Summary: The deeper meaning of the baptism of Jesus
1 epiphany 11
“Baptism of Jesus”
Sometimes we aren’t sure if “now” is the right time for things. At the Jordan River, about 30 years after Jesus was born, now was the time. If you could go back and stand on the shoreline of that river in the wilderness, you would be nodding your head in agreement, “Yes, now is the time!” Time for what? It is time for Jesus to be baptized. He hadn’t been baptized as an infant as many times we see in our worship services. His baptism was different. He was baptized for a totally different reason than our reason for baptizing.
This morning I want to take a step back and look at baptism. I want you to first imagine you are standing on the banks of Jordan River and you see Jesus step into the water. He’s saying, “Now is the time!” It’s time for two things: FIRST. For Jesus to step in line with sinners; and SECOND. For the Father to state a line of acceptance.
Lets look at the first reason for the Baptism of Jesus: For Jesus to step in line with sinners.
John the Baptizer was at the height of his preaching and baptizing ministry. The popularity polls had him ranked extremely high. In Matthew’s gospel account we read right before our lesson that John had lashed out at the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jerusalem for being hypocritical. These two groups didn’t really think they needed to be baptized, but were just following the crowd to do the popular thing.
Now picture this in your mind, then along comes Jesus to be baptized. “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” You can almost see John putting out his hands to Jesus saying, “Wait, wait! You don’t need me to baptize you. You should baptize me.”
It’s like if the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra would say to you, “Would you play us a number so that we might have some soothing music to which we can listen.” You would say, “Wait a minute! You should play for me. You’re the professionals. You don’t want to hear me.”
Or it would be like quarterback Brett Favre saying to you, “Would you throw me some passes so I can catch some footballs from your golden arm.” You would say, “Wait a minute! You’re the two-time Most Valuable Player. You should throw to me and show me how to throw!”
In the same way, John recognized Jesus as one who didn’t need repentance or forgiveness in baptism. John knew that Jesus was much greater than he was, and that he wasn’t even fit to tie Jesus sandals. And now Jesus wants to be baptized by him? John’s thinking, “This is backwards! This shouldn’t be happening this way!”
But listen to Jesus’ response, “‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’” Then John consented”. Jesus was saying, “At another time, John, you would be right in what you’re thinking. But NOW is the time for this baptism. Let it be so NOW.” The question most people come up with is, “Why did Jesus need to be baptized?” It was not that Jesus needed to get his sins washed away. He was sinless. I am always fascinated by this story of the baptism of Jesus. It is one of the few stories that all four gospels contain. I am fascinated by this story because it is so hard to understand. If baptism is about forgiveness and the washing away of sin, then why was a sinless Jesus in need of baptism? The answer lies in the fact that forgiveness of sin is one of many elements that we take on in baptism.
We cannot forget that death is a key component of baptism. When we are baptized we are baptized into Christ’s death. We die to the world that we may be alive to the Kingdom of God. Baptism is as much about the symbol of death as it is forgiveness.
We also cannot forget that adoption is a key component of baptism as well. In baptism, we are claimed by God as God’s own and we are sealed with the sign of the cross on our foreheads. Baptism is as much a symbol of adoption as it is of forgiveness.
And in the baptism of our Lord, all those gathered around that day at the Jordan were hearers of the voice from heaven exclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In baptism, we too are made to be like children of God in that we are sealed for this purpose. Even Jesus was baptized—this should give us an indication of the importance of baptism in the life of a Christian. It is this purpose that caused Jesus to submit to baptism.