This week in our Advent 2022 series on Matthew 3, we’ve been seeking to understand why Jesus got baptized. We learned that Jesus, through his baptism, demonstrates humility and togetherness, leading to joy.
In today’s post, we seek to understand what Jesus meant when he said that he needs to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness. Righteousness is not self-righteousness. It is actually doing things the right way. A life lived the right way, which is the way that is in line with God’s heart.
Jesus is saying, at least in part, that he is getting baptized because he is going to live a life a righteousness, which is another way to say, the way of the Kingdom of God. Jesus, in other words, gets baptized to show us what it looks like to initiate a life that desires to be part of a community who are living the way of God’s Kingdom together.
When people get baptized, they are now to live in accordance with their baptism. Live a life worthy of your baptism. When you are baptized, you are identifying to the world that you are a follower of Jesus. You are a part of his covenant people. And that means you will strive to live a life of righteousness.
Perhaps you have not been baptized and are ready to be baptized, to declare to the world that you want to pursue living the righteous life of Jesus. What we find when we pursue the righteous life of Jesus is joy. Not perfection, not ease, not even comfort, but his joy flowing from deep within us.
For Jesus, his baptism by water also fulfilled righteousness. There was a fulfillment, which means a completion of a promise. In Jesus’ baptism what is fulfilled? What is fulfilled is exactly what John points in verses 11-12, that there was going to be a new baptism, one by fire and the Spirit. Jesus will baptize people in a whole new way. This new baptism would come to fruition after his death and resurrection, through which he fulfilled righteousness, and opened a new way to experience his joy.
In Acts 1:4-5, which takes place after his resurrection, Jesus is talking with his disciples and he says,
“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
We continue reading in Acts 1:9 that Jesus ascends, returning to his father in heaven, and the disciples do exactly what Jesus asked them to do. They, along with the other followers of Jesus, wait for this new baptism, praying constantly. Approximately ten days later, as we read in Acts 2:1-4, the group of about 120 of them are still waiting, when the Spirit arrives, with the sound of a rushing wind, and flaming tongues rest on their heads. Jesus has now baptized them with Spirit and fire.
The Spirit fills them, empowering them to speak in other languages, telling people in the city the good news about Jesus. Peter preaches about this baptism of the Spirit, as it had been prophesied by the Hebrew prophet Joel, and how Jesus is the fulfillment of righteousness. In Acts 2:40-41, we read that 3000 people believe and are baptized, and the brand new church of Jesus is launched. We continue reading in Acts 2:42-47 how this Holy Spirit-baptized church lives.
From the very beginning then, baptism says that you not only believe but also that you are giving the Spirit of God control of your life. When you give the Spirit control of your life, he might change you, and if we’re honest, we don’t always or even often want to be changed.
At Faith Church our discipleship serve team has been talking about how important it is for us, as followers of Jesus, to get out of our comfort zones. When we are filled with the Spirit, we are people who are getting out of our comfort zones, putting ourselves out there, feeling risk. We want the Fruit of the Spirit to be actively growing in our lives. We are weeding out the areas of our lives not in line with the Spirit. That’s what our baptism calls us to. That’s what Jesus’ baptism called him to, a life that was fully devoted to the mission of God.
We also people filled with the Spirit and thus flowing with the fruit of the Spirit, of which one is joy.
So this Advent, let’s prepare for the coming of Jesus by following his example of self-sacrificial love, and there we will find joy. Let’s make the choice to live in community, together, looking for ways to live like Jesus. To acknowledge that we have the Spirit and then follow through in our hearts, thoughts, words and actions, as we watch joy grow in our lives.
Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash