The Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ is located within the season of Epiphany. Epiphany is about God manifesting His glory through His Son Jesus Christ. The Baptism of our Lord shows us this glory of God.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit revealed themselves at the Jordan River as one God in three persons. But the glory revealed was not merely the Holy Trinity displaying the divine majesty, but particularly the majesty manifested in and through the Son.
The Voice from heaven and the form of the Dove pointed to Jesus as the Anointed One, the Christ. He was anointed by the Spirit at the Jordan for a purpose, THE purpose: to go to the Cross in order to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. His suffering, death, and resurrection were His destiny and work. Therefore God the Holy Trinity highlighted this fact. It is as if He said, “Here is the One! This is My Son set aside for the purpose of redemption! He is well-pleasing to Me, not only because He is holy and perfect, but because He willingly has taken upon Himself the task of winning salvation for all men.”
It was necessary for Christ to be Baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness. He had no need to be Baptized, since He had no sins. Saint John the Baptist agreed that he, not Christ, needed Baptism. But Christ submitted to Baptism to show that He was taking the place of all sinners.
So Christ became the righteousness that is given away freely. He fulfilled the Law in every way, and then offered that righteousness to all men. Now all who have faith in the work of Christ receive His glory and sinlessness as their possession. The very same righteousness and glory that belong to Christ are given to us in the precious waters of Holy Baptism.
Before, we had only shame, not glory. We reveled in all kinds of shameful acts. When our sinful flesh gets its way, we still perform the same disgusting works. We have lacked righteousness in ourselves. All our good deeds were like filthy rags. We had scorned and rejected God as our Father. We wanted to be our own possession, to drive our own course, to make our own decisions, stand on our own two feet. But rebellious sons who reject their loving Father can find only shame.
But Christ has fulfilled all righteousness for us. He removed from us our righteousness, and replaced those filthy rags with the glorious garment of His holiness. Although we had scorned and rejected God as our Father, He has given us new birth and adoption in Baptism as His sons, well-pleasing in His sight. His voice has also spoken approvingly from heaven over us when we were washed by Him. Now and always, He calls us His beloved sons, in whom He is well-pleased, exactly as the Voice called Christ at the Jordan.
Concerning those words, Saint Matthew gives a slightly different version than the other Evangelists. Saints Mark and Luke both write, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased.” But Matthew writes, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Regarding this difference, my opinion is that Mark and Luke give the original version that was spoken, but Matthew gives the true sense of the words. Mark and Luke report the words of the Father to His Son. But the Father did not speak so much for Christ’s benefit as for ours. He was not telling Christ as if He needed to know. As with so many other things, God did it for us. So Matthew gives us the true sense in which the Father is speaking to us about His Son. He tells us, “This is the One, My beloved Son. I am well pleased in Him.”
It is as if the Father is directing our eyes to stop looking at ourselves and look instead at Christ. He is the important One. He is the glorious One, the eternal Son who has brought all God’s righteousness to earth in human flesh. The Godhead dwells in the Man Jesus. That is amazing! He did not stay in heaven, but came to accomplish and distribute freely His own righteousness.
This is what God chooses when He decides what His glory will be - not the blazing of light or the exercise of power or the conquering of enemies. No, He has chosen His Son in human flesh. He has chosen the Man who is holy God, yet who humbles Himself to the lowest place. He goes down into the Jordan to declare that He has come for sinners, for you and me. He has made Himself the expendable Son, the Christ, the Person chosen to be sacrificed in the most painful and difficult way possible.
That is what God chooses for His glory, because in this His love is accomplished for men. In the dripping Man in the Jordan, God shows us that He is the gracious God.
So Christ steps into the Jordan, and He has committed His path. Now the Cross is inevitable. He will do it, and nothing will stop Him.
The benefits of that Cross are given to us in the very same waters, the waters of adoption, Holy Baptism. This is our glory and righteousness.
In the Name of this Triune God, the only God who saves. Amen.
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