Matthew 3:13-17 (ESV)
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Many Jews went to John for baptism, and now it is Jesus’ turn. Wait! If baptism symbolizes repentance, then why did Jesus need to be baptized? This seems confusing. It should puzzle us to think about Jesus being baptized. Jesus was the sinless Messiah and actually had no need for baptism. We sense the same bewilderment in John himself, as he protests that he is the one who needs to be baptized by Jesus. In John’s mind, things should have been the other way around! We often miss John’s humility here. Even though he was the one called by God to prepare the way for the Messiah, he remained aware of his own personal need to be identified as a repentant sinner. Jesus didn’t let John keep him from what he came to earth to accomplish, but he clarified things for John by explaining that his actions were “to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). In other words, Jesus not only didn’t do anything wrong, but he also did everything right, and being baptized was one of the things necessary for him to do in order to live the perfect human life. Every aspect of Jesus’ life was exactly on target with God’s will for human behavior. After Jesus came up from the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon him, and the Father declared that he was pleased with the Son. What a beautiful picture of the trinity.
Now, what is so amazing about this is that when we repent of our sins and trust Christ as our Lord, we are given his righteousness. This means not only are we released from the penalty of all the wrong we’ve ever done, but God also chooses to credit us with having done everything right and in accordance with his Law. This is absolutely mind-blowing. We often hear phrases like “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” But when we say those words, we are forgetting that because we have been forgiven, we are perfect. Wow! If you are a Christian, thank God today for the faultless status you have been graced with as a result of the obedience of Jesus Christ. Because he did everything right, you are blameless. Truly, if this doesn’t drive us to love and serve him even more, then we aren’t really getting it.