Daily Devotion | Day 288
“And John tried to prevent Him, saying “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?’ But Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness’” (Matthew 3:14-15, NKJV).
John had one mission: to prepare the way for the Messiah and to introduce Him to Israel. He knew who he was and who he wasn’t (John 1:19-26). Many in Israel responded well to his message. They came to John confessing their sins and to be baptized by him (Matthew 3:5).
One day, while John was ministering, Someone came to him to be baptized. It was Jesus. John was stunned. Jesus wasn’t supposed to be there. In fact, Jesus didn’t meet the requirements for baptism. To request baptism, people had to acknowledge their sin, repent (and confess). Therefore, anyone who didn’t know Jesus would assume that He – like everyone else – was a sinner seeking reconciliation with God. John must have felt embarrassed at the sight of Jesus standing in line for baptism. He rightly tried to prevent Jesus, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
Jesus knew John was right to refuse to baptize Him. In the end, however, John was persuaded when Jesus appealed to righteousness. “Permit it to be so now,” Jesus said, “for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” We can identify two important points in Jesus’ statement. First, He talks about the importance of fulfilling all righteousness. Jesus understood Scripture prophecies about Him. He knew that He had to be like us in all things. About thirty years prior to this encounter with John, the Son of God fulfilled prophecy by becoming flesh (John 1:14).
The time had now come for Jesus to be publicly initiated into his Messianic ministry. As part of this initiation, it was important for Jesus to show that He came to redeem Israel from sin (Matthew 1:21). Additionally, His baptism would underscore the fact that He fully embraced Israel’s burden of sin and their need for decisive victory over it. Entering the waters of baptism was, therefore, symbolically (and spiritually) significant. Doing this, for Jesus, was a fulfilling of God’s righteousness because it agreed with the Father’s will as expressed in multiple Messianic prophecies (notably Isaiah 53).
Second, Jesus spoke in the plural when He said to John, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus recognized that He and John were co-workers. They were a team working together to accomplish one goal. They had different but complementary missions. John’s mission needed Jesus’ mission to be authenticated (John 3:25-30). At the same time, Jesus’ mission relied on John’s successful preparation of Israel via the message of repentance (Luke 3:1-6).
To sum up, Jesus was not ashamed to enter the waters of baptism alongside sinners. We shouldn’t be ashamed either to be crucified and buried with Him in baptism (Romans 6:1-4). Jesus is not ashamed to call us His brothers (Hebrews 2:11). We shouldn’t be ashamed either to confess Him as our Lord and Savior (Luke 9:26; 12:8-9).
Blessing: May your life be a shining testimony to the glory of God. Amen.
For further study: Hebrews 2:1-18