Epiphany Hymns and their Story
February 16, 2023

“To Jordan’s River Came Our Lord”

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod asked James P. Tiefel [b. 1949], a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, to write a hymn for the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Baptism of our Lord. Like Luther’s hymn [# 406], he combines the narrative of Jesus’ Baptism [Matthew 3:12-17] with the doctrinal teaching and significance of this blessed Sacrament.
The first verse introduces the narrative with an emphasis on the Divine nature of “ Christ, who heavenly hosts adored”, quoting from the Nicene Creed. The incarnation and state of humiliation are emphasized, then, in verse two with regard to the purpose of standing “beneath the Father’s will”; namely, His obedience to the Law [Philippians 2:6-8].
Verse three narrates the Baptism and the appearance of the Holy Spirit, incorporating the Baptist’s designation of Jesus as “the Lamb of God”, reflecting the Old Testament witness of Isaiah 53:7. An entire verse is dedicated to the voice from heaven [Matthew 3:17, quoting Isaiah 42:1]. The voice will repeat these words at our Lord’s Transfiguration with the addition of the words, “Listen to Him”.
Verse 5 briefly observes that this is event in fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation that reached all the way back to Adam’s fall. “Anointed” defines the Christ or Messiah, recalling Psalm 45:7 and Psalm 2:1-2.
More then merely an appropriate conclusion, verse boldly proclaims the doctrine of the vicarious atonement by having us sing “This Man is Christ, our Substitute!” “There is one mediator between God and men, the Man, Christ Jesus” [1st Timothy 2:5].

1 To Jordan’s river came our Lord, the Christ, whom heav’nly hosts adored,
The God from God, the Light from Light, the Lord of glory, pow’r and might.

LSB 405

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