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
At Epiphany, we learn that Jesus is on our side. Even more, we learn that He is one of us, that this Man Jesus is also God. Here, at His baptism in the Jordan River, we learn that He’s not content to simply be one of us. He also wants to do for us what we could not do on our own.
When Jesus went down into the water to be baptized by John the Baptist, John knew that this was not going to be any ordinary baptism. All the other people he had baptized had sins that they needed to confess and receive forgiveness for. But John knew that Jesus had no sin. He was the Lamb of God—spotless, pure, and holy. So he said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John thought that things should have been the other way around.
But this is exactly how Jesus wanted it. He doesn’t want to stay separated from His people. He doesn’t even want sin to get in the way. So He wades down into it all, right into all the muck and mire of every single sin ever committed by humanity, and He meets His people there. Not only that, He picks up those sins and carries them Himself, taking them all the way to the cross, where He willingly pays the price those sins demand: death. He dies so that sinful people can live forever. It might seem backwards to us. It doesn’t make much sense for the innocent to be punished and the guilty to go free. It didn’t make sense to John the Baptist. But that’s what Jesus wants. He says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” This is His plan of salvation.
At Jesus’ baptism, we see Him beginning His work of saving us. He’s not just one of us, He is right there with us in a misery-loves-company kind of way. He’s with us to redeem us, to take all of our sins from us and to give us His own purity and holiness. This is how he fulfills all righteousness. He does it all for us.
Heavenly Father, at Jesus’ baptism You told the world that He is Your beloved Son to whom we are to listen. Let us always hear His Word and know that because of what He has done for us, we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life; in Jesus’ name, Amen.