This One is My Beloved Son,
in whom I am well pleased
In the name of the Father of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“And answering Jesus said unto [John], 'Permit it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he permitted him.”
For thus it is fitting. It is suitable. It is becoming of Jesus and John that this fulfillment of righteousness be done in a certain way. Jesus has come, has been born, and in Jesus, the Christ has come, has been born. This is fulfillment in itself; but that is not all. There is more to be fulfilled, more to be revealed, more to do.
Jesus / has a destiny, and that destiny is your righteousness: / to be your righteousness. He comes, lives, suffers, dies, rises, ascends and continues to come to accomplish your right standing before God. But it is be done in a certain way, a way that is pre-destined by God. And this is precisely what the Epiphany season is all about: Jesus, and Him revealed. He comes to us as we saw in the Scripture lessons of Christmas, he is revealed to us, as we see and will see, in the Scripture lessons of Epiphany.
But it just doesn't make any sense. John said, “I have need to be baptized of You, and You, You come to me?” You are the Christ, Jesus, you are the Anointed One, appointed for the fall and rising of manyi, and you would come to me that I would do what? Baptize you / into the forgiveness of sins? What sins? You are already righteous in Yourself, you are God, what more is to be fulfilled in You?
But He doesn't say “to fulfill my righteousness,” rather He says, “to fulfill all righteousness.” It isn't fitting that God would come to be baptized for His own righteousness; for He is righteous already. But some are not, many are not, we are not righteous already. Jesus is baptized to bestow His righteousness on the unrighteous.
This is what you are to permit, John. Not that it would make any sense. God's actions often don't. What He allows and what He lets us go through sometimes. Why, Lord? / But on the other, how He loves us so and what He gives us all the time. We don't even begin to be worthy of His blessings.
“Permit it now, John.” Let it go, whatever might be standing in the way of you baptizing me for the righteousness of all, get rid of it. Don't let anything hinder what is divinely fitting, what God would have be done.
And thus John submits to Jesus, as Jesus submits to John.
What a mystery! Foolishness! God does not submit, does He? God is all-powerful and He has to protect and care for the whole universe. How can He submit? Because He is love, that's how. Jesus, the fulness of the Godhead, submitted Himself and was found to be a tiny baby in a womb; Jesus, the Word of God, submitted Himself to be taught how to speak, / to be cursed by the evil words of men. Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, submitted Himself to death. God submits Himself, because God is love. He does not force Himself. He did not bully John or speak any unfriendly words against Him. He is all friendly, He is all Gospel. Permit this, John, I am about to take on the sin of the whole world. I am about to sanctify all waters to be used for the Divine, eternal washing of Holy Baptism. You submit also John.
You submit also, St John / Ev Lutheran Church. Take the example of our Lord, take the example our Lord's baptizer. Jesus' destiny is that He comes and is revealed and comes again and again to be your righteousness.
What does that mean: righteousness? To be righteous is to be who you were meant to be, and nothing less. You, man, were created to be holy, created in the image of God who is holy and who is love, you were created to love.
But that image was corrupted, it was soiled. You were no longer righteous, you had hate in your heart, doing evil and submitting to the passions of your evil flesh.
Then Christ Jesus came. He, This One, the Beloved Son of the Father, full of grace and truth, has come and comes in truth to be gracious to you, giving you what is rightly His, that is, His image. He comes to restore you to be like Him, as you ought to be. Not that it was necessary. “For thus it is fitting,” He says. It is fitting that Jesus be baptized. He doesn't say, “for thus it is necessary.” God wasn't obliged to do anything for us sinners. But He did. This is just who He is: God is love and purely out of His love He pre-destined Himself to act out in these tangible ways (Incarnation, Circumcision, Baptism, Crucifixion) He acts to show us how great His love really is for us, all of us, especially you. He loves you. He is righteous for you, He is baptized for you, that you, in your baptism, would be righteous in Him.
And just as the Sacrament of the Font is your initiation back into righteousness, so the Sacrament of the Altar is that which keeps you right. You are preserved in rightness, you are who you were meant to be, as often as you eat and drink the food He gives. Submit to Him, then, dearly baptized. Permit Him to do that which is fitting now. Let it go, whatever might be standing in the way of you receiving Him who is the righteousness of all, get rid of it. Don't let anything hinder what is divinely fitting, what God would have be done, often.
Now, I'm usually not one for analogies in sermons, other than what Scripture gives us, but I read an analogy that is so fitting here I couldn't help but include it. This is written by a brother pastor in Illinois. He writes:
“At the risk of perhaps being silly, [I am] remind[ed] of the time our dog, Jake, caught a rabbit. I was not about to let him in the house with it. He would not come into the house if he couldn't bring it. And when I tried to take it from him, he snapped at me. Jake is like the sinner who refuses to let go [of] his sin and yet claims that he wants "in" to the life that is in our Lord. The Lord wants everyone of us “Jakes” [to be] in[side] the house - but the whole point of being in the house with Him is that He gives us infinitely more and better than the silly sins we foolishly believe we can't live without and have to drag along with us or we [simply] stay outside and sulk.”ii
Let us not sell ourselves short. God would have us receive Him to the fullest. If we would just permit Him. He is so generous with His grace, let us soften our hearts to receive Him.
Ask yourselves: do I want my Lord to come under my roof more often? If He does come into the house of your body, what will He find? Sin? Yes, in all of us. Unrepentant sin; sin that you just won't let go of? Hopefully not. But unless God comes in and cleans out the sin, and takes up residence and organizes the Good things as they should be. Unless our Lord shatters your prideful thoughts and ideas, you will never be ready or willing for Him to enter into your house more often.
Consider it. For yourself, for your family, for your congregation. What is holding us back that Christ is not more eagerly sought after and more richly distributed in our midst? What are our rabbits? /
Repent. Turn from those things. Lay it down at the door or in the yard or wherever you are. You think you have found something that you can hide from God / or something that will fulfill you more than what God can? Repent. Nothing is so fulfilling as the righteousness of Christ being fulfilled in you by eating His Body and drinking His Blood with others who also need this fulfillment.
Permit it. Demand it. It is fitting; it is Good, for all.
In +Jesus' name. Amen.
iiPr William Weedon
[Artwork by Ed Riojas]