Summary: Jesus descended to our level in his baptism in order to elevate us to life.
The Reformed Church of Locust Valley Epiphany Sunday January 13, 2001 Mt. 2:1-12
“Reaching Down to Save”
“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 to fulfill all
If baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, then why was Jesus baptized? After all, his life has been the only perfect, sinless life ever lived. John the Baptist recognized this fact, and when Jesus came to him for baptism, John was confused and vigorously protested – “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” We can read Jesus’ answer, but it isn’t all that much help. Jesus said, “Let is be so now, for thus it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.” It is a wonderful theological answer, but none of us dares to think we are on the same level as Jesus as theologians.
We can’t find the full satisfactory answer as to why Jesus was baptized here, but we can find it in looking at all the rest that Jesus said and did.
What was Jesus all about? In four words, “the love of God.” He came for us, to bring us God’s merciful love, and to redeem us from death to life.
So his being baptized must be about those things.
Jesus came into the world not as a superhero. No one would call him superman, it would seem irreverent. He was born among, lived among us and died in our midst as one of us. When a baby he needed a bottle and diaper change. Growing up, he had to be educated. As a young apprentice carpenter, he got splinters, slammed his thumb with the hammer (whether or not he swore when he did, I won’t venture a guess…you decide), slicing his finger while sharpening the iron of his plane the cut bled. Jesus was God with us, among us human like us.
So in his baptism then, Jesus is among us. He doesn’t stand aloof and apart, he is right there with us.
Jesus is God reaching down in love to save us.
On Tuesday, an American cultural icon died at his home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He was an orphan – adopted as a baby, then lost his adoptive mother when he was five and two stepmothers before he was 10. He went to work in restaurants at the age of 12. He built, by hard work, exacting quality control and shrewd marketing an empire – building the third largest hamburger chain – Wendy’s International. he did that without even finishing High School.
That’s of no interest to us that Dave Thomas was successful. I guess someone has to be. Of far greater interest is what he did when he go tot the top of the hamburger heap. He remember who he was and from whence he came, and he reached back down to help those left behind. Dave Thomas set a record for appearing in his own commercials, bypassing even Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Orville Redenbacher and Lee Iacocca. But he spent even more time striving to find homes and loving families for children who needed them – “the older, disabled and otherwise less attractive” (NY Times, 1/9/02). He also pushed for children to stay in school. When the young people he was trying to motivate pointed out that HE had not finished high school and still had built an empire, he got his G.E.D. and the Coconut Hills High School made him part of their senior class. At the prom they elected Dave and his wife, Lorraine King and Queen of the prom – and elected him as the one most likely to success in their senior class.
Dave Thomas, on the top of the highly competitive franchise fast food restaurant heap reached back, to help unfortunate kids and to give training and employment to parents who would adopt them.
Jesus was baptized to help us. We heard this morning (I Cor. 1:4), “I give thanks to God always for you because of the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him with all speech and all knowledge – even as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you – so that you were not lacking in any spiritual gift…”
Jesus, though God, stood there in front of the eccentric and gutsy John the Baptist and made John baptize him. Why? For you.
Fred D. Mueller