Can you imagine if every Baptism was like the Baptism of Jesus? Can you imagine, as the water has been applied to the baby, the Holy Spirit swoops down like a dove to settle on the newly baptized? Can you imagine the voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved child, whom I love”? What a wonder that would be. What a thrill, what a blessing it would be to have visible and audible signs from God that each person who is baptized, whether child or adult, is now washed by God Himself and is now pleasing in His sight. Those who doubt the power of Baptism; those who doubt that the words “all nations” apply even to infants; those who believe that a sinner must make a decision to give their heart to Jesus before they can be baptized—surely they would recognize what a blessing Baptism really is. Surely they would know without a doubt that Baptism is God’s work to wash away our sins, not our work to show how much we love Jesus. Surely they would recognize that Baptism is not a sign of our faith, but that it creates faith within us. Surely they would recognize that Baptism opens the Kingdom to us. God’s Word tells us these things, but maybe if the doubters saw the Spirit and heard the Father’s voice, they might change their minds.
It is precisely because they cannot see or hear the evidence that the unbeliever denies the power of Baptism. It is precisely because there is nothing visibly miraculous about Baptism that some within the Church teach that Baptism is our work instead of God’s work. “Surely there must be something more to this,” says the person who believes Baptism is a decision we make, something we must understand before we can accept it.
But water itself is a powerful thing—just ask Pastor Buetow, whose house and office in New Orleans were devastated by the flood waters caused by Hurricane Katrina; ask the people in Indonesia whose homes are ruined with every tsunami; ask someone who is literally dying of thirst. And when the power of the Word of God is added to water, it is “not just plain water”; it “works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.” Anyone who asks more than that from Baptism must not think that forgiveness and salvation are the greatest gifts God gives.
And that’s especially true when you consider where Baptismal water comes from. Baptismal water is bloody. The same Christ who went into the Jordan to fulfill the Law for sinners? He then went to the cross, where that baptized body was stripped, whipped, nailed down. At His death, the ones who nailed Him to the cross shoved a spear in His side, and water and blood flowed out. That bloody water is what washes you clean from your sin. It covers you as a robe of righteousness, so that, when the Father looks at you, all He sees is His holy and sinless Son. He looks at that righteousness, and He welcomes you just as He welcomes His Son.
So no, you don’t hear the voice of the Father from heaven. No, you don’t see the Holy Spirit swooping down like a dove to settle on the newly baptized. But our Lord does speak to you: in His Word and through the mouths of His called servants. The Holy Spirit does rest upon you. And when you emerged from those Baptismal waters, the name of God was written upon your forehead and upon your heart. You are His child. He feeds you with the body and blood of Christ. And by these gifts, the Father declares Himself “well pleased” with you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.