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The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A

Fulfilling All Righteousness

In the Season of Epiphany, the baptism of our Lord Jesus stands out as the epiphany of the epiphanies. It reveals both the identity of Jesus and his mission. Reading from today’s Gospel of Matthew:

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, 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 it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”   (Matthew 3:13-17)

John understood who Jesus was and his mission. Jesus is the Messiah. He is one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Why would Jesus have to undergo John’s baptism of water? Jesus provides the answer:

“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

What did Jesus mean? God the Father wanted to make all of us righteous as he is righteous. The baptism of Jesus is very much a part of his plan. Let us see how.

Jesus needed to be baptized as an example for us, but he also the anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry on his ministry on earth. We have to understand that when Jesus was borne of a woman he was fully human. He had given up all of his divinity and position in heaven. We read from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians that Jesus:

though he was in the form oaf God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit. He needed to understand fully God’s word. All of his miracles and teaching came from the Father through the Spirit. He needed the guidance of the Spirit.

If Jesus was like us in every way, except that he did not sin, how much more must we need to receive the same baptism that Jesus did? We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into holy living. We cannot be righteous on our own effort. We with the power and direction of the Spirit. We need the baptism with the Holy Sprit and with the fire of God to burn away our dross.

How do we then, receive this baptism. We need Jesus, himself, to be the one who baptizes us. Jesus spoke of this in the Gospel of John when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember, she had questioned him why he would ask her for a drink of water because Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered her:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   (John 4:10-14) 

What is this living water. Jesus further explains in John chapter seven:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart[l] shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

In order for God to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, sin had to be dealt with. Jesus removed all of our sins with his sacrifice on the cross. We simply have to believe that he did. There is another step, however, We need to submit to Jesus. We need the baptism with the Holy Spirit that only Jesus can provide. He, alone, is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord sits enthroned above the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.   (Psalm 29:10-11)

Are we ready for the flood of living water? It is required to fulfill all righteousness. Let us ask Jesus to baptize us with the Spirt. Let us ask him daily. Jesus says to  us:

“If you know the gift of God, and who I am,’ you will ask me and I will give you living water.”

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