The Baptism of Our Lord: Genesis 1:1-5: Creation Teaches Us About Re-Creation

To the first ticking of time, and before the creation of time, Moses takes us back to the beginning.  From his words, he allows us to peek into those moments of prehistory when only God existed, and we find primordial chaos.  One thing is evident—in the emptiness of the void, life is powerless to blossom and grow.

The Hebrew words used to describe this stage of pre-creation are tohu wabohu.  A challenging phrase to translate.  Those words mean something like “empty formlessness,” “shapeless and lacking order,” or if you want to wax lyrical, “waste and welter.”  The point is clear—life is unable to exist in such turmoil, only being able to prosper if the chaos changes into something life-affirming.

In this time before time, we discover an absence.  How ironic, for this non-existence is also chaotic—cold and dark.  For what is coldness but a deficiency of warmth, darkness but the lack of light.  So, we learn life demands more than a decrease of the harmful.  The goodness emanating from God must also come.  For without His active intervention, the absence of Him is chaotic and devoid of life.

So, in the abyss, God creates the world by the power of His Word.  “Be light” (Genesis 1:3).  At once, light beams forth—brightness, shining, and warmth.  Now, everything changes, with a heavenly light spilling into every part of creation.  From the words, which He spoke, matter and energy came to be.

In the same way, God continued creating, calling something into being.  From nothingness, land, water, sky, trees, birds, fish, and animals all came to be.

“Did God say?”  Those seeds of doubt, implanted with cunning, begin the cascade of sin, which will unravel so much of what God did.  The Devil’s conniving seeks to destroy Eve, Adam, and everything else with them.  Still, the evil one is not God.

Only God can call what did not earlier exist and bring them into being.  The devil cannot.  Though he may try, neither can he dissolve us into nonexistence.  Oh, he can twist this creation into something resembling him, which is what we experience.  A world wrenched with disobedience, people filled with self-serving thoughts, and creatures whose lives end in death.

So, the mayhem returned, roaring back in the form of a seductive serpent and a bite of fruit from the forbidden tree.  The fall into sin announces to all—living in this fallen world will be a pitched battle against chaos.  Cut off from the Creator, the first man and woman and all their descendants are now trapped in a creation doing its best to tear itself apart.  Such evil and so close to us, for we are one of its sources.

What happened to the perfect creation is so depressing.  How heartbreaking for God’s once-beautiful world and His once-perfect people to kink and warp in what we are now.  The disturbing chaos is here, once again, but this time within the created order, not before or outside of its existence.

Every day, you and I experience this.  For we can sense the disorder stalking us like a predator hunting its prey.  The desolation continues pursuing us when we lose a job or when we need to pay our bills.  In the hospital and at the funeral home, our noses burn from its caustic bite trying to swallow us whole.

In our addictions and depression, we unearth this barren waste taking shape.  In persecution and when ungodly agendas force their ways down our cultural throats, its sharp tooth cuts us, once more.  Name your malice or vice—violence, abuse, neglect, the sins we commit with our hands, minds, and hearts—they all beckon us back to the edge of the abyss.

The sin we brought into our existence causes God to ache for us, who weeps each time we fall back in.  The angels shudder every time we forget God.  The saints cry out for us in our current reality, where we too often forfeit life for death.

The anarchy around, and in, us must die if life is to endure.  The enemies of sin, Satan, and death must no longer enslave us.  Though correct, we are too weak to change this, and this cosmic task is too crushing for the likes of you and me.  The violent chaos in our lives confront us, and we howl.  “Stop the insanity!  Help me escape!”

Like before, our God hovers over the chaotic oblivion, this time of our construction, and everything changes.  “Be formed,” and His Son grows and stirs to life within the Virgin Mary.  With His mighty Word, sin’s confusion will soon break, for He now arrives to bring life amid our destruction.  This time, He will not come to create life out of nothingness, but to restore what we befouled.

So Jesus came to be baptized in the Jordan.  Blessed by the Spirit in the flowing water, the Father sent forth His only Son to become a life-renewing creation for us in this world.  Remember how God first created.  The Word called everything into being while the hovering Spirit breathed over the waters.

In our Lord’s baptism, we realize God does not leave us in decay.  For in His baptism, Jesus takes plain water and binds the wetness to His crucifixion and death—all to give us life unending.  Not because He needed to; no, because of His limitless love.

In our Lord’s baptism, we begin to grasp how He reshapes us.  Did Jesus go into the moving waters for Himself because He required regeneration?  No, but He did realize you did.  Neither did He die on the cross for His sins or His wicked deeds, for He committed no such acts.  Still, Jesus recognized you did.  So, He also rose from the dead for you, so you will also rise from death into all eternity.

Like at creation’s dawn, remember the uproar of evil still threatens to overtake us.  Like at life’s beginning, the eternal and living Word brings order, peace, and salvation.  Not only did His Word create this universe, but became blood and flesh in Jesus Christ, re-creating you and me.  Why?  To save us from sin, death, and the forces of darkness.

The incarnate Word came to us at Bethlehem.  Today, we remember Him standing in the Jordan River to break the madness.  The mighty Son of God stands with us lowly sinners.  My, yours, and the sins of the entire world gushed down on His head as Jesus undergoes a sinner’s baptism.  The Father who called light into the darkness now praises the Light of the world.  An affirmation cries out from heaven on Jesus, “You are my beloved Son.  With you, I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

So, on this day, we celebrate more than Jesus’ baptism.  For we also rejoice in being joined to Him through the saving waters, which He sanctified.  The same voice, which called forth the first creation, calls forth another one—in you.  Now, He will take water to give us the birth of life from above.  In the swirling baptismal waters, life will arise and flourish when poured down upon us.

The Apostle Paul informs us about this.  “All who are baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death….  For if we are united with him in the likeness of his death, we will also be united with him in the likeness of his resurrection” (Romans 6:3, 5).  For “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is passed away, and the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

So, on this day, we delight in the Holy Spirit remaking our bodies through His use of water connected to the Word.  A different creation now exists, coming to fullness when we rise from the dust and ashes of death on the Last Day.  Though sickness and sin, darkness and disease corrupt and fill our physical bodies, so also does our Lord.  For you are more than a sinner, but also a saint.  So a physical, Easter rising from the grave into life eternal is also awaiting you.

No more do your souls need to lust.  Now, you can long for a life lived in your saving Lord.  Now, as someone created anew, your ears can welcome God’s Word and crave to receive its life-giving graces.  Though your senses will slow and fail as death approaches, they will tingle on the day of resurrection.  For all the children of God will be raised from the darkness of decay and death into eternal life.

In a way no one dared to imagine, God the Son created us again.  Not in power, but in weakness.  In humility and servitude, lowliness and stripes, and by a cross with nails and a spear thrust into His side.

At the place called “Skull Hill,” Jesus restores a fallen world and rescues hell-bent sinners by dying their death.  In His baptized and crucified flesh, He redeems our fallen, sinful flesh.  By removing the sin separating us from His Father, Jesus’ death reconciles us to God.

The One who brought order to upheaval, perfection to the formless, and paradise to the empty gloom of non-existence, does so also for you.  Only His perfect life frees you from your wretchedness.  In the eyes of your loving Father, His beauty transforms your ugliness and makes you stunning again.

Beloved in Christ, futility is not your fate.  The turbulence of sin, death, and devil is powerless over you.  For God not only created you but re-created you in Jesus Christ, your Lord.  The Spirit of God hovered over the ancient waters at the moment of creation.  The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at the Jordan River.  This same Spirit washed and made you anew at your Baptism.

How can we not thank God for our baptized, executed, and resurrected Lord Jesus?  For only He broke the power of chaos and death, bringing us into His kingdom.  Remember, God did not abandon you, and He never will.  Amen.