“Clean” means different things to different people. To the five-year-old who can hardly wait for lunch, clean means wiping his hands off on his jeans before showing Mom. To a surgeon about to replace a heart valve, clean means a vigorous scrubbing of hands and nails with antibacterial soap and a stiff brush. Clean matters. Without washing and getting the dirt off his face and hands, a child won’t get lunch. Without hands which are even cleaner, a doctor may cause an infection in his patient.
But how clean does one need to be to sit down at the feast in God’s kingdom? David writes in Psalm 24: “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps. 24:3-4). Soap and water won’t wash off the filth of our sins any more than Pilate could wash the guilt off his conscience by washing his hands before the Jews. Hand sanitizer won’t make us look any better before the God who searches the heart and knows our every wayward thought. There is nothing we can do. Trying to improve ourselves before God only makes matters worse. “Who can bring what is pure from the impure? No one!” (Job 14:4).
That is, no one but God. He does the impossible. He has made us clean with just a few sprinkles of water combined with His powerful Word. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). In baptism the Lord cleanses us from sin and makes us cleaner than clean, so that from head to foot we are holy in His eyes, covered with the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
When a child’s hands are clean he won’t hesitate to show them to Mom. Free from germs and bacteria, a doctor’s hands are ready to get to work. With hearts cleansed in baptism, we don’t have to fear coming before God tomorrow to hear His Word. He has made us His own beloved children and heirs of eternal life. He has given us new hearts that we might use our hands to serve Him in love.
Tomorrow we are celebrating Baptism Sunday, a time to remember the cleansing power of the sacrament and how the Lord wants all nations to be baptized and receive the blessings of salvation. The sermon text, John 3:1-8, is the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Jewish ruler Nicodemus. The Lord speaks of baptism as a spiritual rebirth, being “born again.” We look forward to witnessing two baptisms tomorrow: Elijah Nelson and Mani Hamid.
The service tomorrow is at 9:30 a.m. (only one!). The Sunday School will be singing. No Sunday school classes or Bible class.
In Jesus’ service,