Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (NIV)
John and Jesus clearly had history. Matthew doesn’t tell us what that might have been. (It is in Luke’s gospel that we get the backstory of Elizabeth and Zechariah’s son John, foretold by an angel visitation to Zechariah. John, who would later become the Baptizer, a kinsman of Jesus through Mary and Elizabeth is thought to have possibly been among the playmates of Jesus, maybe studied Torah together. No one knows. Matthew 3:1-12 tells us of John’s ministry. Matthew quotes some of his preaching, but there is absolutely no mention of any personal acquaintance with Jesus. John clearly knows the Messiah is coming. He foretells it in Matthew 3:11&12 “after me comes one who is more powerful than I…” He doesn’t say who. He doesn’t say how long from now, just ‘one’ and ‘after me’.
Until Jesus shows up among the crowds to be baptized and John clearly knows who he is and WHO HE IS. John recognizes Jesus instantly and immediately tries to deter him from being baptized. John knows Jesus is beyond him in Spirit. John knows Jesus is connected to God in a way he will never be able to even come close to. Would Jesus being baptized by John mean Jesus is John’s disciple? Would it be setting up a false hierarchy? Usually the spiritual guide is ‘higher’ than the student; the baptizer ‘further along’ than the baptized. John knew that wouldn’t be the case with Jesus. John knew Jesus would always be ‘above’ him in any hierarchy of holiness.
But Jesus in effect says “let it be.” But why? We don’t really know what he meant by “it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus didn’t have to be forgiven any sins. He was already righteous. So what righteousness needs to be fulfilled? I honestly don’t know. But the thing is, John knew. At least that answer was enough to convince him. He relented and baptized Jesus.
Have you had to change your thinking about the Messiah at some point? You might not have thought about it in those terms, but can you look back on your beliefs at different points in your life and see how you have had to change your mind sometime? Many have. We realize the faith of our childhood and our understanding and relationship with God then is vastly different from our faith today. Honor that. You are in good company!
Spend a little time pondering how your relationship and understanding of who God is and what God is all about has changed over the course of your life. Think about the expectations you have about what God is up to in the world and in your life, and how they are different, if they are, than what they were when you were younger.
Blessings to you,
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.