Worship Helps for Epiphany 1 - The Baptism of Our Lord

Artwork: Baptism of Christ
Artist: Leonardo da Vinci
Date: c. 475

Worship Theme: “Why did Jesus need to be baptized? I thought baptism was for sinners?” It seems strange that our Savior, who was perfectly sinless, would need to be baptized, and yet he was. Why? Because Jesus had come to be our perfect Savior, and he is revealed as such in his baptism. God laid on him the sin of the world (Jn 1:29). Even from birth he endured the effects of our sin. Though Jesus wasn’t a sinner himself, he was carrying our sin, pain and sorrow (Is 53:4), making him seem an unlikely Savior. But by taking our sin and suffering on himself, Jesus actually became our unlikely, yet perfect Savior (Heb 2:10; 5:7-9).

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 The LORD said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king." 2 But Samuel said, "How can I go? Saul will hear about it and kill me." The LORD said, "Take a heifer with you and say, 'I have come to sacrifice to the LORD.' 3 Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate." 4 Samuel did what the LORD said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, "Do you come in peace?" 5 Samuel replied, "Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, "The LORD has not chosen this one either." 9 Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, "Nor has the LORD chosen this one." 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, "The LORD has not chosen these." 11 So he asked Jesse, "Are these all the sons you have?" "There is still the youngest," Jesse answered, "but he is tending the sheep." Samuel said, "Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives." 12 So he sent and had him brought in. He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the LORD said, "Rise and anoint him; he is the one." 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah.

1. Whom had God rejected as the King of Israel?

2. When Samuel went to anoint a new king, did he and the Lord agree on who would be the “perfect” king?

3. Whom did the Lord finally choose as Israel’s new king?

Epistle: Titus 3:4-7 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

4. According to St. Paul, why did God save us?

5. According to St. Paul, how did God save us?

Gospel: Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16 John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." … 21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. 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 persons were present at the baptism of Jesus?

1. Saul.

2. No. Samuel was impressed with the oldest sons of Jesse because they were big, strong and handsome. But the Lord had different ideas, as he explained: “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

3. God chose the youngest son of Jesse, David, the forefather of our perfect Savior, Jesus. Jesus, too, would seem like an unlikely choice to be our perfect Savior (cf. Is 53:2-3).

4. Paul plainly states that God did not save us because of righteous things we had done (our good works), but because of his mercy. In other words, our salvation depends entirely upon God’s love for us and not our love for him, a concept that seems unlikely to human reason.

5. Paul explains that God saved us “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” The Christian church has always understood this to be a reference to Holy Baptism, where God washes away our sin through this water connected to his Word of promise.

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 our perfect Savior he was carrying the sins of the world (Is 53:6; Jn 1:29; 2 Co 5:21). He welcomed 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
Strictly speaking, our Savior did not need to be baptized. He had no sins that needed to be forgiven. We, on the other hand, desperately need baptism. Paul’s words crush our sinful pride that tries to take at least partial credit for our salvation. At the same time his words comfort us that God, in mercy, gave us what we could never earn or deserve. Through something seemingly so simple as water applied in the name of the Triune God, God’s “not guilty” verdict becomes our own. Now we have a wonderful inheritance: heaven!

A reading from the Book of Concord for the First Sunday after Epiphany
You must honor Baptism and consider it glorious because of the Word.  For God Himself has honored it both by words and deeds.  Furthermore, He confirmed it with miracles from heaven.  Was it a joke that, when Christ was baptized, the heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit descended visibly, and everything was divine glory and majesty [Luke 3:21–22]?
I encourage that these two—the water and the Word—by no means be separated from each other and parted.  If the Word is separated from the water it may be then called a bathkeeper’s baptism.  When the Word is added, as God has ordained, it is a Sacrament, called Christ’s Baptism.  This is the first part about the holy Sacrament’s essence and dignity.
In the second place, since we know now what Baptism is and how it is to be regarded, we must also learn why and for what purpose it is instituted.  We must learn what it profits, gives, and works.  For this also we cannot find a better resource than Christ’s words quoted above, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” [Mark 16:16].  Therefore, state it most simply in this way: the power, work, profit, fruit, and purpose of Baptism is this—to save [1 Peter 3:21].  For no one is baptized in order that he may become a prince, but, as the words say, that he “be saved.”  To be saved is to be delivered from sin, death, and the devil [Colossians 1:13-14].  It means to enter into Christ’s kingdom [John 3:5], and to live with Him forever. – Large Catechism, Article IV, Baptism (paragraphs 21-25)


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