Jesus’ Baptism – The Joyous Exchange
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. Matthew 3:13-15
John sees the problem and quickly objects. Why is Jesus coming out the land to the wilderness to be receive a baptism for repentance? Jesus’ kinsman knows the folly of His relative coming down into the water to be numbered with sinners. He doesn’t belong here because this is a place for sinners. Jesus corrects John and tells him that it is to be done to “fulfill all righteousness.” In so doing, in being numbered with sinners, in fulfilling all righteousness, the Lord Christ makes your baptism a life-giving exchange. The perfect Son of God exchanges your sin for His righteousness so that you have been made right, perfect before God.
Jesus’ baptism is the essential link between the cross, the tomb and your own baptism. That is why St. Paul writes, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3) This means that in the simple splash of the water and the attached Word of God, you have received all that Christ won for you on the cross. What the Father then says of Jesus, He therefore says of you in Holy Baptism, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.” You are God’s own child and you can gladly say it as this assurance brings great comfort and peace to you.
The Baptism of our Lord is not a Sunday to skip because Epiphany doesn’t fall on a Sunday. It provides a treasure trove of teaching opportunities about what it means to be the baptized children of God. From remembering one’s own baptism to putting others in mind of their baptisms, Scripture, hymnody and liturgy provide tools for rooting our identity into being baptized into Christ. For the Christian, it is not speaking about a past event, “I was baptized.” Rather, it is all about one’s identity as a child of God, “I am baptized.”
Now rise, faint hearts, be resolute;
This man is Christ, our substitute!
He was baptized in Jordan’s stream,
Proclaimed Redeemer, Lord supreme.
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, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan