The Baptism of Our Lord, 2021

Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

“What are you waiting for?”

That’s the question, right?

The question we ask other people.

The question we ask ourselves.

The self-help question of New Year’s resolutions.

That’s the question John the Baptist asks in Matthew chapter eleven.

And that’s the question Jesus asks today, essentially.

So—what are you waiting for?

Sometimes you’re just waiting for tomorrow, thinking you know what tomorrow brings or that it’ll at least be better than today.

Or—you’re waiting for next week or next month.

Or next time, the next paycheck, or the next visit.

Whatever it is, sometimes you’re just waiting for the next one, because this one isn’t it.

Or you’re waiting for “them” whoever they are.

Sometimes you wait for them to calm down.

Or you wait for them to realize.

And you’ll even wait for them to apologize.

But you’re always waiting on them and not the other way around.

We’re waiting for the world, too.

The world needs, simultaneously, to catch up and to slow down. It’s falling behind the times and getting ahead of itself. And we’re waiting—waiting—waiting for the world to change.

In Matthew chapter eleven, John the Baptist wonders what Jesus is waiting for. He “sent word by his disciples and said to [Jesus], ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” (Matthew 11:2-3).

He wondered what Jesus was waiting for, because John had preached repentance to the Pharisees and Sadducees, that brood of vipers, saying, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. [And] every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-8, 10).

John thought that was happening—now—with the Christ dwelling among us.

That’s what he expected, but that wasn’t happening.

Rather: “The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5).

John wasn’t wrong.

He knew that there was one coming who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (cf. Matthew 3:11).

“His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat in to the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). That’s how John tells of the coming Christ.

But later on, when John sends word by his disciples and asks Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come?” He’s essentially asking Jesus, “What are you waiting for?”

And that’s how it feels sometimes.

What is God waiting for?

What’s He doing?

Why do I have to put up with this or that or him or her?

God can’t possibly want me to spend the next fifty years hating life, right?

So what’s He waiting for?

And really, He’s waiting for you.

I talk a lot about the book of Job, I know, but that book teaches the Christian how to bear the cross, and “relatively few contemporary Christians are prepared to suffer for the faith, because the therapeutic society that formed them denies the purpose of suffering in the first place, and the idea of bearing pain for the sake of the truth seems ridiculous” (Dreher, Live Not By Lies, 13).

In the book of Job, God relents and restores only after Job suffers tragically and for some time, only after Job despises himself, sits in dust and ashes, and repents.

That’s what God was waiting for.

Repentance and faith.

That’s what God is waiting for.

He’s waiting for you, and everyone who will, to repent.

He’s waiting for you, and everyone who will, to believe, trust, hold fast to, and confess Jesus as Lord and God.

But Job teaches this lesson, the harder lesson, first: God doesn’t tell us the duration of our suffering. He only demonstrates that He’s willing to see it through.

What’s He waiting for?

He’s waiting for you.

So hear the Word of God, then. Repent. Hold fast to Jesus Christ. Be willing to lose the world—and your life even—for the sake of the truth.

John wondered what Jesus was waiting for, and Jesus said, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me” (Matthew 11:6).

So take no offense at the duration of God’s waiting.

He’s waiting for you.

He’s waiting—patiently—bringing you through this ordeal and these tribulations—the sufferings of this present age—so that you would more fully rely on Him and be conformed to the image of His Son who suffered for the truth and endured.

What’s He waiting for?

He’s waiting for you.

But today, Jesus also asks John what He’s waiting for.

“Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. [But] John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:13-15).

So—Jesus said to John, basically, “What are you waiting for?”

And then John relented.

John knew Jesus needed no repentance.

John knew Jesus was without sin, that—behold—this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

John knew that—eventually—the axe would be laid to the tree, the threshing floor would be cleared, and the chaff would be burned with unquenchable fire.

That’s what he expected, but that wasn’t happening.

Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit none of us can reconcile God’s wrath with God’s mercy.

It makes no sense to John for Jesus to be treated as a sinner, and so it makes perfect sense that John would have prevented this baptism.

But here’s what John didn’t know. Here’s what John was immediately convinced of: you wait for the Lord.

For no one else and no longer.

Wait for the Lord.

John must baptize Jesus because God has worked all of Creation to this moment. Jesus says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

John’s place in the salvation of the world is to treat as a sinner the one who is without sin, to baptize Jesus, the Son of God.

“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).

John would have prevented it.

But it’s as if Jesus says, “What are you waiting for? Don’t you know that it’s necessary for me to do this? Unless I’m made to be sin on your behalf, you cannot become the righteousness of God.”

“So God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Perhaps it’s a strange thought that we baptize babies because they’re sinful.

And we baptize adults because they’re sinful.

And Jesus was baptized—because we’re sinful.

But unless He takes our place and sits in the lowest seat, unless He who knew no sin is made to be sin, unless He becomes the curse, there is no cure.

Unless He waits on us, there is no salvation.

And unless we wait on Him, there is no hope.

“O Israel, hope in the Lord. For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with Him is plentiful redemption. And He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Psalm 130:7-8).

So if you’re gonna make resolutions this year, don’t set them with yourself in mind, you selfish human.

Rather, what is God waiting for?

What’s His will for you?

For your household and your family?

For your employees and your friends?

What is God’s will for this congregation?

And our community?

And with that in mind, let us all be so resolved to wait on the Lord—and in His word—to hope.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

The Baptism of Our Lord, 2021
Matthew 3:13-17
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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