[Matthew 3:13-17] Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Jesus, the One in Whom God Is Pleased
“Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness. And God the Father speaks concerning Him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The baptism John the Baptist was baptizing with in the Jordan river was a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins [Mark 1:4] – it is a sinners’ baptism. Jesus is the ONE in whom God is well pleased. Why is Jesus, the sinless Son of God in whom God is well pleased, baptized in a Baptism for sinners, a sinners’ baptism?
That baptism in the Jordan River was for those who had been displeasing to the Lord their God. The people were coming down into the water CONFESSING THEIR SINS. They were confessing their displeasing actions, their displeasing words, their displeasing words, desires, and passions - all that was displeasing to God.
So again, why is that ONE in whom God is WELL PLEASED – why is He baptized in the Jordan? What does it mean that being baptized in that water was ‘fitting to fulfill all righteousness’?
For a man to fulfill righteousness means to do all that God requires of him. For a man to fulfill righteousness means to be all that God requires him to be. And for a man to fulfill righteousness means to suffer the necessary consequences of all wrong that he done.
So what will it be for all these guilty people streaming down to the banks of the Jordan? Will they be able to do all that God requires them to do? Will they ever be what God requires men and women to be – truly righteous? What will become of them when they suffer the necessary, natural, and right consequence of their sins and sinfulness? “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. “The soul who sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:20]. From our very first ancestors, we know the tragic result.
Jesus, by His well-pleasing life, and Jesus, by His atoning death, will fulfill all righteousness for them. But, to do that, He must first join them. Jesus must join them – He must take His share with them – to fulfill all righteousness for and in them. In short, Jesus must become one of the sinners.
Jesus knows no sin (He doesn’t sin), but He does join the sinners. Baptism is identity. When you are baptized with a group, you become part of that group. When you were baptized, you became part of the group – you became on of the Christians. When the sinless Son of God was baptized, He became part of the group – He became one of the sinners.
Now all that Jesus is and does belongs to the group, to the baptized sinners. Jesus Christ – the man who is pleasing to God; Jesus Christ – the man who does do all that God requires of man; Jesus Christ, the one who was about to suffer, on the Cross, all that sinful man would suffer – this Jesus puts Himself and all that He is and all that He will do into that water.
By being baptized in this sinners’ baptism in the Jordan, Jesus fills up that Baptism with Himself and shares Himself with sinners by joining their ranks in the water. Jesus, by putting Himself in Baptism, put all His righteousness, all His well-pleasing worthiness, and all His atoning suffering and death – all His fulfilled-righteousness - into Baptism.
In short, Jesus, who is well-pleasing to God and who fulfills all righteousness, did not come to fulfill all righteousness for Himself alone or to be well-pleasing unto His own benefit alone. Jesus did not need to do any of that for Himself but is already eternally righteous and well-pleasing to God. Jesus came to be well-pleasing unto the benefit of the displeasing sinner; He came to fulfill all righteousness for the unrighteous.
To do this for you and me and all sinners, Jesus had to join the ranks of the sinners. By the union of baptism, He became one of the sinners to be righteous for and in and among us. Now, amongst the ranks of the guilty, all righteousness has been fulfilled – because He was baptized one of us.
Because righteousness is fulfilled and all sin has been died for by Jesus, all sin is forgiven. You are forgiven. But will you, a sinner, ever become pleasing to God in yourself? You are forgiven, but will you even be given the gift of being good – of being pleasing to God? All righteousness is fulfilled for you. Will righteousness ever be fulfilled in you?
A Lord who only forgives sin has not, in the end, fulfilled all righteousness. The end goal, the great gift, the thing for which we wait most – the thing we most hope for – is that we will, one day, be good again. That I, in my own nature, will one day not be a sinner is my hope – that I will be well-pleasing to God. Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness and now fulfills it in you. He begins to make you and me good again even now, sinner though we be. Because Jesus joined Himself to sinners in His Baptism, you and I will one day, in ourselves, be well-pleasing to our Father and sinners no more. Thanks be to God. Amen.