The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
It’s amazing how the voice of a loved one can instantly bring calm and peace to a bad situation. A child cries out in the darkness out of fear, perhaps a bad dream, perhaps because of monsters under the bed, and the voice of a parent down the hall immediately gives the little child the comfort they need to stay put and survive the night in a dark bedroom all by themselves. And we never really outgrow this. The voice of a loved one, even over the phone, sets us at ease and gives us peace when we find ourselves in uncomfortable or troubling surroundings and circumstances. I’ve been at the bedside of many a dying person, and the voice of a loved one—whether that voice is speaking to the one dying or it’s the voice of the dying person speaking to their grieving loved ones—that voice has an almost miraculous way of bringing calm and peace to a very difficult situation.
Turn your attention to the Old Testament lesson. “Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” These are the words of our heavenly Father, spoken to the faithful Israelites living in the midst of the darkness and terrors and uncertainties of sin. Their fellow Israelites had basically given God the middle finger. They were thick-necked, thick-skulled, and unrepentant, and such willful wickedness was going to result in being overthrown and exiled to Babylon. It’s to the faithful few that God speaks these words. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you.” Did you catch that? God doesn’t say, “I will redeem you.” For God, it’s already a done-deal. “I have redeemed you. You are mine.” How can God say such a thing? From the time of Isaiah (the time these words are first spoken), Israel wouldn’t go into Babylonian captivity for another 140+ years. Think on that. God is already proclaiming redemption from bondage, and that bondage isn’t even on the radar yet.
More than this, the Messiah—the Redeemer—hasn’t been born yet. Remember: All theology is Christology. All of this prophecy of redemption ultimately finds fulfillment in Christ. But… Jesus hasn’t been born yet. He hasn’t died on the cross yet, and if that’s the case, then how can God act like it is finished? “I have redeemed you?” How? “It is finished” was spoken from Christ’s cross! From Isaiah’s perspective, that’s still 700+ years in the future. Here’s the thing: For almighty and eternal God, it is finished. This redemption in Christ is so absolutely certain that God can speak of it in the past tense. That’s how certain it is. It is already a done-deal. God has spoken it. He has declared it. There is no “maybe.” “Let’s wait and see how things shake out.” God has declared; He has promised a Savior. It is finished! Who can argue with Him?
Fast-forward 700+ years in Scripture and we find ourselves on the bank of the River Jordan as John the Baptist baptizes Jesus. Again, the voice of our heavenly Father speaks. “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” Have you ever given this any thought? The other Gospels record God saying “THIS is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased,” as if God is talking to everyone else about Jesus. But these words make clear that God is speaking directly to Jesus. “You are my beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” Why would God say such a thing to Jesus? Did Jesus need some reassuring? Was Jesus unsure about the whole Savior thing, and this was God’s way of confirming the Truth and removing any lingering doubts Jesus might have had? No! Our heavenly Father speaks in such a way so as to let everyone else hear the Truth directly from Him. Let there be no mistake: God is well-pleased with His Son.
Now…that’s not to say that our heavenly Father didn’t speak these words for Jesus’ ears too. Remember: The very first thing Christ does after being baptized is He journeys out into the wilderness for forty day and nights to be tempted by the devil. I have no problem in saying that our heavenly Father was proclaiming peace and assurance to His own Son before the dark trials and temptations were about to hit. Jesus was fully human too! Think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing what He was about to experience, He was so troubled and sorrowful that He actually began to sweat blood. “Father, if there’s any other way, take this cup of suffering from Me!” This wasn’t the only time Jesus suffered with such emotions! Again: I have no problem in saying that our heavenly Father was proclaiming peace and assurance to His own Son before the dark trials and temptations were about to hit. Jesus was fully human too, and just like all of us, He needed to hear the Gospel comfort and assurance of His heavenly Father. “I am well-pleased with you. In spite of what you’re experiencing right now, I do love you.”
Jesus was fully human… just like all of us. The difference between Jesus and us, however, is that Jesus heard these words of His Father and trusted them—perfectly. He didn’t waver or doubt or lose faith. No matter what happened throughout that dark and scary time in the wilderness, Jesus knew and trusted—without a doubt—that His Father did love Him and He was well-pleased with Him. In the midst of all that despair, Jesus was at peace. His Father loved Him. All was well.
My fellow redeemed: This is your reality this very day. God is at peace with you. In Christ and because of Christ—because of your baptism into Christ—God is well-pleased with you. How often, though, we forget this blessed reality. (These last two years certainly bear witness to this fact!) Christ Jesus has declared, “It is finished.” That means it is finished. All sin has been paid for with the life-blood of Christ Jesus. And yet…how often do we still stress and worry and doubt? How often do we trust our eyes and not our ears? Things are bad, so clearly God must have a problem with me, right?
There’s a reason the words of both the Old Testament lesson and the Epistle lesson are read at every single funeral we do. “Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Folks: By virtue of your baptism into Christ Jesus, you now bear God’s holy name upon your head and your heart, marking you as one redeemed by Christ the Lord. God is at peace with you. God’s favor rests on you. You belong to Him. Through the working of the Holy Spirit in the Word and in the blessed waters of Holy Baptism, your Lord has called you to be His own. He has plucked you from the grave. He has chosen you and washed you and made you clean in the blood of the Lamb. He has washed away your justly-deserved damning death sentence of sin. Fear not. It is finished. You are mine. You have already been redeemed.
Like I always say, I can’t make you do anything. I certainly can’t make you believe, and I definitely can’t make you act like a Christian who loves others as Christ loved you; who forgives others as Christ has forgiven you. I can’t make you walk in newness of life. I can, however, point you to objective, justification fact. I point you here to the font. I point you to the “where and the how” God Himself has brought His cruciform victory over sin, death, and the devil to you and made Christ’s victory your victory. I point you to the Holy Baptism God has so unconditionally poured out on you. I point you to the rail, where this same Almighty Lord truly comes to feed you and nourish you with His own victorious Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Hear what your Lord Himself says to you, “As often as you do this, remember what I have said. This is My body. This is My blood, given and shed for your for the forgiveness of all your sin.” The voice of God Himself speaking life and peace—giving His peace—to you. Even in the midst of all the darkness and sorrow and sickness and craziness that has been these last couple of years, I point you to these miracles of life and salvation in your very midst, and as the messenger I speak His Word to you, “Fear not, I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
May this objective Divine reality calm your troubled hearts and minds, and may it give you peace, as in the peace that surpasses all human understanding; the baptismal peace of the crucified and resurrected Lord Christ for you and with you, now and to the end of the age and for all eternity.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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