Mark 1:4-11 4 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.”
Imagine you’re hiring for a position at your job. You’re reading applications. This application looks good at the start. Name. Address, Contact information. And then you come to the listing of qualifications: “There’s someone better at this than I am. What I’ve got is nothing compared to the next guy. I don’t have the qualifications necessary to untie a shoe.” Would you hire him? Now imagine you’re applying for a position. Do you usually take a glance at the competition? The others trying to get the job? To see if you have a chance?
Well, check out this guy’s resume. He’s got a weird name to start with. John the Baptist. And what he says about himself… well, maybe you’ve got a chance at the position. 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. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:7-8) How stupid can you get? That’s no way to get attention! “Look, I’m not the guy you want. There’s someone else better for the job.” Shouldn’t he have some confidence in himself?
What about you? What does your resume look like? “Lots of experience for the job. Hard worker. Eager to learn.’ When we fill out our resumes of life, we are very good at looking at the good things and ignoring all those pesky bad things about ourselves. We’re very good at comparing ourselves to the other applicants and thinking we’ve got a good job of getting the position.
When you apply for a normal job, you’re competing against other applicants, sure, but you also need to line up to the employer’s standards. Not the standards of the other applicants. It doesn’t matter what the other applicants think; what matters is what the boss thinks. I suppose I should tell you what position you’re applying for. You’re applying for the position of being God’s child. There’s great benefits. You get peace that surpasses all understanding. Everything works out for your good. And the retirement plan? Well, you don’t have to worry about anything ever again. And the pay? Phenomenal. You get paid in life. Most jobs let you earn a living. Being God’s child lets you have Life!
So, what are the necessary qualifications? The one you’re interviewing with looks for one thing: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) How do you measure up to that required qualification?
Our resume should really look more like this: “I think way too highly of myself. I need someone to take me down a peg or two. I think I’m better than other people.” The truth is, like John, we don’t have the qualifications necessary to untie a shoe.
And that was John’s message. He told people how they weren’t qualified for the job. Why would anyone ever listen to that sort of a message? Why would anyone travel out into the desert to hear a man tell them that? They went because it was true. The men and women who came to John recognized that they had no hope of getting the position.
But John didn’t let them leave empty-handed. And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 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. (Mark 1:4-5) Before they left, the people confessed their sins. Publicly. They didn’t hide anything. They weren’t full of themselves. They didn’t think, “Well, at least I’m smart” or “At least I work hard.” They stood before God and each other and said, simply, “I am a sinner.” And John baptized them. This wasn’t just a washing of water, though. It wasn’t just a removal of dirt from the body. This was a baptism “for the forgiveness of sins.” The people left… forgiven. That baptism brought them joy. The joy of knowing that they were forgiven.
And you… you, too, are baptized. In baptism, you confess the embarrassing reality: You, by your very nature, not just in little mistakes or slip-ups, but in who you are, can never live up to God’s requirements. You need to become new. In being baptized, in remembering your baptisms, you confess. You confess all the many, many times you have not lived up to God’s requirements. You show your resume, just like John did. You admit that you don’t have the requirements necessary. In fact, you are the absolute worst person for the position of God’s child.
But in baptism… you are made anew. St. Peter writes, “baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” (I Peter 3:21-22) St. Paul writes to Titus, “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, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7) Your baptism brought you forgiveness. And did you notice in that last verse? “So that… we might become heirs.” He gave us baptism so that we could receive the position of God’s children. Heirs in his household! God says: Your sins are forgiven, washed away. Baptism brings joy to us! It wipes us clean and makes us children of God.
But it doesn’t just bring joy to us. It brings joy to God, too. If the purpose of baptism is to wash clean of sins and make us children of God, why would Jesus ever need to be baptized? After all, he’s already God’s Son. He never sinned!
Jesus had already become human. In his baptism, though, Jesus throws his lot in with sinners. He says, “I will do what they need to do. I don’t need to do it, but I choose to do it. I submit to what they need.”
And his baptism brought joy to God. At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. (Mark 1:9-10) Jesus’ baptism caused the Holy Spirit so much joy, he descended to celebrate with Jesus. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) And God the Father announced that he was delighted with Jesus! God the Father announced that here was a man who had all the qualifications to be his Son. He was pleased with Jesus. Jesus had the ideal resume: he was perfect.
And now, he had thrown his lot in with sinners. He threw his lot in with us. He agreed to his Father’s plan. For three years he publicly taught, and he continued having the perfect resume. And in his death, he took away all the blemishes on our resumes. And in his resurrection, he credited his own resume to each of us.
And now your baptism brings joy to God, too. In your baptism, you are washed clean. And at that time, God looks down from heaven and announces, “You are my child, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” You see, in your baptism, you receive the qualifications necessary to get the position of being a child of God. Remember the qualifications? “Be perfect.”
But now all those sins you have committed are dead. In fact, you are dead. Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. (Romans 6:3-4) In baptism, your old sinful nature drowns. It is buried and dead. And now, you’re someone new. Someone to whom God says, “You are my child. You are perfect because your sins have been taken away from you. With you I am well pleased.” He delights in you.
So live this new life you have received. You weren’t baptized so that you could continue putting new bad marks on your resume. You’ve been accepted into the position of God’s child – so act like it.
And the Bible shows us a most excellent way. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:3-5) If you think of yourselves in the proper way, you will look to others and see their needs. You will consider them better than yourself. So you’re not helping them because you’re supposed to… but because they are more important than you.
Your attitude should be the same of Christ Jesus… who humbled himself and became human. Who threw in his lot with us sinners when he was baptized. And you have been baptized. You have been washed clean. Your baptism brings you joy. It gives you the qualifications necessary to be a child of God. Rejoice in receiving those qualifications. Rejoice in your forgiveness and in your adoption. And live so that you demonstrate who you are: You are a child of God. You’ve got the position. Now be who you are.
Rejoice. You are a child of God.