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Living Water March 19, 2017

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John 4:5-26

Third Sunday in Lent

March 19, 2017

 

Focus:  God saves the world in and through His Son Jesus Christ.

Function:  That the hearers see themselves in God’s family, worship Him, and tell others!

Structure:  Before and After.

 

Living Water

 

The reading we had today from the Gospel according to John is a familiar event in Jesus’ ministry.  You know it, your children know it if they go to Sunday School, and it’s part of our regular rotation of Scripture readings in the lectionary.  And as I preached on this text here a few years ago, we focused on all the details of this event.  Why Jesus bridged the gap of Jews and Samaritans, the woman’s adultery, of having had numerous husbands, and now living with a man she isn’t married to.

So, I don’t want to just redo that sermon this morning, but rather, instead look at what Christ is calling the Samaritan woman to do.  A before and after picture of not just this woman’s life, but also of our lives.  Before the gospel, and then with the gospel.

But before we can do that, we do need to review one piece.  We need to understand specifically one key thing Christ speaks, because it refers to the whole account.  And that’s verse 14: “but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  What is Jesus talking about here?  What is that water?  Not only baptism, but baptism by the Spirit.

That’s the key.  Christ comes promising to us tremendous gifts, gifts of forgiveness, of life, of being part of His family.  And all of these gifts come to us according to His promise.  In baptism, the Spirit grants the gift of faith.  And we go from being enemies of God, to being children of God.  That’s the before and after picture that we’re looking at today.

And it takes three forms in this account alone.  The first before and after that we see with the Samaritan woman is without a doubt about who her family is.  Look at how she speaks in the first several verses.  She’s focused on her nationality.  She’s focused on her ancestors, men like Jacob, and the history of the family well.

But Christ calls her to see beyond her definition of family, of an earthly lineage.  He calls her to think of herself now as a part of an enduring lineage.  Part of God’s family.  After hearing the woman’s testimony, her neighbors, her community comes to Jesus and asks Him to stay with them, to teach them.  And He does.  And after a couple of days spent in their town, the people proclaim faith.

“It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (v. 42)

We do this, too.  It’s part of our sinfulness to divide ourselves by the same things she was.  We divide ourselves by nationality, by socio-economic status, by race, by differing levels of morality.  I wish I could say you have to go into the cafeteria of a school to see this, but you don’t.  You can see it in your office, in your neighborhood, just about anywhere.

But Christ calls us into one family.  All of those who are in Christ, who have been baptized by the Spirit into the family of God.  The wealthy and poorest in Stewartville alike.  Americans and Africans alike.  We could make the point that we all descend from Adam and Eve, but that’s not what Jesus is getting at.  It’s not about past lineage.  It’s about a future, everlasting family.  Those little kids we help feed with Feed My Starving Children, through the proclamation of the gospel in their communities, we get to spend forever with them.  As the family of God.

The second before and after picture the text presents to us is one of location.  She is very wrapped up in the idea of space.  And for good reason.  God instructed His people to live this way.  Worship happened in the temple.  If you want to worship God or offer sacrifices, you had to go there.

She’s tied not just to that well in Sychar, but to that mountain.  We know from sources apart from Scripture what mountain this is, and what she’s talking about when saying her fathers worshipped on that mountain.  The Jewish historian Josephus records that the Samaritans had built their own temple on Mount Gerizim around 400 BC.  And more recent archaeology of that site, has unearthed a ruin that is 66 feet wide by 66 feet long, with an adjoining courtyard.  It may not have been the Biblical temple, but they had a temple that they were using for worship.

And it’s her concern now that her temple wasn’t good enough.  That the Jews were saying you had to go to theirs, to Jerusalem.  Christ overturns that, too.  It’s neither here on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem.  From verse 23-24 He says,

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

 

Jesus is the temple of God, and He is in our midst.  It is through Him and through Him alone that we have access to our Father.  That’s the phrase “worship in spirit and truth.”  That’s our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, as we confess that faith, and rely not on ourselves or our own works, but on His promises, and the gifts that He gives to us.

We don’t have as clear a before picture on this one.  Catholics pilgrimage to Rome, Muslims pilgrimage to Mecca.  But we don’t have a centralized place of worship. We are more prone to fall into sin in the complete opposite direction.  We error by thinking we can worship God in nature, or in some other place that we enjoy rather than the place that God has promised.  He has promised to work in His church, through the Word being proclaimed, the sacraments administered, and forgiveness preached.  And while we certainly hope that occurs in Jerusalem, we know it occurs in various places all around the world.

The final before and after picture of this text is about who this woman is and what she’s done.  The disciples looked down on her, wondered what Jesus would have been doing even talking to her.  She even thought that of herself.  Her life was a life full of failures, disappointments, rejection.  It was a life full of sin.

And yet, Christ forgives her.  And more than that, He invites her into the work of the kingdom.  She goes back into her community, to the people she knows, and she starts talking about Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah they’d been waiting for.  And the word spreads, and the Samaritans are brought to faith through the Spirit and the Word of God.

This is the way we normally talk about the woman at the well.  And it’s valid.  While our sins may not be adultery like hers was, we are all sinners.  And if we’re honest, most of us, maybe all of us are even adulterers, too.  But in this meeting with her, Jesus isn’t Law heavy.  He doesn’t use it to crush her.  He pretty much goes straight to the gospel, because this woman was already in a place of shame.  She already knew her guilt, and she was looking for a Savior.

Like you and I, she knew of the depths of her sin, she knew her guilt.  She didn’t know what her Savior would do for her.  She didn’t know about the cross, of Christ’s love for her in which He pours out even His own blood for her, shed for the forgiveness of her sins.  She didn’t know about the resurrection, that three days later He would leave an empty tomb behind and that people would start proclaiming a risen Lord who grants life to all people in His name.  But she knew she needed a Savior.

And that’s how our text today ended.  The statement from Jesus is so profound, it speaks for itself.

25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 

 

Born of Water and the Spirit May 31, 2015

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John 3:1-17

Trinity Sunday

May 31, 2015

An Updated Version from June 2-3, 2012

Focus: God gave His only Son and poured out His Spirit that we may believe, and that by believing we may live.

Function: That the hearers, by faith in Him, may see the kingdom of God.

Structure: Questions and answers.

 

Born of Water and the Spirit

 

The Apostle John is one of the few writers in Scripture who comes right out and tells us his purpose.  Near the end of his gospel, he tells us that these things “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

John’s gospel is unique in many ways when compared to the other three.  We believe that John wrote sometime in the 80’s near the end of his life, some 50 years after Christ, and a couple of decades after our other gospel writers.  Because of this, he had the opportunity to focus a little differently than the others.  He starts his gospel by opposing Gnosticism, a pagan belief that was creeping its way into Christianity by that time.

But in our text today, we notice another difference.  John didn’t worry about the sacraments.  The other gospel writers tend to be quite clear when they talk about baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But by this point, the sacraments are so ingrained into the life and practice of the church, John doesn’t have to focus on them.  He can make small references that his readers will pick up on.  For example, in his account of Jesus feeding the five thousand, Jesus tells them that He is “the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

And in our text today, we’re going to talk about being “born of water and the Spirit.”  Baptism is a vital part of our life as Christians.  Here at St. John’s we are blessed with the number of baptisms we see each and every year.  And we will continue to be blessed with a couple more next weekend.

But when baptism becomes so common, we run the risk of forgetting its importance.  If we don’t stay focused, if we don’t really look at it from time to time, it becomes routine and gets lost in the shuffle.  So today, as John alludes to the importance of baptism, we refocus.

Just prior to this, Jesus had turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.  He cleansed the temple that had become a marketplace.  And He enraged the Pharisees by claiming He could rebuild the temple in three days.  And as John put it, “many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing.”  But Jesus knew their hearts, He knew man.

And so we get a transition, to another man, another Pharisee.  We are introduced to Nicodemus, not just a Jew, not just a Pharisee, but one of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin.  But he’s also not like most of the Pharisees.  He’s starting to believe.  He comes to Jesus and calls Him “Rabbi.”  He admits that Jesus has come from God on account of the miracles he’s witnessed.

Rabbi is one of the many functions Christ had in His ministry.  You and I know all about the others.  But Nicodemus wasn’t quite there yet and so Jesus was fine playing along.  If you want to treat Me as a Rabbi, then I’ll be your Rabbi.  Rabbis teach, so, let Me teach you.

When you know what Rabbis do, Jesus no longer seems to be making some random comment.  Instead, what He says is meant to elicit a question, to bring about the thinking and learning process in Nicodemus.  It wasn’t the part about seeing the kingdom of God that caught Nicodemus’ attention.  It was the phrase “born again.”

Not knowing the gospel as we know it, he comes up with a logical thought.  How can an old man be born again?  If you know how birth works, you know it’s not possible to go back into the womb.  So that’s his question.  And it prompts a teaching moment; it allows Jesus to share the gospel.

“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”  It’s one of those moments where John points to a sacrament without actually saying it.

So let’s hash it out; what is baptism?  In this text alone, Jesus provides multiple details.  It’s water.  Water is by far the most common thing on this earth.  Something like 60% of our body, as well as 70% of the earth’s surface, is water.  According to health and diet experts, you should probably be drinking at least 64oz. of water a day.  You swim in it and sometimes it even falls on you from the sky.  Another function of water is that we use it regularly to stay clean, from showering to washing our hands.

All of these things correlate to why water is used in baptism.  It’s so common, there’s no excuse to not have any.  As we use it to clean, we can also see in our baptisms a sense of washing, or regeneration, that in our baptisms, our sins are forgiven, and in Christ we have become white as snow.  Martin Luther spoke of baptism as something we should remember daily and that we should daily drown the Old Adam within us, that sinful self.  Professor Kolb at the seminary always reminded his students that your daily time in the shower, as the water pours over you, is a perfect time to remember your baptism, and what it is that Christ has done for you in that water.

Baptism is also Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is strongly at work in baptism.  If the faith is not already present, the Spirit creates it.  If the faith is already present because the Spirit already created it, then the Spirit works in the baptism to strengthen that faith.  As we read last weekend, Jesus told us that it was both necessary and good that He depart from us; because in parting, He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to us.  He has sent the Spirit to us, who has created faith in us and also sustains it.

The third part that Christ includes in this passage in John is the notion that baptism is necessary.  “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  We see similar statements elsewhere in Scripture.  And this is precisely why we as Lutherans believe baptism is a sacrament.  We define sacraments as things that meet three criteria.  First, that it was commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Second, that the forgiveness of sins, through Him, is offered.  And third, that it is connected to a visible element.  Thus we come to baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

A common question from that: is baptism necessary?  Because Christ commanded it, we say yes.  But truly, it’s the wrong question.  The Ethiopian eunuch got the question right in the book of Acts.  “What prevents me from being baptized?”  If a person doesn’t have faith, the Spirit works through baptism to create it, to begin that new life.  But if they already have faith, baptism should be desired.  If you have faith in Christ, you want the gifts He has to give you, which most definitely includes baptism, faith, forgiveness, and life.

We learn other things about baptism elsewhere in Scripture.  Matthew 28 instructs us to baptize all nations and to do so in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Paul in Romans 6 teaches us that baptism connects us to Christ, that in our baptisms we are buried together with Him.  In baptism, we are bound to Christ’s death on the cross, thus also connected to Him in His resurrection, that we too will be raised and walk in a newness of life.

From passages such as these, we learn that baptism isn’t something we do, but rather something God does to us and for us.  It’s His work, not ours.  He creates and sustains faith through the outpouring of His Spirit.  And He forgives us of our sins through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  So as we observe Trinity Sunday, we can see the entire Trinity is at work in our baptisms.

As we return for a moment to the text to wrap up, we see that Jesus calls Nicodemus “Israel’s teacher.”  There’s a connection there to Nicodemus calling Him “Rabbi.”  The one responsible for teaching the people needs to know what to teach.  So Jesus gives him another piece.  He tells him that “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have everlasting life.”  He connects back to Old Testament history with Moses, and forward to Himself on the cross, to the gift of forgiveness that God offers to the world for any who are “born of water and the Spirit.”  And that most definitely includes you and me.  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”

 

 

The Boomerang June 8, 2014

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Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost

June 8th, 2014

 

Focus: God uses the Holy Spirit to bring us back to Him.

Function: That the hearers would readily work alongside the Spirit in bringing people to the Father.

Structure: Boomerang.

 

The Boomerang

 

We stand accused.  Throughout much of recent history, other Christian church bodies have looked at us Lutherans and pointed a finger.  They’ve accused us with the heresy of Christocentrism.  Now before you get defensive, let me rephrase that.  We’ve been accused of always making Christ the center of everything we do, whether in life or worship.

Well, when you put that way, yep, we’re guilty as charged.  When you put it that way, we’ll admit to that.  We’re more than willing to say that Christ is the center of our faith, He’s the One who gave Himself for us, He’s the One who saves us.  That much is true.  But when we push that too far, when we say that we worship Christ alone, we are risking heresy.

Sometimes we truly take Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:2 too literally.  “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”  His point was that that was the power of God for us, the Gospel proclaimed in all of its glory.  Paul certainly knew more about God and faith as he wrote thirteen New Testament letters.

We run the risk of heresy here when we ignore and neglect the Trinity.  Three in One, One in Three.  If we do not also maintain our faith in the Father and the Spirit, then the accusation is true.  Think for a moment, when was the last time you prayed to the Holy Spirit?

We tend to defend ourselves by saying that if we worship Jesus, then we’re worshipping the Father because He gave us our Savior.  And if we worship Jesus, then we’re worshipping the Spirit because the Spirit’s job was to bring us to faith in Jesus.  But the Trinity is more than that!

So today I wanted to give you another metaphor to think about, another tool to use to think about the ever confusing nature of the Trinity.  No metaphor can truly explain God’s perfection, but this one could still be helpful.

Have you ever thrown a boomerang?  I haven’t, and because I haven’t I know exactly what would happen if I did.  It would just keep going until it either lost the battle with gravity or until it hit something or someone!  Boomerangs are a precise art form, both an ancient hunting tool, and a modern sport.  It takes skill and precision to make it come back to you.

I want you to think of the Trinity as a boomerang, one that comes back.  God the Father threw it, and like a skilled master, it always returns.  Just as He said through the Prophet Isaiah: “so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

God the Father sent His Son, who sent the Spirit, who then works through us to share the Gospel, bringing people into the Spirit, who returns them to faith in Christ, who restores their relationship with the Father.  Simple enough?  Let’s walk through it.

Luke’s account of Pentecost really ties this altogether for us.  He helps us to see just how it is that this works in the midst of the fullness of the Scriptures.

It begins with God the Father sending His Son.  You can all quote for me one of the verses that spells that out for us, as it is perhaps the most well-known verse of the Bible.  John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

This then is what the Gospels are about.  This is what Luke wrote 24 chapters about.  The life of Christ, the ministry of Jesus.  That He took on flesh and became man for us.  That He died on the cross to forgive our sins.  That He rose from the grave to give us new life.  All of these events lead up to Pentecost.  And it’s all part of why the Messiah came.

And then the Son sends His Spirit to us.  While still walking among His disciples, Jesus says to them, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send Him to you.”  (John 16:7) This, the Helper, the Counselor, the Comforter, the Paraclete, is best known to us as the Holy Spirit.  This is the same thing that Jesus promises the disciples just before He ascends into heaven in Acts chapter 1.

Father sends Son, Son sends Spirit.  The boomerang is still going, still moving farther away from the one who threw it.

Often times the Scriptures speak of God pouring out His Spirit on His people.  And we see this with Pentecost.  If our baptisms are like the splashing of water, a splashing of the Spirit, then Pentecost would have been like knocking over a water tower.  The apostles got drenched in the pouring out of the Spirit.  They not only get to prophesy, but they are speaking in tongues.  The twelve of them are speaking, and men from every nation under heaven are hearing their own native language.  Without a doubt, a miracle of God.

This was certainly a special day.  Nothing like it has happened since.  God starts His church with a bang, an explosion, the rapid growth necessary for it to really take hold and take off.  From 120 followers one day, to gaining 3000 the next.  That day was truly a blessing in church history, truly a blessing to each of us, as our ancestors heard the gospel.

Father sends Son, Son sends Spirit, Spirit works through us.  We are the turning point on the flight of a boomerang.  The point where it “lays over” and starts to return to the thrower.  Luke tells us “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,” (Acts 2:17).  The Apostles did it that day, the celebration of Pentecost, and we as the church have been doing it ever since.  Because prophesy, on the most basic level, is calling people to repentance, telling them about Christ.

But why us?  Why does God, the perfect Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of everything work through us?  We’re cowards, afraid to speak the truth.  We’re weak, easily ready to give in to temptation.  We’re broken, there’s nothing good in us.  And yet, He chooses us.  He loves us and He makes us His own.  He puts the good in us, He is the good in us.  We are His family, His children, and He wants us to be involved.  He doesn’t simply look down on us and call us moochers or parasites.  No, He walks with us.  He works alongside us for the sake of His kingdom.  We get to be a part of that, and it’s all because He loves us as His own.

And so we are sent out into the world to do His work and to share His love and to proclaim the faith to others.  The Spirit leads us out and the Spirit brings us back.  He works faith and repentance in our hearts and then leads us to others so He can work faith and repentance in their hearts, too!

And so the boomerang begins to return.  The Spirit’s work points people back to Christ.  He points them to their Savior who died and rose for them.  Jesus told His disciples that “when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me,” (John 15:26).  The Spirit brings us to Christ.

Jesus was quite clear that He completes this boomerang throw.  Pastor Fritsch preached on this during Lent, when Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  Christ’s goal is to restore us in our relationship with the Father.  He wants to bring us back to Him, just like the healthy relationship we were created to have.

The Father sends the Son, Son sends the Spirit, Spirit works in and through us to bring men to faith and point them to Christ, who then brings them back to the Father.  Boomerang thrown and returned.

The key focus is the relationship we have with God.  A relationship He creates, nourishes, and sustains.  This is why Peter says what he does on Pentecost, quoting the Prophet Joel.  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32)  From beginning to end, God wants to be in a relationship with the people He created.

This is what we see on Pentecost.  We see the arc of the boomerang, the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in planting the church and growing the kingdom of God.  We see men and women brought to repentance for their sins and joining with the others in the faith.  We see the apostles overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit to the point where it’s the Spirit who is speaking through them.

We’re not guilty of Christocentrism.  We believe and confess God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  And it is through that relationship that we know we will live with God forever.  And that’s the same confession, same relationship, same resurrection promise that the Holy Spirit is using you to share with the people around you.

Born of Water and the Spirit June 3, 2012

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John 3:1-17

Trinity Sunday

June 2-3, 2012

Focus: God gave His only Son and poured out His Spirit that we may believe, and that by believing we may live.

Function: That the hearers, by faith in Him, may see the kingdom of God.

Structure: Questions and answers.

Born of Water and the Spirit

            The Apostle John is one of the few writers in Scripture who comes right out and tells us his purpose.  Near the end of his gospel, he tells us that these things “are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

John’s gospel is unique in many ways when compared to the other three.  We believe that John wrote sometime in the 80’s near the end of his life, some 50 years after Christ.  Because of this, he had the opportunity to focus a little differently than the others.  He starts his gospel by opposing Gnosticism, a pagan belief that was creeping its way into Christianity by that time.

But in our text today, we notice another difference.  John didn’t worry about the sacraments.  The other gospel writers tend to be quite clear when they talk about baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  But by this point, the sacraments are so ingrained into the practice of the church, John doesn’t have to focus on them.  He can make small references that his readers will pick up on.  For example, in his account of Jesus feeding the five thousand, Jesus tells them that He is “the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.”

And in our text today, we’re going to talk about being “born of water and the Spirit.”  Baptism is a vital part of our life as Christians.  Here at Immanuel we are blessed with the number of baptisms we see each and every year.  And we will continue to blessed with a few more coming up this month.

But when baptism becomes so common, we run the risk of forgetting its importance.  If we don’t stay focused, if we don’t really look at it from time to time, it becomes routine and gets lost in the shuffle.  So today, as John alludes to the importance of baptism, we refocus.

Just prior, Jesus had turned water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana.  He cleansed the temple that had become a marketplace.  And He enraged the Pharisees by claiming He could rebuild the temple in three days.  And as John put it, “many believed in His name when they saw the signs that He was doing.”  But Jesus knew their hearts, He knew man.

And so we get a transition, to another man, another Pharisee.  We are introduced to Nicodemus, not just a Jew, not just a Pharisee, but one of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin.  But he’s also not like most of the Pharisees.  He’s starting to believe.  He comes to Jesus and calls Him “Rabbi.”  He admits that Jesus has come from God on account of the miracles.

Rabbi is one of the many functions Christ had in His ministry.  You and I know all about the others.  But Nicodemus wasn’t quite there yet and so Jesus was fine with playing along.  If you want to treat Me as a Rabbi, then I’ll be your Rabbi.  Rabbis teach, so here comes some teaching.

When you know what Rabbis do, Jesus no longer seems to be making some random comment.  Instead, what He says is meant to elicit a question, to bring about the thinking and learning process in Nicodemus.  It wasn’t the part about seeing the kingdom of God that caught Nicodemus’ attention.  It was the phrase “born again.”

Not knowing the gospel as we know it, he comes up a logical thought.  How can an old man be born again?  If you know how birth works, you know it’s not possible to go back into the womb.  So that’s his question.  And it prompts a teaching moment; it allows Jesus to share the gospel.

“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”  It’s one of those moments where John points to a sacrament without actually saying it.

So let’s hash it out; what is baptism?  In this text alone, Jesus provides multiple details.  It’s water.  Water is by and far the most common thing on this earth.  Something like 60% of our body, as well as 70% of the earth’s surface, is water.  According to health and diet experts, you should probably be drinking 64oz. of water a day.  You swim in it and sometimes it even falls on you from the sky.  Another function of water is that we use it regularly to stay clean, from showering to washing our hands.

All of these things correlate to why water is used in baptism.  It’s so common, there’s no excuse to not have any.  As we use it to clean, so also we can see in our baptisms a sense of washing, or regeneration, that in our baptisms, our sins are forgiven, and in Christ we have become white as snow.  Martin Luther spoke of baptism as something we should remember daily and that we should daily drown the Old Adam within us, that sinful self.  Professor Kolb at the seminary reminds us on occasion that your daily time in the shower, as the water pours over you, is a perfect time to remember your baptism, and what it is that Christ has done for you in that water.

Baptism is also Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is strongly at work in baptism.  If the faith is not already present, the Spirit creates it.  If the faith is already present because the Spirit already created it, the Spirit then works in the baptism to strengthen that faith.  As we read last weekend, Jesus told us that it was both necessary and good that He depart from us; because in parting, He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to us.  He has sent the Spirit to us, who has created faith in us and also sustains it.

The third part that Christ includes in this passage in John is the notion that baptism is necessary.  “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”  We see similar statements elsewhere in Scripture, also.  And this is precisely why we as Lutherans believe baptism is a sacrament.  We define sacraments as things that meet three criteria.  First, that it was commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ.  Second, that the forgiveness of sins, through Him, is offered.  And third, that it is connected to a visible element.  Thus we come to baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

A common question from that: is baptism necessary?  Because Christ commanded it, we say yes.  But truly, it’s the wrong question.  The Ethiopian eunuch in the book of Acts got the question right.  “What prevents me from being baptized?”  If a person doesn’t have faith, the Spirit works through baptism to create it, to begin that new life.  But if they already have faith, baptism should be desired.  If you have faith in Christ, you want the gifts He has to give you, which most definitely includes baptism, faith, forgiveness, and life.

We learn other things about baptism elsewhere in Scripture.  Matthew 28 instructs us to baptize all nations and to do so in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Paul in Romans 6 teaches us that baptism connects us to Christ, that in our baptisms we are buried together with Him.  In baptism, we are bound to Christ’s death on the cross, thus also connected to Him in His resurrection, that we too will be raised and walk in a newness of life.

From passages such as these, we learn that baptism isn’t something we do, but rather something God does to us and for us.  It’s His work, not ours.  He creates and sustains faith through the outpouring of His Spirit.  And He forgives us of our sins through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  So as we observe Trinity Sunday, we can see the entire Trinity is at work in our baptisms.

As we return for a moment to the text to wrap up, we see that Jesus calls Nicodemus “Israel’s teacher.”  There’s a connection there to Nicodemus calling Him “Rabbi.”  The one responsible for teaching the people needs to know what to teach.  So Jesus gives him another piece.  He tells him that “the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”  He connects back to Old Testament history with Moses, and forward to Himself on the cross, to the gift of forgiveness that God offers to the world for any who are “born of water and the Spirit.”  “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”