Weekend Extra – “If it’s good enough for Jesus…”

January 3, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

It’s an apocryphal story, but one that has tenaciously hung on, thanks to everything from its publication in the New York Times to its unrelenting retelling by Kinky Friedman.  The story goes that Ma Ferguson, Texas’ first woman governor, was infuriated by the suggestion that Spanish speaking immigrants would benefit from public school classes taught in their own native language.  In a fit of rage, she picked up a copy of the King James Version of the Bible and exclaimed, “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for Texas!”

English, at least in the way we know it today in the King James Bible, did not arise until 1550.  And the King James Version was not translated until 1611.  Jesus did not speak English.  He spoke Aramaic.  Whoops.

Though Ma Ferguson’s fabled declaration is goofy because it betrays a complete ignorance of the history of language, the principle behind her statement, even if she never said it, is actually quite profound:  “If it was good enough for Jesus, perhaps it ought to be good enough for us.”  Indeed, Jesus Himself puts forth this principle when He says things like, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).  Jesus is essentially saying, “If the way of suffering, persecution, and the cross is good enough for Me, it’s good enough for you also.  You too will suffer.”  As Jesus elsewhere teaches, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

Over the course of my ministry, I have occasionally encountered Christians who, for one reason or another, do not want to be baptized.  Sometimes they will tell me, “I’m just not ready yet.”  Other times, their excuses are a little more nuanced: “I already believe in Jesus and that means I’m already saved!  So why do I need to be baptized?”  My response to such objections echoes Ma Ferguson’s:  “If it’s good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for you!”  Indeed, this is precisely what Jesus Himself teaches in the text we studied this past weekend in worship.

In Matthew 3, Jesus travels from His home in Galilee to the Jordan so that He may be baptized by John.  John, knowing that Jesus is sinless, and, as far as he can tell, in no need of a regenerative bath, objects:  “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me” (Matthew 3:14)?  Jesus responds, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).  I appreciate Hippolytus’ paraphrase of and commentary on Jesus’ statement:

Let it be so now, for it so becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. I am the Fulfiller of the law; I seek to leave nothing wanting to its whole fulfillment, so that after Me Paul may exclaim, “Christ is the fulfilling of the law for righteousness to every one that believes.” Let it be so now, for it so becomes us to fulfill all righteousness. Baptize Me, John, in order that no one may despise baptism. I am baptized by you, the servant, that no one among kings or dignitaries may scorn to be baptized by the hand of a poor priest. (ANF 5:236).

Hippolytus states Jesus’ point this way:  Christ is baptized so that no one may despise, eschew, or reject baptism.  In other words, if baptism is good enough for Jesus, it ought be good enough for us!  So do not despise it!

Have you been baptized?  If not, let me ask you a simple question:  “If baptism is good enough for Jesus, shouldn’t it be good enough for you?”  Moreover, think about the promises attached to this Sacrament.  Luther explains:  “Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare” (Small Catechism).  With promises such as these, why wouldn’t you want to be baptized?

Finally, baptism is good enough for you not only because it was good enough for Jesus, but because you’re bad enough for baptism.  You, as Scripture declares, are sinful.  And you need God’s holy bath to wash you clean.  So, “be baptized and wash your sins away” (Acts 22:16)!

Want to learn more on this passage? Go to
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s

Entry filed under: ABC Extra. Tags: , , , , , , .

Weekend Extra – “Departing ____ Peace” ABC Extra – Serious Joy

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