Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 12, 2014

“It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Feast of the Baptism of Jesus

Mt 3:13  Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
Mt 3:14  John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Mt 3:15  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
Mt 3:16  And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him;
Mt 3:17  and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

“It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” – Mt 3:15.

“Us.”  Yes, “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Can anyone be fully righteous except God alone?  Can anyone “fulfill all righteous” except God alone?  Can man add anything to the perfect righteous of God?   Who alone, but God alone, could come among us, work the perfect saving work of righteousness on the Cross, to save us?  Yes, only God.  BUT: “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness,” Jesus told John the Baptist.  Then, John allowed it.  Yes, John then “consented” (RSV) to baptize Jesus.  Because Jesus told him, and he understood that “it was fitting,” John allowed it.

Several things are very important here.

  1. John was reluctant.  He felt – and he was – unworthy.  He recognized the all-holiness of Jesus, and his own need for the “Holy Spirit and fire” baptism that only Jesus could give him.
  2. Jesus came among sinful men and entered their world, and in this identification with us, uniting Himself with our plight and our need – becoming like us in all ways but sin – He presented Himself to the Baptist for the baptism of sinners for repentance.  This is the path that we, sinners who need repentance, must walk in following Him.  It begins with repentance.  Indeed for us it will continue in a life of repentance, until the Day when we are at last fully one with Him who is all-Holy.
  3. John was reluctant – but he “consented” when Jesus helped him hear that in the sight of all-holy God, and in the sight of humanity, that this work of the baptism of Jesus by a sinful man is “fitting.”  Jesus does not, in any “absolute” sense, “need” John or his baptism!  But it is “fitting.”  God wants this!  God wants to work with John, and God wants John to work with Him.   God wants this work in His Gospel to be a work of God and man, man with God.  “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

“Consenting” to God’s desire to work with man, through man, in accomplishing His divine work for man was not isolated to His baptism by John the Baptist.

Mary was both “greatly troubled” and “afraid” when the angel came to her to announce God’s will that she – Mary – was to become mother of “the Son of God.”  The angel eased her fear; he answered her confusion “How shall this be;” he pointed her mind and heart to the “power of the Most High.”  The angel assured her that “nothing will be impossible with God.”  Notice: the angel is not saying merely “nothing is impossible to God”!  The word here is “with,” not “to.”  In the literal Greek, the word “beside,” or “alongside” – para – is used.  That is, with you beside God, with God beside you, Mary, none of this is impossible.  God will do all this with you alongside God, and God alongside you.

Then, Mary consented with her well-known “fiat” – “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”  Only then, with her consent given, did the angel depart.  God does not will to do to us; He wills to do for us, with us and through us. “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

It was fitting that Jesus wash the feet of His apostles, including Peter.  Peter, in what appears to be authentic humility, refused:

Jn 13:8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” (RSV) – or, literally, “with me” (KJV).

God wants men – including here specifically Peter and the Apostles, to have part with Him.  The humility of Peter before his feet were washed was good!  But the humility of Peter after he “allowed” Jesus to do God’s will and wash his feet, was better.  Submission to the will of God – who desires to work His work with us – who desires that we have part with Him – is better.

After them would come their successors the bishops, and all the faithful in Christ.  To have part in what?  To have part in His mission, to be light to the world, to bring the saving Gospel to all the nations of the world.  To live the Truth of God before men blinded in the darkness and imprisoned in a prison and crippled in the brokenness of a life without God.  God came to us, for us, to be with us, to gather and grace and empower some of us to go to the rest of us – that all might be gathered into His life:

Mt 28:18  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Mt 28:19  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Mt 28:20  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

God wants us to have part with Him.  In no way are we – in no way is His Church – absolutely needed!  But it is fitting, it is His will, that we have part with Him.  “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”  Thus He sent His Church.  This is her mission, this is her apostolate, given her at the close of His time on earth.  This is the life of the Body of Christ.

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Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for your insights on the Gospel for this Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. How beautiful it is to listen, prayerfully and perseveringly, and hear His Good News! Yes, Jesus truly wants us to have part with Him. It is “fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” — for it is His Will to send His Church to complete His Mission in this world.

    May we renew our Baptismal vows today with deeper faith, hope and above all charity. Let us renounce satan, his pomps, his works, and all his empty promises and believe in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit Who shares His Life with us and enables us to share Him with others.

  2. What a beautiful reflection- a lot to think about.


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