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Matthew

3:13-17

 

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, 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 thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."

(ESV)

 

Full of Jesus

Monday After the Baptism of our Lord

13 January 2014

Jesus is baptized. What an odd thing! Why does Jesus need to be baptized? Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, but Jesus was the sinless Son, so baptism seems rather strange. St. John the Baptist says to Jesus, "No, no, no, You shouldn't be baptized by me but I by You. John recognizes that if baptism is for forgiveness, Jesus certainly does not need baptism. John could not possibly baptize Jesus, but rather needs to be baptized by Him.

 

So why then does Jesus insist? The answer is a kind of reverse osmosis. In other words, Jesus is putting something into baptism by being baptized, not getting something out of it as we do. Jesus is demanding to be baptized precisely for the forgiveness of sin, but not that he has it. He is baptized for forgiveness, that we might receive it in our baptism into Him. Jesus goes into baptism to do the reverse of what we get out of it. He is putting something into it. He is filling it full of all righteousness. He says to John, "Let it be so for now, for it must be this way to fulfill all righteousness" (Mt 3:15). Our Lord Jesus comes to the verge of Jordan to place Himself into our baptism today and put into it everything that we get out of it. He steps down into our font by Jordan's stream. He has washed from Himself the very righteousness that He bears in His own person.

 

Every baptism comes to the verge of Jordan. Oh yes, everyone who goes to the Holy Land comes back with a little vial of Jordan's water. Often they offer it to their pastor so that he can include it in the water used in baptism. But baptism isn't about geography; it's about theology. We are all baptized in the Jordan stream, because Christ is in baptism, not because the water comes from the Middle East. Jesus stood in Jordan that through our baptism we also with him stand and therefore stand in Jordan's Stream. Now it is all full of the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ. When we are placed in that water we receive that same clothing that Christ has washed off into the flowing waters of Jordan.

 

If Christ's righteousness is in baptism, then baptism must be God's work and not ours. How many people think that baptism is our effort, work, or sign of obedience to God when in fact the obedience that is there is Christ's and it is given as a gift? That is why St. Paul, speaking of baptism in Galatians, says, "for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27). That putting on began when it was washed off of Christ in Jordan's holy stream. The clothing is Christ's. Therefore we should not look at it as our own work or activity. Baptism is not something we do to satisfy God or to appease his wrath. But one sinless Son of God places himself in that water and we ourselves, by being baptized, are placed into that one perfect sinless life. Now when our heavenly Father looks at us we are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. We are cleansed and have the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ; that wonderful cloak covering up all of our sin and filth. We are like the prodigal son who is received again by his father; embraced and loved and given the robe of righteousness. The robe is Christ's and so our heavenly father sees us as nothing but holy and righteous for Christ sake. Baptism is full of Jesus.

 

Gregory of Nazianzus

 

"Christ is illumined, let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized, let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him.

 

"But John baptizes, Jesus comes to Him, perhaps to sanctify the Baptist himself, but certainly to bury the whole of the old Adam in the water; and before this and for the sake of this, to sanctify Jordan; for as He is Spirit and Flesh, so He consecrates us by Spirit and water (Jn 3:3-5). John will not receive Him; Jesus contends. 'I need to be baptized by you' (Mt 3:14), says the Voice to the Word, the Friend to the Bridegroom (Jn 3:29), he that is above all among them that are born of women (Mt 11:11), to Him who is the firstborn of every creature (Col 1:15); he that leaped in the womb (Lk 1:41) to Him who was adored in the womb; he who was and is to be the forerunner to Him Who was and is to be manifested. He says, 'I need to be baptized by you;' add to this 'and for You.' For John knew that he would be baptized by martyrdom, or, like Peter, that he would be cleansed not only as to his feet (Jn 13:9).

 

"'And You come to me?' This also was prophetic, for he knew that after Herod would come the madness of Pilate, and so that when he had been the forerunner, Christ would follow him. But what did Jesus say? 'Let it to be so now' (Mt 3:15), for this is the time of His incarnation. He knew that in a little while He should baptize the Baptist. What is the 'fan?' The purification. What is the 'fire?' The consuming of the chaff and the heat of the Spirit. What is the 'ax?' The cutting out of the soul that is incurable even after the manure (Lk 13:8). What is the sword? The cutting of the Word, which separates the worse from the better (Heb 4:12) and makes a division between the faithful and the unbeliever (Mt 10:35); and stirs up the son and the daughter and the bride against the father and the mother and the mother in law (Micah 7:6), the young and fresh against the old and shadowy. What is the latch of the sandal, which you John who baptized Jesus may not loose (Jn 1:27)? You who art of the desert, and have no food, the new Elijah (Lk 7:26), you who are more than Prophet, because you saw Him of whom you prophesied, you who are mediator of the Old and New Testaments. What is this? Perhaps because he proclaimed the message of the advent and the incarnation, of which not the least point may be loosed, not only by those who are still fleshly and babes in Christ, but not even by those who are like John in spirit."

 

 

Prayer

Father in heaven, at the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River You proclaimed Him Your beloved Son and anointed Him with the Holy Spirit. Make all who are baptized in His name faithful in their calling as Your children and inheritors with Him of everlasting life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For Savannah Rose Edenfield, who was baptized yesterday, that she might be kept safe and secure in the ark of the holy church

 

In thanksgiving to God for the safe arrival of Pastor Ian Pacey and Clarissa, Rachel and Kirk, that they would be at peace as they establish a new earthly home as a sign of the one to come

 

For Wayne Galler, that he would recover his health and strength

Art: CORREGGIO Nativity Holy Night (1528-30)

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