Baptism of Our Lord • Matthew 3:13–17 • January 9, 2011
by Dale A. Meyer
Still Waters Run Deep
Introduction: Over time you get to know some people well enough to know how they’ll react. You have a good idea how friends, family, and co-workers will react in certain situations. Some people you know keep a calm composure on the outside but inside are deeply intense. “Still waters run deep,” we say of such people. Today’s gospel lesson, the story of Jesus’s baptism, shows us that “still waters run deep” describes our Savior. As you learn from this gospel of the quiet resolve of Jesus to be your Savior, his Spirit will give you a calm composure to face life.
The text in context: John the Baptizer had a very good understanding of Jesus’s mission. John knew that he was prophetically preparing the way (3:3, 11). He preached the coming Day of the Lord (3:7, 10), urged repentance and amended lives (3:8), knew the Messiah would bestow the Spirit (3:11), and, in John’s Gospel, identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Knowing so much about Jesus, John was surprised by Jesus’s request for baptism. “John tried to prevent him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you but do you come to me?’” But John was about to learn that “still waters run deep.” This was the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry, and he wanted John and us all to put the specifics of our religious knowledge into clear focus of his saving mission. “Let it be so now,” Jesus said. “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” So they went down into the running waters of the Jordan for baptism.
The teaching: Of all the people in your life, Jesus is the one you need to know the best, but that’s not easy since we don’t see him. What do we learn from Jesus’s desire to be baptized? Jesus wanted to be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” Now John had been preaching about the people’s lack of righteousness, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath that is to come?” You know your sins and I know mine. The Bible promises judgment upon our sins (Rom 6:23a; 2 Cor 5:10; Ps 143:2). So John had drawn the correct conclusion: Jesus didn’t need baptism for the repentance of his sins because Jesus doesn’t have any sins. Or does he? Didn’t he come to carry your sins and mine? By being baptized, Jesus began his public ministry, showing that he steps into our unrighteousness in order to bring us God’s righteousness. Instead of ushering in an “apocalypse now,” Jesus gives us an advance look at how God’s righteousness comes to us: by carrying our sins all the way to the cross, his work of forgiveness and life validated by the resurrection, and the benefits given us by the Spirit. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Application: “Still waters run deep.” That’s true of Jesus, and it can be true of you the more you get to know your Savior. As a Christian you may think you know Jesus pretty well. You know the basics of his life, not unlike John knowing true things about Jesus. But Jesus is deeper than any of us know. Troubles come our way in this sinful world. Sometimes they are troubles that our own sins have brought upon us. Other times our troubles come from the unrighteousness of other people. Tuck today’s gospel into your mind. Jesus’s ministry steps into our unrighteous world to give us God’s righteousness. Don’t confuse Jesus’s silence for lack of caring. Don’t conclude that your prayer for help is not being answered. Jesus was baptized to assure you that he is standing with you. Trust the promise! His care for you runs deep. In all the unrighteousness of our lives, Jesus brings us God’s righteousness. He brought that to you in the waters of your baptism. Jesus’s presence gives you calm composure to face daily life, and one day he will bring you to the still waters of the Lord’s eternal house. Until then, your spiritual waters can run deep because the most important person of all stands with you.