First Sunday after New Year's Day
Prophet Elisha said to one pagan who was a leper, "Go and wash yourself in Jordan's stream," but this pagan Naaman became wroth and said, "Are not the waters of Syria better than all the waters of Israel?" 2. Kings 5: 10-12.
This example shows to us that all pagans become angry when such work is put before them where the mind becomes offended. The pagan Naaman had heard that in Israel could be found a prophet who could heal all kinds of sickness. When now in Syria there could not be found such who could heal leprosy, then this pagan decided to go to the prophet Elisha, but he thought that the prophet would put his hand upon him and recite some saying of sorcery as sorcerers usually do. But when prophet Elisha did not come to speak to him with beautiful words, but commanded him to go and wash himself in the river Jordan, then the pagan became angry at the prophet and said, "Are not the waters of Syria better than the waters of Israel?" The words of the prophet effected such obstinateness in the blind intellect of the pagan, as if some Christian here would have told some pagan that he should begin to make repentance of his colon. And I think that all pagans would have become angry with the prophet because of that word. Natural man imagines that a Christian should speak to him with beautiful and sweet words, as you yourself know what kind of thoughts you had of this Christianity when this awakening was first heard of. If the character of Christianity would have been such, that sweet gospel sermons would have effected the right awakening, then truly the Christians and pagans would have taken you around the neck. But John preached sin to be sin in the wilderness of Judea and baptized in the river Jordan, and preached the pious Pharisees to be a generation of vipers and revealed Who would come after him. Who had been "before him, Who would "baptise with the Holy Ghost and fire. Now we understand why "baptism in the river Jordan was such a powerful cure for all lepers, who wanted to be cleansed from the leprosy of sin, but the pagan did not understand that in that water should be such a power to cure leprosy. Nevertheless, that pagan Naaman became healed of his leprosy when he had washed himself the first time in the river Jordan.
We should now ask as Luther, "How can water produce so great an effect?" Water is such a substance, through which the filth of the body is washed away and cleansed. But when the question arises of the leprosy of sin, which reaches to the soul, then the intellect becomes blind, when he wants to understand how baptism effects the forgiveness of sins. This is not such an ordinance that the intellect would comprehend it, but through faith we must receive it. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned," even if he were baptized ten times.
Today we must behold how the Saviour is baptized. But those few souls who observe how the Saviour is baptized, raise your eyes und look up if the heavens open and if the Holy Spirit comes upon Him as a dove, and surmise that, that if the Holy Spirit does not come upon the baptized one, then the baptism does not effect anything. Pray, all baptized ones, that the Holy Spirit would come upon you, that you would be able to believe, for baptism worketh forgiveness of sins and gives eternal life to all who believe. Hear the sighs of the penitent, You Founder of Baptism, our Father, etc.
The Gospel: Matthew 3: 13-17
We hear in today's Holy Gospel that Jesus came to John and asked to be baptized. He Who had no sin, truly did not need to receive sins forgiven through baptism, but He wanted to set an example for sinners and to sanctify this sacrament.
We must now observe through God's grace the benefit and necessity of baptism, when Luther says that baptism worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil and gives eternal life to all those who believe.
We must now consider, First: How baptism worketh the forgiveness of sins. Second: How baptism delivers from death and the devil. Third: How baptism gives eternal life to all those who believe.
First. Baptism worketh the forgiveness of sins. Have all the baptized ones now received their sins forgiven? Do not all baptized believe that and even those also who believe, often want to be wavering in faith and life. They do not want to be steadfast in the covenant, and some depend on that new birth which has happened in baptism. But those few souls who have been baptized not only with water, but with the Holy Ghost and with fire, can believe that in the washing of the new birth they have received all their sins forgiven and have "become children of God,
Second. How baptism delivers from death and the devil. They who remain in that covenant of baptism through the renewing of the Holy Spirit, through war and striving, can be delivered from spiritual death and also from eternal death, if they remain steadfast in their faith to the end. Baptism also delivers the believers from the devil, that the devil does not have any power over those who through God's grace win over the temptations of the devil and the world.
Third. How baptism gives eternal life to all those who believe and through God's grace have become assured of the forgiveness of sins, for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. And when the Bible says that the righteous shall live by faith, then it can be surmised that no other can live by faith, than he who through true repentance and living faith has become justified. There is eternal life, that the righteous live by faith.
What does baptism signify? That the Old Adam must be drowned and destroyed by daily sorrow and repentance. This explanation of Luther is also very important for the Christians to remember, for the Old Adam also wants to come out in a Christian through unwatchfulness. If Old Adam does not become drowned and destroyed in the river Jordan, in daily sorrow and repentance, he will soon become a lord. Many have lost their faith and gone to hell because of Old Adam.
Now the Heavenly Parent is washing His children in the river Jordan, that they would be cleansed when the visitors come from heaven. "Ye are clean, but not all." Go now, all black tartars, to the river Jordan and let the Parent wash and cleanse your souls, for you through your own washing can do nothing. But do not howl, you fools, because the Parent washes you with cold water and also puts soap in your eyes, for you will not become clean otherwise. The Parent wants that His children would be clean; He cannot show the black ones to the visitors. Come to get yourselves washed, that the Heavenly Parent could show you to the visitors who come from heaven. Who knows the visitors will soon come from heaven. Soon you will get to bathe in the river of life so that you will become white and clean and shining as the angels. Amen.