In 1995, there was a popular song, one still heard occasionally on the radio today. It asked the question, “What if God was one of us?”
The answer to that question is that he is, in the person of his son, Jesus Christ. God is one of us even to the point of having claimed as His own our sin.
St. Paul says as much when he writes, “For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
That happened in the baptism of Jesus at the hands of John the Baptist. In his baptism in the Jordan River, Jesus Christ identified himself with sinners, becoming one of them.
As I write this, I’m three days removed from the Church’s annual celebration of the Baptism of Our Lord. As we in our church commemorated that event last Sunday, I was struck by just how much I enjoy celebrating it.
I enjoy celebrating Jesus’ baptism because of its message that Jesus is with me and for me even when I’m at my worst. Jesus is on my side, even though as a sinner I surely don’t deserve it.
You see, we learn in the Gospels that John the Baptist preached repentance (Matthew 3:1-2), and that his baptism was for the purpose of preparing sinners for their Savior by calling them to confess their sins (Matthew 3:6, 11).
After telling us that, Matthew writes, “Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying: ‘I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’” (Matthew 3:13-14).
John didn’t want to baptize Jesus because John’s baptism was for sinners, and John knew Jesus was not a sinner. But Matthew goes on to write, “Jesus answered him: ‘Let it be so now; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:15).
In what way? By Jesus’ being baptized like everybody else who was baptized by John, for repentance as a sinner. Luke even writes in his Gospel: “When all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized…” (Luke 3:31).
When all the sinners were going into the water confessing their sins, Jesus too went into the water — not confessing his sins (of which there weren’t any), but preparing to die for everybody else’s sins by identifying himself with them.
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by paying for all unrighteousness with His death on the cross.
Because he is risen from the dead, all of us who have been identified with him in our baptism are what Paul calls “the righteousness of God.” As the Father said about Jesus at his baptism, “You are My beloved Son, with You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22).
God is well pleased with us, too, because in his son, Jesus Christ, God is one of us.
The Rev. Dan O’Connor is pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.