Every time I read the story of Jesus coming to the Jordan to be baptized, I imagine Him standing in the crowd. You could not pick Him out. His pronoun would not be uppercase. He would look like everyone else really; bland, dirty clothing, smelling like a train car in France, a fly whizzing around in his hair.
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” Isaiah 53:2
No security detail carved out a safe space for him. No mobs of media flashed cameras and pointed microphones at him. He was just a man in line with sinners scared out of their minds that God was coming, and they were not ready. There was probably a lot of talk about judgement day and regret. Jesus heard a lot of confessions that day. As far as anyone in the crowd was concerned, Jesus was just like them.
Which he was. “Son of Man,” he called himself. A messianic term but also an epistemological term. He is All Mankind in one. Everyman, as the English medieval moralists would call their protagonists. If Adam was Man, Jesus was the Son of Man. He is all of us. More than that, Paul tells us, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5).
John knew who Jesus was and is shocked to find Him coming toward him just like that last poor schmuck! Even John was clueless as to the extent of God’s love and the depth of His rescue of humanity.
John basically said, “This is for sinners!” And Jesus said, “Exactly!”
Luther writes: “[Christ] comes to be a sinner as Isaiah 53 says: “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” For since we (the prophet says) “all like sheep have gone astray” [Isaiah 53:6], God found this remedy: He took the sins of all human beings and hung them all around the neck of Him who alone was without sin. He thus becomes a great sinner—indeed, the greatest sinner of all and the only sinner on earth—so that there is no other. For the text says that the Lord has laid on Him the sins of us all.
Because He has become the Sinner who has all of our sin placed upon Him, He truly does need Baptism and must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins—not with respect to His own person, which is innocent and spotless, but for the sake of us, whose sins He bears. He plunges them into His Baptism and washes them away from Himself (that is, He washes them from us, since He has stepped into our person) so that they must be drowned and die in His Baptism…” (Luther’s Works vol. 58: pgs. 44-45).
When the ordinary fellow looked at Jesus it was like he was looking in a mirror. Same haircut, stance, worn hands, and bad breath decorated his person. Could have been any schmo with a story and a past.
You too can look at Him standing in line. He looks like you; man or woman. He is the guy trying to survive in a Bruce Springsteen song. He is everyman. He is a nobody and everybody. He had a family, worked a trade, laughed and cried with friends. Died.
But something different happened to this fellow. He did not stay dead. If we inherit our mortality from our parents, what might happen if we are born again to someone else?
There is no need to come and stand in line. It comes to you. I baptize you in the name of Jesus Christ.