This Sunday is the first Sunday after the day of Epiphany. This particular Sunday is always remembered as the Sunday of the Baptism of our Lord.
Why was Jesus baptized? Jesus says "...to fulfill all righteousness..." What could that possibly mean?
If you read bible commentaries there are many interpretations of what it means. Let me add one of my own.
Take a moment and read Matthew 3:13-17. It's not very long.
At first, when Jesus stands in line like everyone else wanting to be baptized by John the Baptist-and when it is His turn, John refuses to baptize Him. John feels (and rightly so) that it should be the other way around: He (John) should be baptized by Jesus! Makes perfect sense to me. But - critics have asked - if Jesus is perfect and sinless and all that, why would He need to be baptized?
First of all, Jesus NEVER said that He HAD to be baptized. The only thing He said what that it must be done for some type of righteousness sake. So-again-what does it mean?
Jesus as a teacher, a rabbi, He always found ways to get to the level of heart and mind of His friends and yes, His enemies. When speaking with the Pharisees (for example in Matthew 15, Jesus speaks rather tersely to a foreign woman who is seeking His healing.
Understand that the Pharisees are standing around Him listening to what He is going to do; so - in order for them to understand how awful they sound speaking "over and above" people, He speaks very insulting to the woman. He is driving home a very deep point of how to treat other people; Jesus uses the Pharisees' own measures of meanness to prove a point. It's one of many
teaching moments" for Jesus), He always sounds a little different because He is searching for a common ground by which to educate "these scallywags" about life.
In His own baptism then, Jesus seeks a plane from which to speak to the common person; He desires to be close to His children of every time and race. So - to fulfill this loving relationship, John's baptism is one of many things He will experience to become closer to them all.
He enters Samaritan towns (which He isn't supposed to do); He eats with "sinners" (which He is not supposed to do); He enters people's homes (examples, Simon the Pharisee and Zacchaeus), which He isn't supposed to do, as well as even call one of His very own twelve disciples (Matthew) who was one of the most notorious of all people.
Jesus drives home a point of divine compassion every day of His ministry, and, here in Matthew 3, He does it with John's baptism. His righteousness is His desire for closeness, His desire for relationship, with His brothers and sisters. It helps Him relate to others, and vice versa. How righteous of God who comes down to us! For God, "it is proper" to do it this way!
As you think on your own baptism this week, remember the righteousness you have received by virtue of God's compassion and forgiveness. Remember ways that we can be the same way to others, which is the purpose of the Church.
Remember - in all righteousness - no matter what, that,
God loves you and so do we!