The Baptism of our Lord
12 January 2020
"At the Jordan, in his thirtieth year, Christ reveals himself fully for the first time. John is shocked by Jesus’ desire to be baptized and says, “Shall I baptize you? I am not worthy.”
But Jesus responds, “Be content; this is the way it should be.” The Son, who is without sin, allows himself to be baptized for our example and our comfort. He does something here that is not required of him, whereas we do nothing that is not required of us.
More, we do what is evil. How will we ever get to the point of doing something not required? Christ is holier even than baptism, yet still allows himself to be baptized. Thereby he institutes baptism. So that accursed person who despises or ridicules baptism although they do not choose baptism, God’s Son does!
Jesus’ response might seem strange. “It is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” One would think that if anyone had “fulfilled all righteousness,” it was Jesus. When Jesus says it is “proper” He tells John it is right, fitting, and appropriate for Him to be baptized. Not what is apparent.
It is right for Jesus to be baptized. It is acceptable for Jesus, who knew no sin, to be standing in the water with you, who need repentance for sin. Jesus engages in that radical act of solidarity with sinners in order to “fulfill all righteousness.”
“God’s work, putting things right after all these centuries, is coming together right now in this baptism.”
In his baptism Jesus was making a public declaration that he was going to take the side of God’s justice. God’s Justice -takes place not through vengeance but forgiveness. God’s justice takes place not through violence but compassion.
God’s justice takes place not through hostility but mercy. It is a justice that leads to peace. And in order to achieve God’s justice that rights the wrongs and creates the conditions in which all people can thrive, we have to employ God’s ways instead of ours.
He was going to set about promoting God’s work of righting the wrongs and lifting the burdens from the oppressed. How did Christ fulfill this office? With no sword, but the sword of righteousness. And with no power but the power of love, Christ defeated sin, evil and death by reigning from the cross.
And whether you are young or old, rich or poor, steeped in the faith or relatively new, we all crave a sense of identity. Sadly, this identity is peddled today as a product which is marketed and sold to susceptible persons with such false promises of success fortune and fame.
For this reason, there is no better time than the present to hear the word and promise that Jesus was born, ministered, lived, died, and was raised again to demonstrate in word and deed just how much God loves and accepts you.
Jesus starts by saying, “Let it be so now.” In other words, “Permit it for now, at this time.”
“Let it be so now,” Jesus says. And then he continues, “For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” “It is fitting.” It fits what Jesus is doing to be baptized in this way. To be baptized, standing in with sinners. This is how Jesus is going to save sinners, by standing in with them, standing in for them, acting as their substitute.
Luther in his Epiphany sermon delivered in 1534 says, “Whoever is in sin, stick them in the baptismal water, and their sin will be extinguished. Whoever is in death, stick them in the baptismal water, and death will be swallowed up. For baptism has divine power, the power to break sin and death. That’s why we are baptized. If later we fall into error or sin, we have not thereby demolished our baptism; we return to it, and say, “God has baptized me, plunged me into the baptismal water of his Son, of the Father and the Holy Spirit. There I return, and I trust that my baptism will take away my sin—not for my sake, but for the sake of the man Christ, who instituted it.”
The angel told Joseph years earlier about why this child was to be named Jesus. “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And so now, thirty years later, here comes Jesus, living up to his name. He’s embarking on his saving mission, to save people from their sins, precisely by standing in for us, taking our place, beginning with this baptism and aiming for–yes, aiming for the cross. That’s why this baptism is so fitting.
“Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” And now Jesus goes forward as the substitute for sinners–this is to fulfill all righteousness. It fulfills God’s righteousness, God’s purpose and plan to save and rescue and redeem his people.
“To fulfill all righteousness” is to fulfill God’s righteousness. God’s righteousness is shown in keeping his promise, in his acting in history to deliver on his promises by delivering us from our sins. And this is what Christ has come to do. And now it begins, here at his baptism. What is so fitting about this is that it is precisely in his standing in for sinners that Christ will accomplish this. And just as the Father voiced his approval of Christ at his baptism, so the Father will approve of Christ’s death on the cross, when the Father then raises Christ from the dead on the third day.
And all of this now–God’s righteousness, Christ’s death, His resurrection, God’s forgiveness and eternal salvation–all of this now is delivered to you, applied to you, with your name on it, in your baptism. In the waters of Holy Baptism you were joined to the Jesus who stood in the waters of the Jordan and stood in your place on the cross.
That is what Christ has done when he baptized you. All your sins were washed away, by virtue of the man standing in the river and going to the cross. The Spirit of God came down on you, giving you a new heart, and bestowing God’s favor and blessing upon you. The Father’s voice came from heaven, declaring you to be his beloved child. Yes, dear Christian, in your baptism you are joined to Jesus, connected to Christ in his death and resurrection, buried with him into death, and raised with him in his resurrection. You are a new person now by baptism. You have a real purpose to your life, and you have a bright hope ahead of you. It’s a great thing to be baptized by Christ, which you are.
“To fulfill all righteousness.” That’s why it was fitting for Jesus to be baptized. For this righteousness, God’s righteousness, is fulfilled as Jesus goes forward from the Jordan to save you from your sins and to bring you all the blessings of the kingdom of heaven. And therefore that’s a fitting way for you to think of the Baptism of Our Lord and to live in the joy and blessing of your own baptism.
Passive Sentences – 22%
Readability – 74.8%
Reading Level – 6.7
Image Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use
“This is My Son, the Beloved”: Sermon on the Baptism of Jesus (January 6, 1534) Martin Luther copyright © 1996 by Word & World, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN. All rights reserved.
 The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson
 Charles Henrickson St. Matthew Lutheran Church Bonne Terri, Missouri
6 Text Week Matthew 3:14-18