Today’s reading is Matthew 3.
John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Not only that, he was baptizing folks telling them to look for One who was coming after him. Then along comes Jesus, and John can tell, this doesn’t seem right. I’m not sure he knew the half of it. But we do.
Why on earth did Jesus get baptized? Jesus was the One John was looking for. He didn’t need to repent. He didn’t need to have His sins forgiven. He had no sins to confess like the rest of John’s responders. What a contrast. We saw Pharisees and Sadducees who refused to repent, but now there’s Jesus who has nothing of which to repent. Wow!
Why did Jesus get baptized?
Jesus says it is to fulfill all righteousness. What does that mean? Interestingly, the word translated “fulfilled” is used 15 other times in Matthew. Two of the times it has a distinct meaning from how it is used in this passage (once referring to a net that was filled with fish, Matthew 13:48; once referring to the Jews who were walking in the footsteps of their forefathers filling up the measure of their fathers’ sins, Matthew 23:32). The other 13 times the word is used to refer to fulfilling Scripture (see 1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9). Hmmmm. Does this give us an insight into what it means for this baptism to fulfill all righteousness? According to Matthew 5:17, Jesus came to fulfill every iota and dot of the Law and the Prophets. This baptism is no different. It is part of Jesus fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. But how?
Do you remember last week when we discussed the Hosea 11:1 prophecy, “Out of Egypt I called my son”? Do you remember we pointed out then that Jesus wasn’t simply fulfilling some foretelling sentences we could search out in the Law and the Prophets, but was fulfilling the very story of Israel, God’s firstborn son? That is exactly what we are seeing here. Jesus is walking in the footsteps of Israel, but is doing it without sin, without failure.
It is no shock John was baptizing in the Jordan. This was calling Israel to walk in the footsteps of their ancient ancestors who walked between the walls of water in the Red Sea and then walked through the Jordan in order to inhabit the kingdom God was preparing for them. In a very real sense, John was calling Israelites to go through the Jordan again. He was calling them to prepare to take their place in the kingdom God was establishing and had prepared for them.
In this context, Jesus is baptized. Just as Israel went through a baptism of water and Spirit, Jesus went through a baptism of water and Spirit. To put an exclamation point on this, notice that just as Israel went from it’s baptism to wander and be tested in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus went from His baptism to wander and be tested in the wilderness for 40 days. Matthew is making the case. Jesus was baptized because the Scriptures needed to be fulfilled. Jesus is God’s one and only Son. He followed the story of God’s firstborn son in the Law and the Prophets. He didn’t just fulfill some choice list of sentences in the Old Testament, He fulfilled all that was righteous. He fulfilled all of Scripture.
Just as God demonstrated Israel’s sonship in the Red Sea and then again at the Jordan, God demonstrated Jesus’s sonship in the Jordan. Of course, if we want to be children of God, we must walk in Jesus’s footsteps, being baptized. Ours, like everyone who listened to John (except Jesus), is a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. But unlike all those other people who listened to John, we aren’t waiting around for someone else to come along, we are looking back to the one who has now come. We are looking back to Jesus and the forgiveness He offers those who will walk with Him, not through the Jordan, but through the grace of baptism. Do you need to walk with Jesus through that grave? If we can help you, leave a comment below.
“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.” Praise the Lord!
Next week’s reading is Matthew 4.
Discuss the Following Questions with Your Family
- What are your initial reactions to the chapter and the written devo above?
- Why did Jesus need to fulfill Scripture?
- Why is it so much more profound to see Jesus fulfilling not just a list of sentences, but the entire story of Israel?
- How is our baptism different from Jesus’s?
- What do you think we should pray for and about in light of this chapter and today’s post?