The Most Preeminent Part of Scripture: The Baptism of Christ

Epiphany 1 Sunday

Matthew 3:13

“At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John to be baptized by him.”

This sermon of the evangelist Matthew has so far been disregarded, for people established many feasts and preached other sermons to us; and people beat themselves up with raising up the saints. But this part about the baptism of Christ and about his office and government was left behind, and no one knew how highly important this part is before God. For almost all Scripture in the New and Old Testament refers to the baptism of Christ. And Scripture does not make much to do about the birth and childhood of Christ. It almost leaves it at stating that he is to come of David and his offspring. And Isaiah adds that his mother is to be a virgin, Isaiah 7:14. This is also why the evangelists write little about his childhood,
but fast-forward to the time when he was age 30, to describe his office for which he came. Then they do not rush as much, but go on to describe all his words, works, and signs with great diligence and earnestness, so that we can see well that both the Old and the New Testaments look chiefly to the baptism of Christ as the most preeminent part of Scripture. And it is also here, not in Christ’s childhood, where the new testament begins. This is also why Mark and John do not remember his childhood much. Peter and Paul do not write about it at all–not that they despise what Matthew and Luke write about it, but they hurry to the perfect part where the office begins. For although he was born a child, neither had the office started yet nor did he take up that office until he was called by his Father to do so. And in summary, in baptism the office begins. There he becomes our Christ, our Savior. There he begins that for which he came, as Isaiah 61:1 says. And Christ applies it to himself in Luke 4:18-19, 21 where he says: “The Lord sent me to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the crushed hearts, to preach release to the prisoners, sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to preach the
year pleasing to the Lord.” He came to preach this gracious kingdom which began with John’s preaching, as Luke says in Acts 1:22. And Mark begins his gospel with John’s preaching and Christ’s baptism, Mark 1. But why is this so? There Christ begins to be a Christ; there he is consecrated, begins his office. And the Father wanted to make the world certain that it should not entertain any doubts about Christ, because the Father had confirmed him himself. You know how miserably we had been seduced by the false prophets who deceived the poor people by their own dreams so that almost the whole world has been seduced by them. This is why God is greatly concerned about this. He also spared no expense and gave his most beloved treasure so that we would be certain that we have the true doctrine.

St. Louis ed., 11:2128-2131.

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