Isaiah 43:1-2, 5-7

Luke 3:15-17, 21-22

“You are mine.”  Did you catch those three little words in our Old Testament Lesson? In that first verse, the Lord says, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

“You are mine.” It sounds like something stamped on Valentine candy. But then it comes up again in our gospel lesson about the baptism of Jesus. In the last verse, Luke says, “And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” You are my Son. You are mine.

Ok, Oldies time: Back in 1968, Diana Ross & The Supremes had a hit that shot up the charts and took Number One away from the Beatles. The song was “Love Child,” and the first verse went like this:

I started my life in an old, cold, rundown tenement slum.
My father left, he never even married Mom.
I shared the guilt my mama knew,
So afraid that others knew I had no name…..

Well, yes, that was 50 years ago. But even today, our identity is tied up in our name. Who ARE you!? In the Christmas story, Matthew makes a big point that it was Joseph who named the baby “Jesus.” It’s an important detail, addressing a delicate subject. Mary had been pledged to marry Joseph. In our terms, they were engaged. But they hadn’t moved in together yet, so to speak.

And all of a sudden, Mary’s pregnant and Joseph knows that he could not have been the father. In the old days before DNA tests, paternity issues were up to the man. If the man named the kid, that was his claim, his public statement: The baby is mine. So when Joseph named Jesus, that amounted to a legal adoption. He’s my son, and that’s it.

But fast-forward thirty years, and there at the Jordan River, the paternity issue comes up again. This time, it’s God himself, the voice from heaven, who overrides Joseph’s claim. God makes the legal statement of adoption. He says: “You are my Son.” And then he sweetens the pot: You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”

You might say that God was going public: You are my Son. You are mine. This is the Son of God—and by the way, my kid turned out pretty cool, didn’t he? I’m well pleased!

So why wait till the poor kid is 30 years old? It sounds like another daytime talk show: Grown man finds out in his 30s who his real daddy is. But the timing here is important: God waits until Jesus is baptized.

Why? But first, let’s ask another question: Why was Jesus baptized at all? The gospels make it clear that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. People were expected to confess their sins and turn their lives around. So what sins was Jesus repenting that day? What did he need to do to turn his life around?

This is at the heart of our Christian faith. Much of what we say about Jesus hangs on the idea that he was free from sin. If Jesus was just another sinner, then on the cross, he die only for his own sins. In Romans 6:23, Paul says, “The wages of sin is death.” And if he died for his own sins, he couldn’t die for our sins. If you pay your credit card, you can’t say, “This covers my brother’s credit card too.” So the cross would mean nothing. No one’s been saved.

But there’s another way to look at this. To be a human being is to have that death sentence hanging over you. If we’re born, we’re going to die. That day at the Jordan River, Jesus took the last step in becoming fully human. He freely accepted the same death sentence that the rest of us have earned on our own.

And that’s when God looks down and says, Yes! That’s my boy! Now the plan of salvation is in full swing. Now my Son is also your Son. The Son of God is also the Son of Man, complete with his own death sentence. Jesus took the baptism of repentance, and the sentence of death it carried—and that made him just like us.

But that brings us back to the words in Isaiah “You are mine.” It makes us think of the baptism of Jesus, but as a literal statement the words in Isaiah are spoken to all of God’s people: “He who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear…You are mine.”

So God said it to Jesus at the Jordan, but he also says it to us: You are mine. “I have called you by name.” God has adopted you to be one of his. And we are baptized in the name of God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Actually, it’s more than that. “I have called you by name” points to adoption, but “you are mine” takes it one step further. There’s no good way to translate these words into English, but “You are mine” is the language of the marketplace. It’s on the order of, “I bought this. I paid for this. This is mine.”

We belong to God. On the cross, Jesus Christ paid all the back taxes we owed for our sins. So now, God not only adopts us, but owns us as well. He paid for us, and he has no intention of re-selling us to anyone else. And so in the Isaiah passage, God says again in verse 5, Do not fear. We’re working together now. Watch me—I’m going to bring all of my people home, from north and south, and from the ends of the earth—“everyone who is called by my name.”

Ok, that’s an awful lot of theology. But what’s it boil down to for us? Down at the river, Jesus hits a hundred percent—fully the Son of God, and fully the Son of Man. You are mine, God says.

But in our own baptism, God also says it to us: You are mine. When we’re baptized, the minister says your name, and then says, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. It’s not just God’s name. Your name also has to be said. We don’t just turn on the water sprinkler in the summer and yell, I baptize you! as the kids run by. It’s personal.

In baptism, the name your parents gave you is now the name that God gives you. The Bible says our names are recorded in the book of life. God says, You are mine. We become the children of God.

But that’s just half the equation. Just as Jesus was pronounced both fully divine and fully human at his baptism, at our own baptism, we become the true children of God—but we also become fully human. Baptism reveals our true humanity.

In our time, we’ve completely lost track of this. We’ve taken the whole idea of what it means to be truly human, and turned it upside down. If we do something stupid, we say, “I’m only human.” We take it for granted that to be human is to be nothing more than a beast. How many times a day do we compare ourselves to the animals? When others misbehave, we call them skunks, rats, pigs, snakes, jackasses, tom-cats, hounds, old goats, old bats. If we suspect someone’s lying to us, we say, That smells fishy to me.

We blame everything on our supposed nature. I was born this way. This is how my parents raised me. I can’t help myself. I can’t change the way that I am. But that’s when Jesus comes along and says, Look at me! This is what it means to be truly human, fully human. It is possible to shed off the stains or sin, and live without sin. Our sin doesn’t make us human; it makes us something less than human.

And I know, you’re sitting there thinking, Well, I’m not Jesus Christ. To which Jesus says, And you’re not an animal either. In verse 16, John says that the coming Messiah doesn’t just baptize with water but “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” Your baptism puts the new life and power of the Holy Spirit within you. Your baptism lights a fire within—a fire to burn off all the garbage that your sins have piled up in your heart, a fire to warm your heart and a fire to help you see in the darkness

Today, God says, You are mine! Listen to it! Believe it! Accept it! And then live by it! In the waters of your own baptism, God has named you and claimed you. God has given you the Spirit and fire you need to become truly human, to become everything he meant for you to be.

In your baptism, God has set you free. The story of the Old Testament is that God freed his people from Pharaoh. No other human being can hold you back and keep you from living as one of God’s people. And the story of the New Testament is that through Jesus Christ, God has freed us from the controlling power of sin and death.

You don’t have to live in fear anymore. You don’t have to give in and settle for less. You don’t have to obey your instincts and be a slave to your hormones, because in baptism, God himself has adopted you. God himself has become your Father. You are mine. You are mine—for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord.    Amen.