Let it be
"When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be. And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, Let it be." Contrary to what many think, the mother Mary in this song is not the Virgin Mary. Mary was Paul McCartney's mother's name, and in this case she gave good advice. "In times of trouble" and in an "hour of darkness" "Let it be" can be very wise words. Those are the words of wisdom Jesus gave John in our text when John protested about baptizing Him. Jesus replied, "Let it be." And "Let it be" are my words to use about this text.
Let it be that what you see going on in the Jordan fulfills all righteousness as Jesus says it does. All righteousness fulfilled is what you need. As we sing in a hymn, "I am all unrighteousness; false and full of sin I am." Notice that hymn is for Christians to sing. It's not a song for unbelievers. It's not a song for those the world would think wretched, disgusting people. It's for churchgoing people. Yes, today right now, "I am all unrighteousness." Today right now, "False and full of sin I am." St. Paul agrees in Romans 7 and 8 saying that he, an apostle of Christ, is a wretched man with not one good thing dwelling in his flesh.
Jesus, however, is all righteousness. Jesus is not only not false but He is more than true; He is the Truth. And He is not full of sin but grace upon grace. And He is all this apart from one drop of water from John wetting Him. Jesus is all righteousness and truth from the womb of Mother Mary, from all eternity. Jesus is righteousness but John baptizing Him fulfills all righteousness because here Jesus takes on all sins. Scripture says John only baptized those who confessed their sins. Holy Jesus had none of His own. The sins He confesses in order to be baptized were yours, mine, the world's. "I worry; I don't pray; I don't hold God's Word scared; I disobey parents; I hold grudges; I lust; I lie; I covet." Those sins, that sin, you won't look at in the light of day let it be that Jesus already confessed it in the Jordan.
Let it be that John baptizing Jesus fulfilled all righteousness as Jesus says it did. Let it be that all was fulfilled not some, not most, but all. So what's left for you? What righteousness, what holiness, what goodness required by the holy God is left for you to fulfill? That aching, gnawing feeling that there is something you need to do to get on God's good side, let it be.
This text tells us let it be that Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by getting baptized by John, and it tells us let it be that Jesus' baptism opens heaven. Talk about times of trouble; talk about an hour of darkness. There is no more troubling time; no darker hour than when heaven is closed to you. Picture the doorman in The Wizard of Oz. When Dorothy and crew seek admission to Oz for help, the doorman opens the portal sticks his head out and shouts "No" slamming the portal closed in the process.
You're familiar with the phrase, "Stink to high heaven." Heaven had to be closed to keep the stench of earth out. It's not just that the wickedness of the pre-Flood world reached God's eyes or the outcry against the debauchery of Sodom reached God's ears. No, the smell of our sins reached His nose. What do you do if you know you're about to drive by a large chicken or pig farm? You close the windows or shut down the A/C. This fallen world was one big animal farm loaded with manure to the holy nose of God. Heaven was shut, so He didn't have to smell us.
Let it be that Jesus being baptized by John opens heaven. The translation "opened" is too weak. It's "torn asunder," and it's passive. God's tears it open from His side because now on earth there is Someone He can love. There stands His only beloved Son on earth, and Jesus is a fragrant, pleasing aroma. Expensive perfume fills a room, so Jesus does earth. The Groom Jesus describes His Bride, the Church, in the Song of Solomon this way: "The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon [think of a pine forest.]Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon with the trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices.let its spices be wafted abroad."
Let it be that you now smell sweet to God because Jesus stands in the Jordan bearing all your sins. Here stands Someone that not only the Father loves but who enables the Father to love and to save the world. Now to save the world He would have to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of, holiness, grace, mercy, and peace. But where on this stinking earth could the Holy Spirit land? It was just like in the Flood, do you remember? After the water began receding, Noah let out a raven and it didn't come back. Then he tried a dove and it came right back. That's because ravens land on stinking, dead bodies and they eat them. Doves do not.
God the Holy Spirit looks out of heaven, and sees nothing but smelly, decaying bodies dead in their sins stinking to high heaven. Then Jesus steps into the Jordan and fulfills all righteousness. Here is a place for the Dove of the Holy Spirit to land! Let it be that Jesus' baptism opens heaven to you bringing the Holy Spirit down to earth where you are. Let it be in times of trouble which you have had and will have that heaven is open to your prayers and cares. Let it be in your hour of darkness that might drag on for days, weeks, even years that you hear the Spirit speaking to you words of not only wisdom but light in your Baptism, Absolution, and Communion.
Let it be for you today in the Baptism of our Lord that all righteousness is fulfilled, heaven is open, and God is well pleased. But be clear how: only in Jesus. Contrary to the world, God is not pleased outside Jesus. Contrary to the world, God is not pleased when hundreds of musicians get together and sing "We are the world." He is not pleased when Muslims say their prayers toward Mecca 5 times a day, Jews pray at the Wailing Wall, or Mormons do their temple rituals. God says He is well pleased in Jesus. Outside of Him, apart from Him there is only an angry, burning, blinding, judging God.
Go to your Old Testament. When His own priests approached Him in a way He had not commanded He killed them on the spot. When a man who had grown up with the Ark of the Covenant in his home touched the ark just to keep it from falling, God struck Him dead. Go to your New Testament. Jesus says, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one [Not one single person, no matter how devout, sincere, nice they may be] comes to the Father but by Me." Outside of Jesus, no one comes to a kind, loving, forgiving, helping Father, but to a wrathful God.
I know what troubles you here. The insert doesn't have God saying, "This is My Sonin Him I am well pleased" but "with Him I am well pleased." Your New American Standard and Beck translations have it right. They have "in Him I am well pleased." When you translate "with" then you hear God saying that He is pleased with Jesus and pleased with Jesus taking on the sins of the world to save it.
Nothing wrong with that, but for whose sake does God speak from heaven? In John 12 the Father speaks from heaven in answer to Jesus' prayer to glorify Your name," saying, "I have and will." What does Jesus tell the crowd? "The voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes." So here, the Father speaks from heaven not to say something that the Son knows from all eternity, i.e., that His Father is well-pleased with Him. The Father speaks from heaven for our sakes, for us who live in times of trouble with hours of darkness, saying, "In Jesus I am well pleased."
Let it be that in Jesus God is well pleased with you. No matter how long the time of trouble, no matter how deep the hour of darkness, let it be that God is pleased as can be with you in Jesus. No matter how unrighteous you feel, no matter how false and full of sin you are, let it be that God is well pleased with you in Jesus. No matter how closed heaven seems to your stinking prayers, let it be that they are as incense to God in Jesus.
"Yes, yes that's how I want it to be not only in times of trouble and hours of darkness but everyday, every hour, every moment. I want it to be that God is well pleased with me." He is in Jesus. So how am I in Jesus? You are in Jesus the same way everyone from Adam to Zachariah and St. Matthew to St. John are. By God putting you there. New Testament people are put in Jesus by Baptism. 153 times Paul uses the baptismal phrase "in Christ." "In Christ" Paul writes, lives, prays, blesses, and dies. Let it be that way for you as well.
When those times of trouble come, and they surely will, when that hour of darkness dawns and it certainly will, let this text come to you speaking words of wisdom: Let it be. Let it be that Jesus stands in the Jordan taking responsibility for your sins, putting them on His back so He can carry them all the way to the cross to suffer every single punishment they deserve. Let it be that heaven is torn open by this and God the Holy Spirit can't wait to get to you, to land on you, to fill you with His gifts of love, joy, peace, strength, hope, courage and forgiveness. Let it be that God is well pleased with you not because you do pleasing things but because you're in Jesus through your Baptism. Let it be that His Baptism speaks of fulfilled righteous, an open heaven, the Holy Spirit on earth, and a smiling God, and let it be that your Baptism answers, "Amen!" Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Baptism of our Lord (20080113); Matthew 3: 13-17