Messages from Pastor Raddatz

December 20, 2020 Mount Olive Lutheran Church Houston TX


Matthew 3:13-17

Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV), Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Grace, mercy and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

The scallop shell, an ancient symbol of Holy Baptism. It reminds us not only of our Baptism but also of the One whose Baptism sanctifies our own. John was the final prophet who proclaimed the kingdom of God, which was coming into the world. And then, Jesus appeared at the Jordan River to be baptized by John. As Jesus was baptized, the Spirit descended as a dove upon Him and a voice proclaimed Him to be not just Mary’s Son but the Son of God. Here at last was the true Seed promised from the beginning. Here was life!


Jesus is perfect and John is not, but Jesus asks to be baptized by John.  This is being done for Jesus is beginning his earthly ministry.   He is the seed of Jesse’s tree.   He is our savior.  Since God is pleased with his son, he is pleased with us.   We have been baptized into Christ.   His righteousness becomes ours.

The Lord had raised up a prophet named John to prepare the way of the Christ through proclamation and Baptism. Through Palestine ran the Jordan River, a life-giving source, as its waters irrigated land and quenched the thirst of all. At this river, John stood and preached repentance and baptized all who came.

Then one day, it happens. Jesus comes to the Jordan to be baptized by John, who sees Him, recognizes Him, and states he, John, should rather be baptized by Jesus (Matthew 3:13–14). Yet Jesus had come to fulfill all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). At the Jordan River, the truth of who Jesus was would be revealed, no matter what the human eye saw in this Nazarene. St. Matthew tells us, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16–17).

The world is an arid desert seemingly without hope, but God is here.

Human life can seem to be lived in a barren world. We dream of a better day that we imagine once existed for past generations. But in truth, in many ways, the golden eras of the past were not as golden as we might imagine. People then, as now, struggled for meaning and hope. Society wrestled with morality and oppression. The Church struggled to find her voice and identity in the midst of an unbelieving world. As the old adage has it, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Yet just as Palestine had the Jordan River in its midst, so the Church has her source of life-giving water. Always present, even in her darkest days of past, present, and future, is the font of water with the Word. As the Church prays in the Rite of Holy Baptism, “Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, you sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin” (LSB, p. 269). Humble water is applied through the all-too-human hands of a called and ordained servant of the Word at the command of the One baptized in the Jordan. But just as the glory of Jesus was cloaked in human flesh, so the glory of Baptism is cloaked in water and set apart by the Word of God.  


Christ never sinned (passive righteousness) and he lived the perfect life required by God (active righteousness)

            The baptism of Jesus was not like our baptism.  We are baptized because we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5), but Jesus was born without sin.  This is why the virgin birth of Jesus is important.  the Virgin Birth is important concerns the sinless character of Christ. If Jesus had a human father, then He would have inherited a sinful nature as the rest of us have. The Bible says.

  • Therefore, just as through one-man sin entered the world, and death through sin, . . . thus death spread to all, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
  • To the contrary the Scripture states that Jesus never sinned. Peter wrote, who [Jesus] committed no sin, nor was guile found in his mouth (1 Peter 2:22). 
  • The Apostle John testified, and you know that he (Jesus) was manifested to take away our sins, and in him there is no sin (1 John 3:5).
  • If Jesus were the son of Joseph, then His sinless character would only be a myth.  He is fathered by the Holy Spirit

Therefore, through baptism we are washed of all our sins

Here is the unseen but eternal truth of your Baptism expressed in the words of St. Paul: “We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Here is life—true life—arising from water sanctified by the life of Jesse’s tree, the life of the world!

            We live following Christ through the pain of this world.  Though there is pain, the beauty of God’s love remains:

ILLUSTRATION: “The Beauty remains”

I don’t think that there is any better answer to that question of why endure pain, than the one given by the great painter Renoir. 

In old age the great French painter, suffered from arthritis, which twisted and cramped his hand. Henri Matisse, his artist friend, watched sadly while Renoir, grasping a brush with only his fingertips, continued to paint, even though each movement caused stabbing pain. Matise asked Renoir why he persisted in painting at the expense of such torture. Renoir replied, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains."  (By David Smith,

We follow Christ who comes to us, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who are under the law…as you might have seen printed on T-shirts: His pain became our gain.  

  • His suffering becomes our blessing
  • His death becomes our life
  • His resurrection becomes our resurrection

Follow him even when it hurts, for the beauty of God’s strength, forgiveness and love remains.

May this peace which passes all human understanding keep your heart your mind in Christ Jesus, to life everlasting, Amen.

Pastor John Raddatz, (Adapted from Advent 2020 CPH resource “The Jesse Tree”)

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