SCRIPTURES – Isaiah 42:1-9; Romans 6:1-11;Matthew 3:13-17
Jesuscame from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would haveprevented 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 tofulfill all righteousness.”
I can understand why John was so unwillingto baptize Jesus. After all, he had said about the coming Messiah, “Heis mightier than I, and I am not even worthy to carry his sandals. He willbaptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” So, when Jesus came to himand John realized that he was standing face to face with God’s great Messiah,he felt utterly unworthy. Jesus was the mighty One, and He would bring abaptism far greater than John’s. How wrong it seemed for him to baptize Jesus!
Jesus’ reply is fascinating. “Let it be so now,for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Notice: He doesn’t say, “for me to fulfill all righteousness”– a response I would expect. He says, “for us to fulfill allrighteousness.” For us. John had a role to play in fulfillingall righteousness. And, so do you.
We Lutherans do a pretty good job ofstressing that we cannot save ourselves from our sins or earn God’s favor byour good behavior. We confess every Sunday, “Weare by nature sinful and unclean.” This means we are always sinners,for we cannot keep from sinning. “We justly deserve Your present and eternalpunish-ment.” We bring our babies to be baptized, not only becauseJesus commanded that all nations be baptized – and babies are part of allnations – but also because babies, too, are sinners who need to be forgiven. Frombirth we all, like John the Baptist, are unworthy of God! It is right that eachone of us confess this.
Do not, however, use this as an excuse for notdoing the good God gives you to do. Jesus says that you have a role to play infulfilling all righteousness. That role is defined for you in and by yourBaptism.
We were buried with Him by baptism into death, inorder that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,we too might walk in newness of life,” God’s Word says(Rom. 6). There’s your role: to live the new life you have been given.
It starts with realizing that your life isnew. How great is Holy Baptism! It is the very presence of God, as we see inJesus’ own Baptism. We’re tempted to think His was different because He is theSon of God. But, He was baptized by John, along with everyone else. He humbly bowedHis head before John and had water poured upon it in God’s name, like everyoneelse. But then, as Jesus came up from the water, the Holy Spirit came down uponHim and the Father proclaimed His pleasure with Him. In this we see that thisblessing of God Jesus received in Baptism is given to everyone who is baptizedwith water in the Name of the Triune God. “I am the Lord; I have called you inrighteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you.” These wordsfrom Isaiah give us a picture of what God did for you in your Baptism: Headopted you into His family as His own child. The almighty God is now yourFather who holds you by the hand. Nothing can now harm you.
I think here of a TV commercial airing right now. A big and tough lookingMarine opens the door of his little daughter’s room. Wow! She and Mom arepainting the walls a bright pink! “Daddy!It’s pink!” she screams with delight, and she runs to take his hand andlead him into the room to see. He then says, “So, she’s a princess. You got a problem with that? Oorah!”
Well, the almighty God is bigger and tougher than any Marine. By virtueof your Baptism He is holding your hand and looking upon you with nothing butlove. “You got a problem with My child?Deal with Me!” He says to anyone or anything who opposes you. No sin, ofyours or of anyone else; no devil; no power of heaven or earth can harm you.God the almighty Father holds your hand and has given you a new life in HisSon! His Holy Spirit fills you! You are a new person, God’s holy child!
Now, live the life He has given you. Chooseyour Baptism! Hold your Father’s hand and walk with Him! That is the role youhave in the fulfilling all righteousness. Fill your life with Hisrighteousness!
To do so you must listen to your Fatherfirst and not follow your own wisdom. You must call good what your good Fatherin His Word calls good and reject as evil what He calls evil. Especially payattention to Jesus and how He lived, for in Baptism we are called “tofulfill all righteousness” with Him. We are called to follow Him.
Jesus offered Himself in love and service toothers, and put them and their needs before Himself. This is your work, too. Baptizedinto Him, then:
Married people: love and honor your spouse, putting his/her needs aboveyours.
Parents: guide and discipline your children in love. Above all, teachthem the words and ways of God, both at church and at home!
Children: honor and obey your parents and teachers. Think and speakwell of them.
Everyone: love others as yourself and serve them as if serving GodHimself.
Above all, begin every day by remembering who you are. “I am baptized! I am God’s child in Jesus.God has forgiven all my sins and holds me by my hand.” What a differencethat will make as you go forth into each new day!
Dr. C. F. W. Walther, one of the foundersand the first President of our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, stated this sobeautifully in a sermon he preached on New Year’s Day in 1845:
“Should the Christian standall day long at the grave of the joys which he enjoyed in past years? ThroughHoly Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which doesnot drain away, but streams forward with his life until its waves carry himinto the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all daylong that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by Godin the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greenerand whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like ashort winter’s nap, out of which an eternal spring—an eternal youth—follows.
For Baptism is a bath thatwashed me not only once when I received it—washed me pure with Christ’s blood—butit continuously washes me clean even daily for as long as I hold it in faith.For just as that same water of the flood drowned the sinners, but Noah with hisrelatives were brought to salvation and carried to Mount Ararat, so also didthe water of my Baptism drown my sins, but my soul was brought to the eternalmountain of divine grace. And just as once those same waves of the Red Sea,which swallowed up Pharaoh and his army, were a protective wall for Israel, soalso has my baptismal water swallowed up all of my damnation and is for me asure wall before God’s wrath and punishment…
Now then, all of you whobelieve in God’s Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: “Iam baptized!” Although the world may laugh at this comfort … nevertheless,abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire yearto come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: “Iam baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!” And you shall prevail! In every timeof need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will fleefrom your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened andwill finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year ofjubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!” (Treasury of Daily Prayer, p.1077f)