A Retelling of Jesus' Baptism
John the Baptist was down by the River Jordan, preaching a message of repentance because the kingdom of heaven had drawn near, the kingdom of God–it was close. People left and right were coming to this man dressed in camels hair. He was living off the land eating locusts and wild honey and people were turning away from their way of life and being baptized into this Kingdom that John was proclaiming. On the river banks though stood the religious elite, the Sadducees and Pharisees. They had come to see what John was up to but John didn't have very nice words for them. To nicely put it, he called them out for being fakes. They didn't have the fruit in their life that would have been the result of what they had claimed.
But in this middle of all this, Jesus shows up, The one John Had been proclaiming all along. And you can imagine all eyes were on him. What would he say? What would he do? Would he stand on the sidelines with the religious elite? After all, he really did have all things figured out. Would he step into the river and start baptizing others alongside John?
No. Jesus does the one thing that no one sees coming. Jesus convinces John to baptize him, telling him that it was appropriate to do so to fulfill all righteousness. John finally relents and baptizes Jesus, and when Jesus comes out of the water it was evident that God in all his fullness, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was present in that moment, signaling something significant that had begun.
But what does this story actually tell us about who Jesus is? It tells us that Jesus isn't content standing on the sidelines with the religious elite who think they've got it all together. Instead, Jesus wades into the mess, he wades into the water to be with people who readily admit they don't have it all figure out. In a prophetic moment, Jesus instead chooses to be with the common people, taking on their sin, plunging it into this watery grave only to rise up again into the fullness of God where God says, I'm pleased. The Jesus who loves us is the one who wades into the waters with us.
Setting John the Baptist is baptizing people in the Jordan River after they confess their sins.
- John the Baptist, a voice of one crying out in the wilderness
- Pharisees and Sadducees who would have seen themselves above others because of their own self sufficiency and self reliance
- Those coming to be baptizing, believing John's message that the Kingdom of Heaven (God) was at hand
- Jesus who comes to John for baptism to fulfill all righteousness
- The trinitarian image of God after Jesus comes out of the water signifying that God is with him, and Jesus is squarely with the people, so God is with us.
Tension We have a group of people, Sadducees and Pharisees, who see themselves as too good for what John is proclaiming. They don't need what John has because they believe they're already there. On the flip side, we have the God of all Creation, Jesus, submitting himself to John's baptism “to fulfill all righteousness.” How can either of these be?
Resolution Jesus doesn't need to be baptized. But it's appropriate for him to be baptized along with those recognizing their need of a Messiah.
Reflection There's something beautiful about Jesus going into the water with us. Jesus want's to be right there with us, not watching from the sidelines. That says something about who Jesus is.