The Man Who Is God
Text: Mark 1:4-11
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It’s easy enough to believe that God can become man. We believe that He’s all-powerful, so there’s nothing that is impossible for Him. And if we’re paying close attention as we read the Old Testament, there have been hints that this was His plan all along. It’s easy enough to believe that God could and would become man. But it is an entirely different thing to say that this or that particular man is God. In fact, if you were to say it about the wrong person, that is what we call blasphemy. Many have claimed to be God in some way or another, without proof of such a lofty claim or the support of heaven to back them up. Kings, pharaohs, emperors, cult leaders, demagogues, celebrities, spiritualist gurus, even everyday people have claimed to be God or part of God. But try as they might, they all fail at being lower case gods, let alone the one true God. They all fall short of having God’s characteristics—immortality, omnipotence, omniscience, perfect righteousness. That is to say, they all sin. They all die. Despite any worship they receive they cannot save themselves, nor can they save their worshipers.
But now in Jesus, we have a new revelation. For in Him, we see that not only can God take on human flesh, as we celebrated at Christmas, the finite containing the infinite, the meek and lowly infant Christchild who is also the Creator through whom all things were made—not only can God become man, but in Jesus, now in this Epiphany season, we rejoice that this particular man, this carpenter’s son and wandering preacher, this man is God. And He does not make this claim in the empty, proofless ways that the false messiahs and little would-be gods have done. He has the testimony of the one who was born greatest of women, John the Baptist, who says about Him: “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” And because Scripture demands two or three witness to establish the truth in any case, not only does Jesus have John the Baptist’s testimony, He also has the testimony of heaven itself, when God the Father says, “You are my beloved Son,” and the Holy Spirit descends on Him like a dove. The three strongest witnesses that anyone could have all say the same thing: this man in the Jordan River is God the Son.
And what would we expect a man who is God to do when it has been revealed that He is the One through whom all things were made? If He were to behave like all the little would-be gods, He would demand to be served. He would demand to have the glories and riches of the world piled in front of Him. That is the example that the would-be gods have set. That is what we expect when we forget that we are not the ones ruling the world, or even our own lives. But that is not how this man who is God behaves. It’s not how He has ever acted in the long history of saving His people. Rather, look at where we see Him when He is revealed for who He is. He does not stand in front of cheering crowds and admiring adorers. He stands in front of sinners lined up at a muddy river in the middle of nowhere, waiting to admit what they’ve done wrong and have their sins forgiven. And He doesn’t go to a dignitary or royal ambassador to make His announcement of His title. He goes to a wild-haired desert preacher who eats locusts and wild honey. And He does not come for accolades or wealth or glory. He comes to the Jordan River to continue on His journey to the cross, to fulfill all righteousness on behalf of those sinners on the riverbanks, the sinners standing next to every font in every church, the sinners sitting in the pews waiting to hear the good news of forgiveness. He comes to be baptized and pick up every sin that’s washed off His people in the water of every Baptism; the sins of those people there and then, the sins of every Christian who’s received Baptism ever since, the sins you have had washed off you in your own Baptism, where your old nature is still daily dunked under the water and your scrubbed clean every hour of your life. He comes not to be served, but to serve; not to hoard the treasures and blessings of heaven, but to share them with you. Even the Father’s announcement, “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased,” is shared with you. In Baptism, because of all that Jesus accomplished for you, now God the Father looks at you and sees His beloved child with whom He is well pleased.
While every little would-be god demands more and more of their followers, and while we find ourselves so greedy for gain and all that we can collect and hoard, we see a different scene with Jesus and the realization that this man is the eternal God who makes the Father known to us. And He’s not come to take more and more from us or demand perfection from us. He’s come to fulfill all righteousness for us. He’s come to do what we cannot. He’s come to be the God that we’ve needed all along. And He’ll show us that throughout this Epiphany season. With every miracle, with every healing, with every display of mercy and forgiveness and grace, we’ll see the God that we need the most—whether it’s mercy in the Scripture lessons or heard in the absolution; whether it’s forgiveness for someone in the Gospel reading or forgiveness in His body and blood here. We’re going to see the God that drew wise men from the east. We’re going to see the God who walks in the dust of this fallen world for the sake of His people. We’re going to see the God who will go all the way to the cross and die for us, who will go through death and hell and rise again so that we can be with Him forever. Nothing will stop Him now that His mission has begun—not your disease or pain, not your sin, not temptation, not even death will get in His way as He comes to you. Look to Baptism and behold the man. Behold your God. In the name of Jesus, who washes you clean. Amen.