One day Jesus arrived at the Jordan River. He requested that John baptize him. After acknowledging Jesus’ position as Messiah, John respectfully declines the offer and says, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” The question is a valid one: why would the sinless one need to be baptized into the forgiveness of sins?
The answer is because although sinless, the time would come when Jesus would be the greatest sinner that ever walked this planet. Yes, the sinless one is also the greatest sinner. How can this be? Because on the cross, Jesus took on himself the sins of all people, in all the world, for all time – thus making him the greatest sinner that ever walked this planet.
Most of you have seen the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. It tells the story of a handsome man who lives in a pleasant castle. But a curse falls upon the castle and the prince, and when the shadow of evil fell upon it, it turns this handsome prince into a Beast of a figure, with a glistening snout and curly tusks. In his shame, the man hides himself, and in the darkness, he becomes a bitter man.
Then a woman shows us. She is beautiful and contagiously kind. Despite all his attempts to push her away, she stays with him and tries to help him. The wonder of the story is the fact that she cares for this hairy, drooling, roaring, defying beast. No one would blame her if she would have walked away. But she doesn’t, for you see, despite it all, she had fallen in love with him. And because the Beauty loved the Beast, the Beast becomes more and more beautiful himself. At the end of this fable, this beautiful woman kisses the beast and the beast becomes the handsome man he once was, and his castle is restored.
Some have said that this story is really the story of John 3:16, which says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Jesus, the beauty, enters the world of the beast – sinful humanity – and by his life and dedication to humanity, all is made well again. But actually, in the Bible, the Beautiful one, does a lot more than just kiss the Beast. In the Bible, “Beauty” (Jesus) literally becomes the beast. He hands off his beauty to us and takes our beastliness upon Himself.
That is why Jesus went to the Jordan that day. For just as you and I need to be washed daily in the forgiving waters of baptism, Jesus knew the day would come when he too would need that same graceful washing. By his act of baptism, and then going to the cross, the beautiful one, Jesus, has kissed us with forgiveness, the gift of life, and the promise of salvation.
The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him 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. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
We share in the baptism of Jesus, and in the moment of baptism we are united not only to Jesus’ death (and the death of our sins), but we receive a second astounding blessing, the promise of resurrection to everlasting life.
Martin Luther said this, “Each morning when you get up and wash your face, remember your baptism.” I can’t think of a better way to start the day! God bless you and let us all celebrate Jesus’ baptism and our own!