Matthew 3:15 “You must baptize Me, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
The Corona Virus pandemic is now in its exponential growth period, from its mid-March spike of 5,000 total infections, 400 new cases/day, and 50 total deaths, to this early April record of 215,000 infections, 27,000 new cases/day and over 5,000 deaths. Experts tell us that the next 2 weeks will see the highest spikes.
In 2 weeks will also be Easter, which is when we also see a second, different type of spike – this one is in church attendance. Many people who don’t normally attend church will attend Easter Sunday. We’re told that many people attend Easter service because of tradition or they feel a need to connect to the spiritual side of their lives. But this year’s spike will be different. People are now keenly aware of their own mortality.
Many of my friends have been preparing for April 12 since Ash Wednesday, as they observe their yearly season of Lent. Many claiming to be Christian see Lent, a season of 40+ days of preparation, as significant to their faith. Lent is intended to be a time to prepare their hearts for what they believe is the holiest week of the year. Their preparation is a combination of three things: 1) remembering their mortality, 2) repenting from their sinfulness, and 3) giving thanks for the free gift of salvation they received through Jesus Christ.
Those observing Lent reflect daily on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and their need for His achievement on the Cross for forgiveness of their sins. So, with the spike of COVID-19 death over the past 40 days, this season of death that we are all in, Christian or not, unites us all in confronting our mortality.
But the commonality ends there, as Christians shift their focus to one specific death in history, that has the promise of defeating death (including COVID-19): the death of Jesus Christ that is celebrated this year on Good Friday, April 10. His historical death on the Cross, to pay of our sins, is the precursor to Easter.
As we study the significance of His death over 2,000 years ago, we begin with a verse from chapter 3 of the New Testament Gospel of Matthew. As John the Baptist is baptizing people in the Jordan River, Jesus Christ approaches John for one purpose: to also be baptized. John is resistant, telling Jesus it is he who needs Christ to baptize him, because John, like those observing Lent, knows his sinfulness and looks to Jesus for his solution. As John declared elsewhere in the Bible, during this same event when Jesus first came to him for baptism: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
Jesus’s response is profound: “You must baptize Me, for it is fitting to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15). The moment after John baptizes Jesus, Matthew records that “a voice is heard from heaven, saying ‘This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17). What is this “righteousness” that Jesus is compelled to make sure He satisfies? Why does His Father verbally express His pleasure at His Son’s willingness to be publicly baptized? Answering these questions is the key to unlocking Good Friday.
We begin with the greatest archaeological discovery in history – the 1948 Isaiah Dead Sea Scroll, dating to 125 years before Christ was born. This ancient scroll nearly matches our Bible’s Book of Isaiah! It is in the 53rd chapter we find our key: “It pleased the Lord (YHWH, the Father) to crush Him (Messiah, the Son). YHWH has put Messiah to grief. When YHWH makes Messiah’s soul an offering for sin, Messiah shall see His seed, Messiah shall prolong His day, and the pleasure of YHWH shall prosper in Messiah’s hand. YHWH shall see the distress of Messiah’s soul, and be satisfied. By Messiah’s knowledge, YHWH’s righteous Servant shall justify many, for Messiah shall bear their sins” (Isaiah 53:10-11).
Here, we discover what pleases the Father in Matthew 3:17. His only Son will be put to death (crushed) by being the Father’s offering to mankind for forgiving everyone’s sin by personally bearing those sins and then being punished for those sins in our place. This is also an ancient picture of the Father’s promise in John 3:16:
God so loved the world, that he gave (offered up) His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
God is pleased in Matthew 3:17 at Jesus’s willingness to be baptized into His own death, the death explained in Isaiah 53:10 on the Cross at Calvary.
By Christ doing this for you and me, “God the Father’s pleasure prospers”. God’s promise is something we know matches reality because it is set in stone in an ancient writing from the prophet Isaiah! Beginning with His willingness to be baptized into His own upcoming death, His Father voiced His pleasure as a key in our bible study – the fulfillment of His prophetic promise to provide the way to eternal life from long ago.
The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #392