St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-08-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 01-08-2017

This is Where Making it Full Begins

Isaiah 42:1-9, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:13-17

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

I often wondered why Jesus had to be baptized. And a particular puzzlement comes when he is baptized by John who was preaching a baptism of repentance. Really, if Jesus was born the Son of God, without inherent sin; or, in fact, was God in flesh, how is it that he needed to be baptized for repentance? It’s no help in understanding when John, himself, seems to be thinking the same thing saying “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Then, add the appearance that Jesus receives the Holy Spirit right in the middle of it all and I’m even more confused. Why does God need to send the Spirit into the Holy Son of God? Isn’t it already there?

My trouble in this, and I know it is the case for many others who read the Bible, is that I was looking at the story as the reporting of an event and trying to make logical sense of it, rather than looking for what is revealed by it.

Once I got out of my “logical” thinking; cleared my head of the idea of making sense of the need for Jesus to be baptized and began to focus on the reason for his baptism, things began to be more clear; and, I will add, more fascinating!

I looked at the only words Jesus speaks in this whole story; “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” In fact, these are the first words of Christ that Matthew writes down in his Gospel, they must be very important! So let’s look at those words.

John has been preaching the baptism of repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” is Matthew’s exact quote. When Jesus comes to John to be baptized John is hesitant, but Jesus’ words are “Let it be so now…” the time is now for the kingdom to come; not just near, but here… now!

Then Jesus continues to speak saying, “…for it is proper for us…” Jesus uses the plural “us”. That brings Jesus and John together as partners in “…fulfilling all righteousness”. John isthe one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.'” But he’s not just the announcer, he’s a runner in the race; now passing the baton to Jesus at his command.

Jesus finishes his sentence he saying, “…to fulfill all righteousness.” In this phrase the word “fulfill”, means simply ‘to make full; to bring to fullness; to carry out the task’. “Righteousness”, generally means ‘being in a right relationship with God’ and in this context being in right relationship is ‘doing; performing’ the revealed will of God.

Pulling all of this together we can see a lot more in these first quoted words of Jesus than just Jesus telling John that he should be baptized. We know that John is the forerunner of the Christ declaring that the Kingdome is near and fulfilling the ancient Scripture “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”. John has already been doing the revealed will of God; with the partnering use of the word “us” we see that John is the preceding runner in the race and by baptizing Jesus is passing the baton on to him. Now it’s Jesus’ turn to carry the message toward the goal; continuing the effort of the team to win the race of doing God’s revealed will.

There is the reason for Jesus to be baptized; this is the revelation in the Baptism of Christ; Not to cleans him of any sin; not to welcome him into an exclusive club (he certainly already is), but to distinguish him as a member of the team running the race for God; working to do God’s revealed will.


Now think about this, if you will, especially if you have never thought of it in this way before it before. Later, the baton was passed from Christ to his disciples, making them members of that same team; and from them to all those they baptized; generation after generation, down through the ages until today. Each of you has been baptized, linking you to the baptism of Christ, even to the baptism of John. Or, in another way of looking at it, looking backwards, the one who baptized you didn’t stand alone or apart; he or she, was baptized by one before and that one baptized by one before that; so on and so on; making a direct connection all the way back to Christ himself.

And, if you still feel disconnected by time, look at it this way. Just taking a good guess, let’s figure the average age of the ones doing the baptizing was 40 years old. That would make room for only 50 times of passing it on, only 50 people separating you from Christ’s baptism! Each one of those 50 have held the baton, carried it forward, and passed it on until now; today it is in our hands; your hand.

With that understanding, we should also be realizing that the question has turned back on ourselves. The question we need to ponder today isn’t “why did Jesus need to be baptized” or “why was Jesus baptized”. Rather, the question should be “why were we baptized”, “why were you baptized”.

Along with all the other things we consider to happen upon our baptism we also, through succession, receive the baton and the responsibility to carry it forward. With that responsibility, we need to always be asking ourselves: Am I fulfilling all righteousness; what can I do to fulfill all righteousness; how will I fulfill God’s revealed will; God’s will revealed to us through Jesus Christ.

We have the baton in our hands and it is up to each one of us to carry it forward, doing the work of God’s revealed will.



Matthew 3:13-17
3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him.
3:14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
3:15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
3:16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.
3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”


Isaiah 42:1-9
42:1 Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.
42:2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;
42:3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.
42:4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
42:5 Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:
42:6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
42:7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.
42:9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Psalm 29
29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
29:2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
29:3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.
29:4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
29:5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
29:6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
29:7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
29:8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
29:9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”
29:10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
29:11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!

Acts 10:34-43
10:34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,
10:35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.
10:36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.
10:37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced:
10:38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
10:39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree;
10:40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear,
10:41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
10:42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead.
10:43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”