"Why can't you be more like your brother? He's the responsible one?" "Why can't you be more like your sister? She always cleans up her room when I tell her." "Why can't yo be more like her husband...he's always fixing stuff when it breaks?" Why can't you be more like...? Oh, come on. If we're going to do that, let's go all in! Why can't you be more like JESUS! Why can't you act more like He does, all loving and well-behaved and all that. The fact is, we could do that. We could play the "Jesus card" and lay it out for people that they need to act more like the Son of God. But that misses the entire point of what Jesus is all about, doesn't it? Today, we arrive at the Jordan River to see the camel-hair-wearing-locust-eating prophet John baptizing sinners. Sinners show up. Sinners confess their sins. John washes them away in the river. But wait, what's this? Jesus is showing up? To be baptized? With the sinners? John gets it. He thinks like us. "Jesus, I gotta be more like you! You're the spotless Lamb of God. You should be doing the baptizing." But Jesus has not showed up to tell the world, "Hey! Look at me! Act like me! Be like me!" He has arrived at the Jordan River to delare to the world, "I will be like you. You are sinners? Then I will be as one of you. I will take on your sins and make them my own so I can take them to Calvary and get rid of them by my suffering and death." Being saved, being a Christian, being a saint, is not about you being like Jesus. It's about Him becoming like you, taking on your sins, making them His own, and saving you from them. That's why Jesus shows up to get baptized today.
But there's more. Jesus does this so that you WILL be like Him. And by that I don't mean you'll improve a bit here and there. Jesus doesn't get in that water so you can have a nice example to follow. He is baptized with the sinners so that you will be perfect. Holy. Innocent. No guilt. No sins. And this isn't something you strive for or work at. It's something that is given to you. It's yours! Just as our sins are given to Him at His baptism, so His perfection and righteousness is given to you in yours. Paul told us in the epistle reading: Jesus has become for you the wisdom of God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Righteousness because you won't get right trying to live right. You're right with God because Jesus goes to Calvary to die and rises the third day. Sanctification because you won't be a holy person trying to imitate Jesus. You're sanctified, holy, because Jesus is holy and perfect and has taken all your sins away. You can't redeem yourself; you can't make up for your sins and work your way out of them. Jesus is your redemption because He trades places with you, swaps His innocence for your sins and gives you His righteousness in place of your transgressions. Get it? It's all Jesus doing this.
And all of that makes you God's beloved son, too. Your baptism: You are God's beloved. He loves you! Christ's body and blood? Makes you the Father's beloved. You got Jesus and His righteousness. You got the Father's "atta boy!" spoken about you. You got the Spirit on you that declares you are the object of God's loves and forgiveness in Jesus Christ. And so for the new man in Christ, there IS some imitation. We want to imitate the Father who says of Jesus, that is my beloved son. We want to imitate the Father saying that about other people. Look around you. At your brothers and sisters in Christ. At your families and friends and coworkers. They are beloved by God in Christ Jesus. How could you see them any other way? How could you call them sinners or think less of them for their faults and mistakes when God Himself cannot? There you go! There's some repentance: Be more like the Father, which means merciful to those who have been redeemed by Jesus. They, like you, have had their sins answered for by Jesus' death. He became for them, as for you, their righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. You couldn't possibly see them any other way! You can't be more like Jesus! You're as like Jesus as you'll ever be because He has clothed you with His own righteousness. You couldn't be more like Jesus if you tried. When the Father looks at you, that's what He sees. And when you look at others, well, that's what you see too: Jesus. And in Him, there is nothing but everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Because He became one of us and took our sins upon Himself to save you. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Matthew