I stopped at the County Court House the other day.
I don’t go there often — as evidenced by my trying to get in through the exit doors. I quickly discovered that they had changed the entrance to another location where there is more room for the necessary security screening. Indeed, somehow I had forgotten that I’d need to take off my coat and empty my pockets and to pass with all the rest of the early morning crowd through the metal detector. Once I had gathered up my things, I made my way to the electronic board which told me which courtroom to go to. As I looked for the right location, the name of yet another person I knew caught my eye. It looked as though my time would be well spent that morning.
So I climbed the stairs to the second floor and sat with those I had come to see for a while. Only, in such places, things go at their own pace and it looked as though it would be awhile before their case would be called. I excused myself, saying I was going to head to another courtroom to see if I could connect with another family.
As I made my way up to the third floor, I ran into someone I used to know.
But let me back up. I was not dressed professionally the other morning. Friday is normally my day off. We’d already had a quite a bit of light snow and the winds were threatening to start up and I needed to get to my mom’s half an hour away to run some errands and begin to put away Christmas decorations. I didn’t want to take the time to stop again to change clothes as I knew my travel window would be limited, so I went as I was.
As I said, I ran into someone I used to know. And I found myself immediately explaining my presence in that unlikely place. Oh, I was surrounded by those for whom this was commonplace: from both sides of the bench. Not so much for me. And yes, many of the best people I know have found themselves in situations where it was necessary to spend time there. And yet, I quickly discovered this was an instinct I too easily followed. I wanted him to know I was not there for myself. (And yes, certainly, I would have been dressed differently if I had been.) It turns out he didn’t care. Or maybe he had already assumed what I was trying to say. Either way, I discovered he was only eager to pull out his cell phone and share a picture of his new baby girl.
I am not at all proud of this — my own not wanting to be fully associated with others for whom an aberrant blip on their way or whose utterly broken lives had brought them to this place. In fact, it was an impulse, but one that, no doubt, must be awfully well nurtured, else I expect I would not have been so quick to try to explain my presence there. I am not at all proud of this and it is with this recent insight into myself that I come to the story which is ours to enter into now. This one where Jesus, who was without sin, submits to baptism by John. Jesus, whose first words in Matthew’s Gospel are recorded here. Jesus, who replies to John’s protest in this way:
“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
Oh yes, I do come to this today with my own deep awareness of my own unwillingness to do as Jesus did —who simply stood with sinners, with those who have been broken by life. Jesus, who felt no need to offer an explanation, but who simply stepped into the cleansing waters of baptism with all the rest of us who do, in fact, so need it.
It is clear to me that I am a long ways from where I’m meant to be. It is also so very evident to me today how much I am in need of a Savior who would step into the waters of baptism before me and with me — and who would later be baptized by a kind of fire I cannot imagine. And who did this for you and for me. I’m standing still in this for now, praying that I might have the courage next time to not so quickly try to explain my presence wherever it is I may be called upon to go. And to simply stand with those who are broken and afraid and hurting. As Jesus did. As Jesus always did.
- What do you think Jesus means when he says to John that this is the way to fulfill all righteousness?
- If we understand baptism to be for the forgiveness of sins, why, then was Jesus baptized?
- What does it mean to you that Jesus walks into the waters of baptism with you? How does this truth inform your life?