There is a question that I had earlier this week about the gospel lesson. Why is Jesus getting baptized? It is a topic about which we could talk for a good long while. As I did some reading on the matter, I ran across this quote, “The Baptism of Jesus Christ is one of the most carefully examined and extensively interpreted events in the New Testament.”
Yes, we could talk about it for a long while. But that isn’t what I want to do. I’m just curious about this one thing: How is the baptism of Jesus like our baptism?
This is what the catechism says about baptism, “In Baptism God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what he has promised.” So according to the teaching of the church baptism is about delivering us from three things: sin, death and the devil.
Now that makes perfect sense for us. We sin, we are going to die, the Devil plagues this world with his wickedness and can make our lives very difficult. It makes sense for us to get baptized because we need it so badly. But Jesus was without sin. Why does he need it?
Maybe Jesus is just doing it because it is something that he knew that all of us would have done to us and it’s a way of relating to us, of being like us. I suppose this is possible. But it doesn’t sound like a great explanation to me.
Another thought which occurred to me is has to do with what the Gospel of Matthew says about the baptism. John the Baptist basically notices what we are noticing this morning, that it doesn’t seem to make much sense to baptize Jesus. And then Jesus says to do it anyway “to fulfill all righteousness.” When I hear that, it makes it sound like baptism is some kind of rule that you have to follow. And even Jesus had to follow it. But that just can’t be right, because baptism is about good news, about God giving something to us, not about us following some kind of law. So if that’s why Jesus got baptized, that’s not anything like our baptisms.
The second lesson points out that maybe it’s a different kind of baptism altogether. Jesus is being baptized with the baptism of John, and we are baptized with the baptism of Jesus. That’s fine, but it doesn’t tell us what is similar between ours and his.
And then it came to me. There is a way that the baptism of Jesus and our baptisms are exactly the same; and it comes right at the end. Listen to what God says to Jesus as he comes up out of the water, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” This is exactly what happened to us in our baptisms. I won’t ask you to remember your baptism, since most of us can’t. Instead, I am going to tell you again what God told Jesus and what God told you that day, “You are my beloved child; I am pleased with you.”