Pastor Paul Waldschmidt delivers a sermon entitled “Jesus is Better than Just OK” based on Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, January 13, 2019
The nervous couple sits in a hospital room, anxiously waiting for the surgeon to arrive. They ask their nurse, “Have your ever worked with Dr. Francis?” “Oh yeah,” she says, “He’s okay.” As they scrunch up their noses at that less than enthusiastic endorsement, the surgeon himself comes bebopping into the room, loudly chirping, “Guess who just got reinstated?!?!” And under his breath he whispers, “Well, not officially.” The rest of the commercial from ATT continues in that general direction, all leading up to the tagline: Just ok is not ok. And the message hits home. When it comes to important stuff—like a surgeon, or to a lesser degree—your wireless service, just ok is not ok.
How about when it comes to your eternal salvation? Obviously, just ok is not ok. You don’t want to be on your death bed, having gone with a provider who only has 75% success rate. You would rightfully be quite nervous to stand before the eternal judge, having put your trust in one who can only guarantee that God will…probably let you into heaven. When it comes to the most important stuff like having a Savior, just ok is not ok. You need the best. You need a guarantee. You need someone who inspires your confidence. In our text for this 2nd Sunday of Epiphany, we see that Jesus is the right man for the job of saving you. Jesus is so much better than just ok.
When John the Baptist says “one who is more powerful than I will come…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (He will)…. gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” you know he’s not talking about agriculture. Gathering wheat and burning up chaff refers to sending people to their eternal destinies. It lets you know that this is important stuff, the most important in fact. We’re dealing here with the something that matters for eternity.
Isn’t it easy to get messed up on that? How much more important the next life is than this one! So often when we’re going through especially dark days, eternity becomes almost an afterthought. A “taken for granted” that gets quickly acknowledged and then pushed aside as we seek relief for more pressing pain. “Yes, yes, I have a Savior who rose from the dead for me. Yes, yes eternal life in heaven gives me hope. I don’t doubt those things, Pastor. I love those things. But….I want something to save me from the pain that I’m feeling right now.”
This world around us offers us any number of saviors (small s) that say they can help with that. There are all kinds of unhealthy behaviors can numb our pain. Overspending, overeating, overdrinking. Porn says that it can save you from pain. Social media offers a temporary escape to happier times and places. Maybe it’s a boat or a cabin that offers refuge and respite. Maybe it’s living vicariously through our kids, maybe it’s an obsession with career advancement or house pride—there’s any number of little saviors in our lives that people turn to make us feel ok. But depending on which one we’re talking about those saviors range from just ok at best to sinful Soul-destroyers at worst.
They may give relief, but it doesn’t last. They may numb heartache, but heartache comes back tomorrow. That makes all those things sub-par saviors. Only Jesus gives you relief that is long term, forever lasting. That makes him so much more than just OK.
His baptism is his promise that he’s all in with you for the long haul. When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. A couple weeks ago, we pointed out that Jesus’ investment with us as shown by his willingness to share our humanity and all the negatives that come with it. Today, we see Jesus’ investment with us in another way, in his willingness to stand in line, side by side with everyone else and be baptized. Jesus wasn’t baptized because he needed forgiveness of sins. He had no sins. He was baptized to send a message: I’m walking in your shoes. I’m standing with you. The things that humans do, I will do as well. You and I are in this together. Jesus is better than just ok because he is totally invested in you.
Lastly, in the account of Jesus’ baptism, we see that the Father and the Holy Spirit think Jesus is more than just OK too. As he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” There’s something about a powerful, personal testimony that makes moves us even when nothing else will. I would never have bought an instant pot, but when my sister talked about how easy it was to use…. We attend a certain church, send our kids to a certain school, dine at a certain restaurant, wear a certain brand of shoes all because someone we trust said, “I’ve had a really good experience with this. I totally stand behind it.”
Isn’t that what’s also happening in our text? If God in heaven says Jesus is more than ok—that he is the Son who brings a smile to the Father face, we nod our heads in agreement and joyfully concur. That’s all that we need to hear. Jesus is so much more than just OK because God himself gives him a personal, powerful endorsement.
You know that Jesus is more than OK. You knew that before you came today. So what’s the impact of this message for you? First of all, your baptism connects you with Jesus. What he is becomes what you are. And so if the Father looks at Jesus and says, “In him I am well pleased” that means that he also looks at you and says, “In you, I am well pleased.” All because you have a Savior who’s more than just okay.
And being attached to Jesus with the insoluble bonds of water and promise means something else too. It’s summed up nicely in a phrase that you may have passed over without a second thought when we read our text. At that moment, “heaven was opened.” That’s what Jesus came to do. His perfect life fit the lock, his innocent death turned the key, his glorious resurrection pushed open the door that Adam and Eve had slammed shut. Jesus is more than just an okay Savior and that means heaven is opened for us.
Even if you knew that before you came maybe, by God’s grace, you leave a different person than when you came. You and I have an awesome Savior, one who’s so much better than just ok. And that stokes the fire in our souls. We want to be better than OK for him. Maybe we leave here a little less content with obedience that’s just ok, with a just okay reining in of our eyes, our thoughts, our mouths. Maybe we’re no longer so okay with just okay marriages, just okay parenting, just okay worship, just okay Bible Study, a just okay prayer life. Maybe instead, by God’s grace we are baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Maybe we, by the Spirit’s power become even better models for our kids of what living faith looks like. Maybe we, by the Spirit’s power start to take our faith all the more seriously–actively seeking to grow and improve and to truly be invested in the One who is so truly invested in us. That would be more than OK. That would be awesome. Amen.