The Garments Of Salvation
December 8, 2019 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Verse: Matthew 3:1–3:11
Christ Lutheran Church
December 8, 2019
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Garments Of Salvation
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Judean wilderness saying, "Repent! The kingdom of heaven is very near! For this is he who was spoken of by the Prophet Isaiah when he said, 'A voice cries in the wilderness! Prepare the way of the Lord! Make his paths straight!'
Now John wore a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.
Then Jerusalem, all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan came out to him to be baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
But seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism he said to them, "You gang of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Now bear the fruit of repentance! And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'we have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children to Abraham.
The ax is now laid to the root of the tree. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who comes after me, who is preferred before me and whose sandals I am not worthy to carry … he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire! (Matthew 3:1-11)
Today we learn about the garments of salvation.
First there is John the Baptizer who did not report for duty in soft clothing, but wore a crude outfit made of camel’s hair, with a belt of rough leather that rubbed up against his bony frame.
His message was as irritating as his clothes.
Stop sucking your thumb!
Unwind your fetal position and drain the swamp of your sinful passions for the Kingdom of Heaven is very, very near! The ax is already in contact with the very root of the tree, and any tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
We learn from St. Matthew that nothing very elegant went into John’s mouth, locusts and unrefined honey, but what came out was pure gold.
It is said that Christian preaching is meant to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted, and that is just what John did.
He took particular aim at the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the religious elite of the day, because they never practiced what they preached. They turned the holy religion of Israel into a cash cow that afforded them all the money, power and glory a man could want.
Life was good.
Very, very good.
Until they met John!
But nor did he cut the masses a break either!
They too were sophisticated sinners who like the elite spent their lives in the pursuit of happiness. Of eating, drinking and making merry. That was the sum and substance of their life and they were not pleased to have it interrupted by a Word from God to the contrary! By a word that reminded them of man’s duty towards God.
At this point we should mention that John would have made a very poor church official in our day.
He did no demographic study. He was no more interested in children than in old people. If that was not bad enough he set up shop in the wilderness, a place that was hostile to human life, nor were there any roads that went there! So that if anyone sought to be baptized by John he had to make a concerted effort.
But they came in droves and the church of St. John the Baptist grew and grew and grew! And that, O Church Officials, is how God does things.
He positively delights in confounding the wisdom of the wise for as scripture says: the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God stronger than men. (1 Cor 1:18ff) And so put away your computer models, and mission manuals and let the church do the one thing Christ gave her to do. “This do in remembrance of me.”
Equally incriminating is that John did not tailor his message to his audience as the church growth experts tell us we must do if we want to pack the pews. He did not cater to their “felt needs” or take into account any socio-economic factors.
But he did address their real needs. The greatest need of all. To repent of our sins for the Kingdom of Heaven is near! “Nearer now than when we first believed.” (Rom. 13:11)
Also, as a point of Christian doctrine, please note what John made perfectly clear, but that Evangelicals still don’t understand: that John’s baptism was not sacramental baptism. Not the baptism we received which imparted the Holy Spirit to us, and set our hearts aflame with the love of God. That is sacramental baptism, the life giving flood that now saves us, all others preparatory to it.
But Isaiah does not just see one baptizer in his prophecy but two: John the Baptizer and Jesus the Baptizer.
The first baptizes for repentance, the second for life and salvation.
The first afflicts the comfortable, the second comforts the afflicted.
The first comes dressed in clothing as rough as his message. The second in “garments of Righteousness and Faithfulness" (Is. 11:5) for he is righteousness and faithfulness incarnate.
But to appreciate what Isaiah says here about the Lord’s garments there are 3 Biblical words we must understand: justice, righteousness and faithfulness.
“Justice” is the means whereby God rights all that is wrong. That means is the cross.
When Jesus died on the cross all that was wrong was made right. All that was crooked was made straight. All that separated us from our God and made us dupes of the devil was undone.
When “justice” has been executed it produces a new prevailing condition called “Righteousness”. Which is well defined by the words of the famous Christmas carol “all is calm, all is bright.” That is righteousness. The condition of perfect peace. Heavenly peace. Courtesy of the Prince of Peace.
Note how in Isaiah’s prophecy Righteousness is the very garment that our Lord wears in his flesh. And faithfulness, too! Which is the love of God that never gave up on us; and never will give up on us, until it has turned our hard hearts tender!
And so try to imitate Christ before you give up on any person O Baptized. Learn from him whose love is constant, perpetual, immovable and unstoppable. Love that in the words of St. Paul “Never fails.”
Yes, the garments of salvation.
Christians still wear them today as tangible reminders of John and the Greater One who came after him.
Clergy wear vestments emblazoned with Christian symbols.
Infants presented for baptism wear a white baptismal gown which indicates the purity that baptism produces.
Nuns wear habits.
Amish men wear brimmed hats; and women head coverings.
All of these serve as reminders of Christ who came to us dressed in righteousness and faithfulness; and of our own baptism in which we are now clothed with him. Clothed in the garments of salvation. Amen