Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. Matthew 3:13-16 (NRSV)
Lutherans observe two sacraments. A sacrament is defined as a special way to connect with God that was specifically instituted by God, and that has a tangible connection to the elements of the earth. When the Word is brought together with an earthly element, such as water or bread and wine, God makes that a sacrament.
Baptism is the first of the two sacraments. We baptize because Jesus was baptized, and we are baptized into His death- and into His resurrection.
Baptism is first and foremost an act of God, a tangible reminder of His covenant of grace. It may be done with human hands, through a human pastor, with plain city tap water, but it is the Word flowing through the water, the Word being spoken through the pastor, that accomplishes the saving work of God.
In Baptism God names and claims us as His own. In Baptism we are given the gift of salvation, freely and without any condition save our faith in Christ, which is also a gift from God. We do not “choose God.” God chooses us.
This is why it is not only appropriate but fitting that we baptize people of all ages, regardless of cognitive ability. One does not need to understand or make a conscious choice to come to the font for the water and the Word to be effective. It is all God’s doing. It doesn’t matter if the person is three days old or ninety five years old. It doesn’t matter if the person is sprinkled with water or dunked in the river. God is the One at work in Baptism, and it is not just a one-time event but a way of life.
Luther taught that we are to “put on Baptism as daily wear.” When we wash our faces or take a shower it is an opportunity for us to remember our Baptism- that through the water and the Word we have been named and claimed by God, and set apart by Him for the purpose He created.
It is always good to take a moment now and then to remember that in Baptism we are named and claimed and set aside as children of God.