Worship Helps for Epiphany 1

Baptism of Christ
Giovanni Bellini
1500-1502

The readings during the Epiphany season carry forward the emphasis in the readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the theme of Jesus revealing himself to us as God and Savior. At the same time the readings present us with a real conundrum. The conundrum is that he hides the manifestations of his deity, so that his glory remains a secret and a mystery, even while he is revealing it. All the riddles are present in the readings for the Feast of the Epiphany. The theme present in all of the Epiphany readings is: He shows his hidden glory to those he calls. You may notice that in many of the Epiphany season readings appropriation is much easier than application. There is a good reason for that: In Christmas and Epiphany our attention is on getting to know Jesus, who he is and how he works; thus there is not so much emphasis on our response beyond the response of faith, which itself is always seen as his work and not ours.

Worship Theme: During the Epiphany season we want to get to know Jesus. This Sunday we get to know him by baptism, both his and ours. But the glory is evident only to a chosen few; notice, too, that the greater the glory, the more hidden its manifestation—the glory of our life with Christ is by faith, not by sight. 

Old Testament: Isaiah 49:1-6
Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3 He said to me, "You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor." 4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God." 5 And now the LORD says-- he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength-- 6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

1. Which person of the Trinity is speaking through the prophet Isaiah in these verses?

2. True or false: Jesus felt frustration in his job as Savior.

3. What task has been given to Jesus?


Epistle: Acts 16:25-34
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody's chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved-- you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God-- he and his whole family.


4. How does the Holy Spirit work the faith that Paul encouraged the jailer to have in verse 31?

5. Who was baptized that evening?


Gospel: Mark 1:4-11
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit." 9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

6. What was the purpose of the baptism given by John?

7. If Jesus was sinless, why was he baptized?

8. Which three special people were present at the baptism of Jesus?


 Answers:
1. The Son.

2. True. The Savior voices his frustration in verse 4. Sometimes he felt like he had “labored to no purpose” and that he had “spent (his) strength in vain and for nothing.” Yet Jesus persevered in his role as our perfect substitute.

3. Not only to “bring Jacob back to (God) and gather Israel” (i.e., Jewish Christians) but also to be “a light for the Gentiles” (non-Jews) that they might be brought to faith (Jn 10:16).

4. God works faith through the hearing of the gospel promises (Ro 10:17). In this particular instance, those promises were proclaimed in word and in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.

5. The jailer’s whole household was baptized. We may assume that his household included both adults and children.

6. The purpose was the same as the baptism we have today: it’s “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4).

7. Though Jesus did not have any personal sin, in his role as Savior he was carrying the sins of the world.  He had come to be our perfect substitute.  He very much desired the promises of God that baptism gives sinners.

8. The Holy Trinity (God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) were present at Jesus’ baptism.  In the same way, the Holy Trinity was present at our baptisms, as we are baptized “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).


Putting your faith into action
What a difference faith makes in our lives. Paul and Silas faced the adversity of jail with prayers and hymns. In contrast, when an earthquake opened the doors of the prison, the unbelieving jailer was about to kill himself. With faith we can face adversity because we know that we are at peace with God. In baptism we are made children of God and heirs of salvation. The gospel of forgiveness in Jesus Christ was brought to the jailer in Word and baptism. What a difference faith made in his life. We support the missions of WELS with our offerings so that many people can experience the hope and joy of the jailer of Philippi.


A reading from the Book of Concord for the First Sunday after Epiphany
We must know what Baptism signifies and why God has ordained just this outward sign and ceremony for the Sacrament by which we are first received into the Christian Church.  The act or ceremony is this: we are sunk under the water, which passes over us, and afterward are drawn out again.  These two parts, (1) to be sunk under the water and (b) drawn out again, signify Baptism’s power and work.  It is nothing other than putting to death the old Adam and affecting the new man’s resurrection after that [Romans 6:4-6].   Both of these things must take place in us all our lives.  So a truly Christian life is nothing other than a daily Baptism, once begun and ever to be continued.  For this must be done without ceasing, that we always keep purging away whatever belongs to the old Adam.  Then what belongs to the new man may come forth.  But what is the old man? It is what is born in human beings from Adam: anger, hate, envy, unchastity, stinginess, laziness, arrogance – yes, unbelief.  The old man is infected with all vices and has by nature nothing good in him [Romans 7:18].  Now, when we have come into Christ’s kingdom [John 3:5], these things must daily decrease.  The longer we live the more we become gentle, patient, meek, and ever turn away from unbelief, greed, hatred, envy, and arrogance.

This is Baptisms true use among Christians, as signified by baptizing with water. – Large Catechism, Baptism (paragraphs 64-68)



Text of the Hymn of the Day: Jesus, Once With Sinners Numbered
1  Jesus, once with sinners numbered,
Had no blemish of his own;
In the waters of the Jordan
His true worth and work were shown:
Heaven opened and the Spirit
There descended like a dove,
As the Father’s voice resounded,
“Hear my Son, the One I love.”

2  John confessed him as the Savior—
“Look, the sinless Lamb of God!”
Yet he dared not loose the sandals
Of the one God’s love had shod.
Oh, how fair the feet of Jesus,
Bringing news of peace to us,
Christ, the herald of salvation,
Preaching mercy from the cross:

3  This the baptism that our Savior
Greatly longed to undergo;
This the crimson cleansing needed
So the world God’s love might know;
This the mission of Messiah
As he stepped from Jordan’s stream,
He, the chosen and anointed
Son of God, sent to redeem.

4  Jesus, once with sinners numbered,
Full obedience was your path;
You, by death, have consecrated
Water in this saving bath:
Dying to the sin of Adam,
Rising to a life of grace.
We are counted with the righteous,

Over us the cross you trace.

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