“To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord”
Luke 3:21–22; Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26–27; Matthew 28:19–20
(Lutheran Service Book 406, 407)
Text: Martin Luther
To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord,
To do His Father’s pleasure;
Baptized by John, the Father’s Word
Was given us to treasure,
This heav’nly washing now shall be
A cleansing from transgression
And by His blood and agony
Release from death’s oppression.
A new life now awaits us.
O hear and mark the message well,
For God Himself has spoken.
Let faith, not doubt, among us dwell
And so receive this token.
Our Lord here with His Word endows
Pure water, freely flowing.
God’s Holy Spirit here avows
Our kinship while bestowing
The Baptism of His blessing.
These truths on Jordan’s banks were shown
By mighty word and wonder.
The Father’s voice from heav’n came down,
Which we do well to ponder:
“This man is My beloved Son,
In whom My heart has pleasure.
Him you must hear, and Him alone,
And trust in fullest measure
The word that He has spoken.”
There stood the Son of God in love,
His grace to us extending;
The Holy Spirit like a dove
Upon the scene descending;
The triune God assuring us,
With promises compelling,
That in our Baptism He will thus
Among us find a dwelling
To comfort and sustain us.
To His disciples spoke the Lord,
“Go out to ev’ry nation,
And bring to them the living Word
And this My invitation:
Let ev’ryone abandon sin
And come in true contrition
To be baptized and thereby win
Full pardon and remission
And heav’nly bliss inherit.”
But woe to those who cast aside
This grace so freely given;
They shall in sin and shame abide
And to despair be driven.
For born in sin, their works must fail,
Their striving saves them never;
Their pious acts do not avail,
And they are lost forever,
Eternal death their portion.
All that the mortal eye beholds
Is water as we pour it.
Before the eye of faith unfolds
The pow’r of Jesus’ merit.
For here it sees the crimson flood
To all our ills bring healing;
The wonders of His precious blood
The love of God revealing,
Assuring His own pardon.
As I have said elsewhere, if Martin Luther had done nothing but write hymns he would still be remembered today. Of course there was a great need for new hymns in his day because the Reformation brought an accent on congregational singing, but songs for the congregation were few and far between. So Luther, and others, set about writing hymns. The first hymnal for congregational use was a Lutheran hymnal, published in Luther’s lifetime.
In this hymn, Luther uses Jesus’ Baptism to show the blessings of our own Baptisms. Jesus, the sinless Son of God, didn’t need to be baptized, but He was. “For our sake He (the Father) made Him (the Son) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus’ Baptism was another way that He identified with us. Baptism becomes a two-way street. Jesus identifies with us poor sinners and we are clothed in His righteousness and become God’s children (Galatians 3:26–27).
Jesus began His ministry with His Baptism in the Jordan River. Some might say that he began his ministry after his temptation, and a case can be made for that. However his baptism was his first public action. In Luke 3:21–22 we see that John the Baptist baptized many, not just Jesus. However there were some key differences, aside from that fact that Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Luke 3:21-22 tells us about one that was very obvious. At his baptism the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus like a dove, and the Father said, “This is My beloved Son; with whom I am well pleased.” Luther catches this event in verses three and four.
In Matthew 28:1-20 we find the “Great Commission.” In it, of course, we find Christ’s command to baptize all nations in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This command from our Savior instituted the Sacrament of Baptism, through which God forgives sins by water and the Word (Ephesians 5:26). This is caught in verse six of Luther’s hymn. Christian baptism, while not identical with John the Baptist’s baptism, still has some strong parallels. This is one of them. In Mark 1:4 we read, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Notice that John doesn’t proclaim repentance, forgiveness of sins and then baptism. Somehow, through a miracle very similar to Christian baptism, John’s baptism granted and worked repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Going back to Galatians 3:26-27, we find that, in Christ, we are all “sons of God.” God removed our sins in baptism and clothed us with “Christ,” or more specifically, Christ’s righteousness. Our human eyes may only see water, but we are connected to the death of Jesus, caught in the final verse of the hymn (Romans 6:3).
Peter confronted the Jews with their role in crucifying the Messiah. Many were shaken and wanted to know what to do. Peter answered, Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The saving gift of the Holy Spirit is faith (and the continuation of that faith), which comes through the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Notice here that repentance comes before baptism. So we have the pattern established that the Church follows to this day. If the non-Christian we are dealing with is an adult, you instruct until they repent and come to faith in Jesus, then you baptize. However not everyone can receive instruction. An infant, for example, still needs to be saved by grace through faith, but can’t understand a sermon. In such a case we baptize first and instruct as the child grows. The baptism works the repentance and faith. How can baptism do this? Well look at Peter’s words. Baptism grants the Holy Spirit, and it is the Spirit who “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us in the one true Christian Faith.” Bottom line, it is always the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith. It doesn’t matter what age we are when He does this.
Enjoy this recording of “To Jordan Came the Christ, Our Lord.”