Midweek Lent 3: How Can Water Do Such Great Things?

Lessons: LSB 580, 559, 421
Hymns: Psalm 29, Titus 3:1-11, John 3:1-21

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

      There are not many compound substances in which a large portion of the population know the chemical formula. Yet, when it comes to water, many rightly know water’s chemical formula as H2O. That is, each molecule contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Water is the liquid state, ice is the solid state, and steam or vapor is the gaseous state. Given that water is inorganic, transparent, tasteless, odorless, and nearly colorless with no calories or nutrients, it would seem that water should serve no useful function. Yet, water is the main fluid in living organisms and water is necessary for life to continue. Water makes up nearly two-thirds of the human body. As scientists vainly look for life on faraway planets, they are searching out other planets which have liquid water on their surfaces. In fact, NASA describes water “the molecule of life” and one of their guiding policies is to “follow the water” as they search other planets. (As an aside, the Scriptures do not suggest that God chose to create life outside of Earth).

      Water is not living, yet the living cannot live without water. Some creatures cannot live outside the water and others cannot live in the water. God’s creation is simply amazing. This is by His design.

      Water is a component of Holy Baptism. Without the water, there is no Baptism. Yet water alone is also no Baptism. So what does Baptism do? As we learned last week, “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this.” That’s a rather tall order for the waters of Holy Baptism!

      This makes us ask the question, “How can water do such great things?” This is perhaps not so much different than the question posed by Nicodemus, “How can these things be?” Jesus replies, “Truly, truly, I saw to you, We speak of what We know, and bear witness to what We have seen.”

      God knows all things. And He speaks to us that which He would have us know. How can water do such great things? How can it be?

      Just as nothing can live without water by God’s design, so also the life-giving blessings brought about by the waters of Holy Baptism are by God’s design. For God established Baptism. God offers the benefits of Baptism. God declares what Baptism is and what Baptism does. God works through Baptism. Therefore, Baptism is a means by which God delivers to sinners the forgiveness of sins earned by Jesus on the cross. Baptism is also a means by which God rescues us from death and grants eternal life. Baptism is a means by which God delivers us from Satan’s domain and places us into God’s most glorious domain.

      So how do we obtain this life-giving, Satan-defeating, sin-forgiving water? Do we go to the Jordan River? Do we pull it from the Holy Land? Must we go to one of those special holy water faucets found in some Catholic Churches? Does the Pastor do something to the water prior to its use in Baptism? The answer to all of these questions is “no.” We may use ordinary water. Here, that water flows down the Missouri River, goes through our water treatment plant built in 1883, runs through pipes old and new underground through Lexington until they come out of the tap in our sacristy. That is the water we use for baptisms. There is no ceremony to bless the water prior to its use in the Sacrament. Instead, ordinary water is applied while the Word is spoken in Baptism.

      You see, water is water. When instituting Baptism, God did not command where the water should come from or what to do with water prior to its use in Baptism. So, we simply use city water to conduct a Baptism. For it is not just water that makes a Baptism a Baptism. Instead, it is water and the Word.

      Late one night, a Pharisee named Nicodemus came up to Jesus and Jesus instructed him. Jesus told Nicodemus that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus is referring to Holy Baptism. Water and the Spirit go hand in hand—in Baptism. Then Jesus adds, “That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

      You see, we are all born of the flesh. We have a sinful flesh which we have inherited from Adam. We are born sinners. And this original sin—this original guilt—condemns us all.

      If we were not born of this original sin, we could choose to do good. We could make ourselves pure and good and holy.

      In fact, left to our own devices, we could not do what we are instructed to do in Titus 3. In our day, few want to be submissive to rulers and authorities. You can see that not only from the rude words spoken by all who don’t fit one political persuasion or another, but also by the Prince Harry and Princess Meghan interview and the uproar that has caused.

      Many, claiming they are free from the Law, or thinking that the Law is now unnecessary because works of the Law do not save, now assert that they do not need to be obedient, ready for every good work. It is hard to speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, being gentle, and showing perfect courtesy toward all people. Yet, that’s what we, as God’s children who are baptized into His family are instructed to do.

      When we fail, we return to our Baptism. We don’t go ahead with a rebaptism, but we plead guilty of our sin and Christ Jesus who died on the cross at Calvary washes our sin away. For our Baptism cleanses us of the original sin we have inherited and the actual sins we committed both before and after our Baptism.

      God has attached His promises to this Sacrament. He joins us to the death and resurrection of Jesus in this Sacrament. And, as we heard from Titus 3:5-8, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so, that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” Baptism is a washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

      Ordinary water of itself could not do these things. But God has attached His Word to the water. Then through the water and the Word, God is at work to bless. His Word is living and active. And through His Word, life is brought to us, even in Holy Baptism.

      The things God accomplishes through water is miraculous. That water sustains life is amazing. Yet, it is even more miraculous what God does in the waters of Holy Baptism. He uses this water to cleanse and purify us of all sin.

      This forgiveness is ours because Jesus died for us shedding His innocent Blood on our behalf as the ransom payment for our sin. He did not remain dead, but rose to give us life and salvation.

      Now God has chosen to touch us and bless us through water and the Word. In Him we have life. Life everlasting. When combined with God’s Word, water certainly does great things! Amen.  

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen