Imagine for a moment, that you are standing in a long line of people. These sullen and downcast individuals are weary, having traversed a long distance to wait their turn. Not sure of what to expect, each person is prepared to acknowledge their transgressions, renounce their sins, and start life over. Standing with everyone in the mire of the muddy Jordon River is Jesus of Nazareth. Why is the sinless Son of God here? What does it have to do with you? Please read more.
Each of the four Gospels give us a version of Jesus’ Baptism. At first glance, this might seem odd to us. John the Baptist had a ministry of calling people to repentance. He had a large audience. After all, every person is a sinner who has fallen short of the glory of God. A call to repentance was a call to make a course correction in life.
We can therefore assume that everyone in the line knew they were broken by sin. John the Baptist had called them out into the desert to be plunged under water. This action symbolized death by drowning. He would then raise them up out of the water, symbolizing new life. But this still begs the question, “Why was Jesus there?”
At the time of His baptism, Jesus laid aside His glory to identify with us as sinners. He was not a sinner. If He were a sinner, He would have needed a savior Himself. But He was prepared to stand shoulder to shoulder with sinners. No other religion in the world ever have foresaw a god willing to identify and stand with sinners. Jesus, however, stands ready to help us bare our burdens. This sets the stage for His entire ministry. The innocent One took on the burden of the guilty.
Even John the Baptist was initially confused as to why Jesus had come to be baptized. Matthew 3:14-15 tells us, “John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him.” In other words, Jesus was setting the stage so that we could get right with God.
In John 1:29, John the Baptist states, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” In John’s version of the story of Jesus’ baptism, we can see that when Jesus enters the water, He sanctifies the water. Jesus then invites us to join Him in the water so that He can cleanse us.
Jesus came into His earthly existence in a dark and dirty stall surrounded by the smell of animal manure. He slept in a filthy manger. He stood in the mire of the Jordon. He walked the dusty roads of Jerusalem. He encountered the disease of the lepers. Finally, He died a criminal’s death, nailed naked to a cross for all to see.
But you and I know that the story doesn’t end there. Yes, He was plunged under the waters of the Jordon to start His ministry, but like Jonah, He emerged from that watery tomb on the 3rd Day at His resurrection.
Yes, my friends, Jesus started and concluded His public ministry with the weight of our sins on His back. He joined us in the mire of life. He knows the pains of being human. He understands whatever difficulty you and I are going through. He stood in the muck and mire of the muddy Jordon. Perhaps He sank up to His knees in it. Maybe you feel as if you are hopelessly stuck in some area of sin or addiction. Though sinless, He can still identify with you. He longs to lift you from your predicament.
Far too often, some people still see God as a tyrant, a God of rules, just waiting to smite us when we screw up. This is so far from the reality of who God is. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
Through His Baptism, Jesus identified Himself with everything that is most broken and shameful in us. Matthew 3:16-17 tells us that when Jesus came forth from the waters “the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Standing with us in the waters of baptism, Jesus calls us His brothers and sisters. Yes, He understands our squalid human condition. But because He identified with us as His brothers and sisters, His Father is prepared to say to us, “with you I am pleased.” No matter what sins we have committed, God is never ashamed to call us His children. The message is timeless. Standing in the mire of life, we need only to profess our faith in Jesus, repent and be saved!
Heavenly Father, through my baptism you washed away the stain of original sin. Through the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus you saved me from my sins. Thank you, Lord, for your limitless mercy, and for saving me from the mire of life, amen!
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