrites to get the job done. He did not make use of our sinful skills and treacherous techniques.
Rather, He stood in the waters of Baptism with us, and as our sins and failures were washed away, He soaked them up into His own body. As we were stripped of our filthy rags, He cleansed and purified us and covered us with His own holiness and righteousness as the perfect, divine, holy and righteous Son of God. He did not raise His voice against us in the streets, but cried out for us from the cross. For bruised reeds like us, He was nailed in place to those beams. For smoldering wicks like us, He breathed His last and gave up His Spirit.
But even in doing so, He was not broken or quenched. He rose from the dead on the third day, showing that His righteousness triumphs over our sins. He is the One chosen by His heavenly Father to fulfill all righteousness, to bring justice to all nations. In Him our sins are justly paid in full and we are righteously forgiven by the grace of God the Father. Father & Son Justification for everyone.
There used to be a popular home repair show called Holmes on Homes, where contractor Mike Holmes would come to save the homes of people who had been taken to the cleaners by the builders and repairmen that they had hired. His slogan was “Make it right.” And He would make sure that all of his workers would do the job properly and not cut corners. They would rip out all of the questionable work, right down to the wall studs where necessary and rebuild with proper footings and safe electrical installation, proper insulation and quality materials. It made for a good show.
Jesus doesn’t just put on a show. In Holy Baptism He rips out of you everything that is imperfect or shoddy. He cleanses out all of the dangerous mould of sin. He demolishes right down to the studs. And He has to in order to get rid of all of the unclean and infected materials that we have invited into our lives whenever we have looked to any other place for repair and improvement, places run by demons and idols that want to bleed us dry and destroy us.
But God has opened our blind eyes to see how deep the corruption goes, what great cost it has taken from us. He has released us from captivity to these false idols of improvement and sent in His Chosen Servant, not just to renovate, but to regenerate and renew. In the letter to Titus, God’s Word spells it out for us.
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:3-7).
He washed us in the new birth of Holy Baptism. There He poured out His Spirit with the water and covered us in the righteousness of Jesus. God & Son justified us with new life in Christ as they have brought justice to all nations, making disciples by baptizing them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).