“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” --Matthew 3:15
I spent a lot of my growing-up years on a lake (pictured above). During elementary and middle school, my family camped on some lake property we owned in central Wisconsin. Between seventh and eighth grade, my parents built a home on the property and we moved to the lake full time. I love the water. During those lake years my parents often accused me of being part fish. In the summer we boated, and canoed and skied, and in the winter we skated and snowmobiled and cross-country skied on the frozen, snow-covered surface. I rarely get to go swimming these days. I miss it. As much as I found my time in, on and around the water life-giving, I also learned that the water was something you needed to respect. Twice I fell through thin ice and into the frozen lake. I was fortunate to escape both times. More than once during those years someone drowned in our lake. Water can kill. We understood that.
The sacrament of Baptism encompasses all the meaning water holds for us as human beings and uses it to say something important about our relationship with God. Baptism both gives life and drowns. As Paul says in Romans 6:4, Therefore we have been buried with (Christ) by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Baptism washes us, not from dirt, but from our brokenness and burdened consciences (1 Peter 3:21). Baptism nourishes us daily with God’s grace (Titus 3:5-7).
All that being said, why was Jesus baptized by John in the Jordan? Matthew tells us that it was to “fulfill all righteousness.” Or to put it more colloquially: because it was the right thing to do. It was what God wanted. It is what God intended. As we hear the Spirit declare that Jesus is God’s beloved Son, so as the water is poured on us, God claims us as Jesus’ siblings for Jesus’ sake and all righteousness is fulfilled again. It is what God wants for us. It is what God intends for us.
In the water and the Word, God declares to us who we are and whose we are and that makes a difference. In the town where I went to High School, they often referred to us as “lake-people” and that was who we were. As baptized children of God we are “water-people” and that says a lot about who we are too.
At the end of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples to go out and baptize, that is, to bring his new life to the world. Pray that we become the source of life for those we meet!
Pray for peace too.
Thanks for reading.