Choices

“(13) Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. (14) And John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
(15) But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he allowed Him.
(16) When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. (17) And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”  (Matthew 3:13-17)
                I have made a lot of bad choices in my life. I have made some good choices in my life. Then I have made a lot of choices that were somewhere in the middle. I see them now as missed opportunities for good. My life, your life, is chuck full of choices. Countless opportunities are decided upon every second of our lives. Each and every one of them is a gift from God. He gave us the gift of free will. God didn’t want mindless, robotic slaves there in a relationship with him for all eternity. God wanted us, and the angels, to have the choice on whether or not we loved Him and entered into a relationship with Him. He knew some of us wouldn’t choose him. He knew Lucifer wouldn’t choose Him. He allowed these things to be so that I, and you, could come into existence and make a choice of our own. He loved me enough to endure the sin, the evil, and the heartache of this world. For me. For you. For all of us.
                These four verses are chuck full of choices. There John was preaching to the gathered masses about the coming Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. John is baptizing people into repentance so that they can ready their hearts and souls for the coming Son of God. So there he is with a long line of people waiting to be baptized. John finishes with the person, the soul, in his hand and turns around to speak and bless the next person in line. And who is the next person in line? Jesus. His Cousin. The Man John knows to be the Son of God. The very person John has been heralding to the masses for some time now. There Jesus is, standing waist deep in the river, before John waiting to be baptized by him.
                John has a choice here. He can esteem himself here. He can call out to the masses, saying, “Look! Here is the guy I’ve been telling you about! He is the greatest! And look! HE wants me to baptize Him! See how amazing I am?!”   I can’t count how many times I have made that choice. I took a situation that really shouldn’t have been about me and turned it into a situation where it was all about me. John has that choice now. This would have done wonders for his career. This was an amazing moment for him. Jesus is honoring him above all men by allowing John to be the one to baptize him. This is a big deal. John chooses to humble himself. He admits Jesus is higher than him in all ways, that he himself needs to be baptized by the fire of Christ. And yet Jesus wants to be baptized by a lesser man than Himself? Why?
                Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized. Jesus is without sin. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ is God among us. He has done nothing needing repentance. Jesus had nothing to confess. There were no skeletons in His closet. So John is not only humbled, but He is bewildered. Later in the Gospels Jesus esteems John above all men, saying John is the greatest man to have ever lived. Ever. You and I can never come close to the greatness of John in God’s eyes. And even this man tells Jesus…you don’t need me for anything. I am the one who needs you. So if Jesus needed nothing from the greatest man in all of human history—past, present, and future—what could Jesus possibly need from any of our own works. John needed Jesus. We need Jesus. I need Jesus. It is never the other way around.
                Jesus has a choice here. He could command John to baptize him. Jesus could blow off John’s profession and confession of need for Him and simply baptize Himself. Jesus could have said ‘screw it’ and left the river Jordan. Jesus could have done any number of things. His choice, however, is to give choice back to John. Jesus knows John needs Him, and Jesus doesn’t tell John no. Instead He says, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
                Permit. Permit isn’t a command. Jesus, the Son of God, asks John to allow Him to be baptized by John. He asks John to do this for Him. He gives John the chance to say no.  John could have said no, and made excuses of not being good enough, not worthy enough, or any other thing. Jesus, Lord and Savior, asks John to do this favor for Him. John humbled himself, and Jesus lifted John up to His equal. He said, “Cousin, please do this for me.”
                But Jesus doesn’t stop there. Not only does He lift John up to an equal but He includes John in the rest of His statement. Jesus could have easily have said, “for thus it is fitting for me to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus includes John. Jesus doesn’t esteem Himself higher than John. Jesus tells John that it is fitting that they, together, fulfill all righteousness. Jesus tells us it is fitting that we, together, fulfill all righteousness. He says it to John; and through John He says it to you and to me. It is fitting for us to do things, righteous things, with Jesus. It is fitting for us to be in a relationship with God. He doesn’t want mindless slaves, He wants a family. Son and daughters. He is our Father.
                The unspoken choice is Jesus’ decision to submit Himself to the will of God. Jesus doesn’t have to be baptized. Jesus doesn’t need to be baptized. There is no valid reason for Him to walk all the way to the Jordan. There is no need for Him to get dirty and wet in the only clean clothes He has. He has no need to surrender His higher status, again, to submit Himself to the ceremony of His created beings. He could have said, “Look, Dad, there is no reason I should do this. So I’m not going to. It just doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t logical.” How many times have I used every single one of those arguments? Too many. Jesus doesn’t use any of them, and He had every right to use them. It isn’t about what rights Jesus has. It is about what God wants for Jesus, and what God wants for us.
                Jesus, the Son of God, God-man on earth is not less than God. Jesus submitted to God’s will. He made the choice to give up His choice to obey the choice God had for Him. It wouldn’t be the last time Jesus does this. Jesus was submissive to the will of God. Too often in this world people associate the choice of submitting to being considered lesser. Jesus is not lesser than God. Jesus made the choice to put another’s will before His own. Which is what submitting is. It is putting someone else first. Jesus put God first. So if Jesus, the Son of God, God-man on earth….chose to submit to God’s will for Him …what right or excuse can the rest of us come up with that somehow gets us out of doing the same? I have tried many excuses, and flaunted many such ‘rights’ I thought I had. Then I read a passage like this and I am shamed, humbled, and am humiliated before the Lord.
                John made the choice of humbling himself before Jesus when John could have esteemed himself. Jesus made the choice esteeming John, and lifting John up to where he belonged at Jesus’ side. Jesus made the choice of humbling Himself before God when Jesus could have esteemed Himself. So what does God do? God makes the choice of esteeming Christ, and lifting Him up to where He belongs at God’s side.
                God, before the masses of people waiting to be baptized, and those who have already been baptized, speaks to the people of Israel. God has not spoken out loud to people in hundreds of years. God’s voice comes down from heaven where everyone can hear Him. God the Spirit comes down from heaven like a dove to light upon Jesus where everyone can see Him. God lifts Jesus up and claims Him. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
               I wish I could have been there to see that. I wish I could have been there to witness this event. I wish I could have seen the looks on everyone’s face. I want to know what John’s face looked like in that moment. Most of all I wish I could have seen the fact of Jesus, who had humbled Himself in a way beyond our comprehension, who had just been publicly and obviously claimed by the Father. I doubt He looked smug. I doubt He had a look of superiority. My bet is that Jesus looked more humbled, more loved, and more beautiful than anything we can comprehend. And the next time I have a chance to esteem myself I hope I think of these four verses. I hope I can keep a humble heart. And if someone lifts me up, I hope I can capture a glimpse of Jesus’ grace…and remain humble, thankful, and full of love.
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