Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (Matthew 3:13-15)
John the Baptism wonders at Jesus’ presence in that long line of penitents who have presented themselves for Baptism. Matthew is the only Gospel writer to record this exchange between Jesus and the Baptizer. John asks a good question. What is Jesus doing there? He has no sins to repent of? Or does he? Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5 that for our sake, God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us (II Cor. 5:21.) Does Jesus in fact have all the sins of the world on his back at this moment? Does he absolutely have to be there? As Jesus says, this fulfills all righteousness, including your righteousness and mine.
Let’s face it, we are pretty pathetic when it comes to repenting. Advent is supposed to be a time of repenting, but our culture has turned it into anything but. It has become a time of frenzied excess and anticipatory celebration, hardly the fasting and sorrowful season which was envisioned long ago. I don’t want to let us off the hook for repenting. It is something which we need to do. But I do want to take a burden off people who might be afraid that their repentance keeps them from the favor of God. Jesus has done this for us. Our repentance now is participating in his perfect repentance. He has stood in this line and he has perfectly repented of sins, all of them, including yours and mine. All righteousness has been fulfilled.