Wednesday after the Second Sunday after Christmas
Scripture: St. Mark 1:1-8 (NKJV)
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” 3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.'” 4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. 8 I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
John is not comparing his baptism to the baptism that Jesus will command. They are the same. John is comparing his office to the office of Jesus when he says, “I indeed baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John’s baptism certainly gave the Holy Spirit because it was a baptism “of repentance for the remission of sins.” Repentance and the remission of sins are both gifts of Christ as St. Peter says in Acts 5:31, “Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Whether Jesus gives these gifts through John’s baptism or the baptism administered by His apostles matters not. What matters is Jesus giving His gifts through baptism.
Jesus’ earthly ministry began with baptism and concluded with His baptismal command to teach all nations, baptize them, and teach them to observe all the things He had taught them. As baptism serves as bookends for Jesus earthly ministry, so baptism serves as bookends for our life with Christ in the world. Our life in Christ begins at Holy Baptism, where we are saved from our sins, cleansed of our hereditary curse, and named with the name of the Triune God, becoming His sons and daughters. All our life is lived in the baptismal promises, promises that God made to us in those waters, not promises that we made to Him. For we rely on those promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation every day. As we close our eyes in death, we die still treasuring those baptismal promises, for they never fail and remain forever.