Jesus Is Not Prevented

St. Matthew 3:13-17 (1/11/14)

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.

St. Matthew 3:13-17  [13] Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. [14] And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” [15] But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then he allowed Him. [16] Then Jesus, when He had been baptized, came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. [17] And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord…  Today Jesus comes to be baptized by John, but, as our text says, “John tried to prevented Him.”  I think we all understand very well why John would have done this.  We would prevent Jesus, too.  The good news for John and the good news for you is that Jesus will not be prevented.

Neither you nor I want to believe that Jesus should remain with us in the messy details of our everyday lives.  It is no problem for us to think that we come here to Jesus on a Sunday morning, using this consecrated room as a place to get together with Him.  We tend to think of our Lord as a neat-and-clean Jesus, a trophy Jesus who should be kept polished and up on a pedestal.  You and I like to think of a Jesus who keeps His distance from us so that His holiness will not come into too much contact with our sin.

You might not agree with me on those points.  You might even feel a little disgusted by my statement that we do not want to believe Jesus remains with us in every messy detail of our everyday lives.  If so, here is an even bigger pill to swallow: you and I do not even want Jesus to remain with us.  Consider the evidence…

Sometimes, Christian parents rebuke their children’s misbehavior by saying, “How would Jesus feel if He saw you act that way?”  Now, please hear me correctly, but this is a horrible question, for it portrays Jesus wrongly.  Not only does it make Him out to be our divine disciplinarian, but this question also assumes that Jesus is not actually present and seeing the child act this way.

Next point: For the sake of a little get-to-know-you, turn that question around to yourself: What thoughts do you entertain that you would rather not have Jesus know about?  What abusive or careless words do you speak that you would not like Jesus to hear?  What things do you do to your neighbor or to yourself that you would just as soon not have your Lord Jesus see?  And who in the world are you kidding if you believe that Jesus doesn’t already know every thought and intent of your heart?

Further, undoubtedly you find it comforting to know that your Lord Jesus Christ is with you continually in your times of hardship, fear, or grief.  It is equally undoubted that you feel totally creeped-out to know that your Lord Jesus is continually with you in the midst of your self-indulgence, your malice, and your premeditated sin.

Perhaps I can now rest my case: Neither you nor I really want to believe that Jesus belongs with us in the messy details of our everyday lives.  We all prefer a pinstriped Jesus, not a Jesus who wallows with us in the daily grind.  What is a nice God like Him doing in a place like this – a heart, a mind, a mouth and a body like this?

That is what St. John the Baptist wanted to know.  “Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by Him.  And he tried to prevent Him…”  It’s not that John protested in order to be polite.  The Greek verb translated “prevented” indicates that John persistently and strenuously protested Jesus’ Baptism; he repeatedly tried to block our Lord’s access to the river.  This scene almost portrays John the Baptist physically blocking the way as Jesus tries to dodge His way around him and into the baptismal water.

John the Baptist knows how you and I tend to think about Jesus because John the Baptist thinks about Jesus in the same way: John does not think Jesus should be immersed into the messy details of our everyday lives.  It is as if John said to Jesus, “What is a nice God like You doing in a place like this?  You are holy!  That water is full of sin!  I know the water is full of sin because I have been baptizing people in that water, washing their sins off from them into the water.  If you get into the water, Jesus, You are going to get soaked with sin!”

And to that protest Jesus says, “Permit it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Today we celebrate and focus on the Baptism of our Lord.  Today we must see Jesus in the sin-soaked and gross water.  If we don’t, then we will never believe that Jesus should actually remain with us in the messy details of our everyday lives.  If we do not take to heart this Baptism in today’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus will forever seem to be like the doctor who washes his hands after touching us, so that He doesn’t catch our disease.

Dear friends, that is NOT who your Lord Jesus is!  Your Lord Jesus is not grossed out by you.  He is not afraid of catching something from you.  He is not offended by you and He is not out there somewhere, waiting for you to clean yourself up and come to Him.  Your Lord Jesus Christ covered Himself with you and He is not going away.  Ever!

Hebrews 4:15 states: “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  You will get no argument from me that Jesus had no sin – at least, no sin of His own.  But Jesus did not really need any sin of His own because He got all of yours.  “John tried to prevent Him,” but Jesus would not be prevented.  Jesus got past John and went into the water that was teeming with sin.

What is a nice God like Him doing in a place like this?  He is living eternally with people like you and me.  He may have been a shiny, lily-white Jesus when He got into the water, but He wasn’t that way when He came out.  That is why John the Baptist would later point to Jesus and say, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).   “Look, there’s Jesus, the Lamb of God who bears, who carries, who willingly takes to Himself and lugs around the sin of the world.”

The sin of the world – your sin and my sin – came to Jesus at His Baptism.  “John tried to prevent Him” because John did not want to see His God get dirty.  Jesus insisted because that is the kind of God He is.  Jesus is not just the holy God; He is the holy God who trades His holiness for your sin.  He is not just the perfect God; He is the God who stripped His perfection from Himself, gave it to you, and was wrapped up in your imperfection.

What is a nice God like Him doing in a place like this?  Everything.  Everything, dear friends, for you.

Here you are, not wanting to believe that Jesus should remain with you in the messy details of your everyday lives; thinking it best if you mostly keep your God up on the shelf with the Sunday dishes, and honestly preferring that He stay there so that He cannot see you in action.  Silly you.

This Gospel teaches us to believe differently.  “Permit it be so now,” says Jesus, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

“John tried to prevent Him,” but Jesus will not be prevented.  There must be a connection between your Lord’s refusal to be prevented from being baptized and what He later says concerning you and concerning your Baptism when He says, “Let the little children come to Me and do not PREVENT them” (Mark 10:14 it is the same word in each verse).  Just as Jesus will allow no one to stand in the way of His Baptism, He will allow no one to stand in the way of your Baptism, or in the way of those benefits that come to you through your Baptism.

Where Jesus becomes the sinner, you become the saint; where Jesus is declared unforgiven because of the sin in the water, you are declared forgiven by virtue of that same sin that has been washed into that same water.

“Permit it be so now” says Jesus, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Here at the Jordan and here at the Baptismal font, you and I become the very righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).  And through Baptism we most certainly receive forgiveness of sin, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation.  Why would anyone want to prevent that???

In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.