Journey Through the Book of Matthew
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him saying, “I need to be baptized by You and are You coming to me?” 15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
John was acquainted with the events that had marked the birth of Jesus. He had heard of the visit to Jerusalem in His boyhood, and of what had passed in the school of the rabbis. (see Luke 2:41-49) He knew of Jesus sinless life, and believed Him to be the Messiah. But John had no positive assurance yet he accepted it by faith. The fact that Jesus had for so many years remained in obscurity, giving no special evidence of His mission, gave occasion for doubt as to whether He could be the Promised One. John the Baptist, however, waited in faith, believing that in God’s own time all would be made plain. It had been revealed to him that the Messiah would seek baptism at his hands, and that a sign of His divine character should then be given. Thus he would be enabled to present Him to the people.
Jesus had sat at the feet of his mother, listening intently as she taught Him of the prophecies from the scriptures. Then with the news about John baptizing at the Jordan River, Jesus realized it was time to close his father’s carpenter shop, leave his mother and his family and travel the 65 or so miles to hear John preach. It was time He should be about His Father’s business that He had so boldly spoken of 18 years before. (see Luke 2:49)
Among the multitudes that had gathered about him at the Jordan, John had heard dark tales of crime, and had met souls bent low from the burden of sin. Now, when Jesus came to be baptized, John recognized within Him a purity of character that he had never before perceived in any man. The very atmosphere of His presence was holy and awe inspiring. Never had John come in contact with another person from whom there breathed an influence so divine.
Because of this, John withdrew from granting the request of Jesus. How could he, John, a sinner, baptize Him who was sinless? Why should He who needed no repentance come to him requesting baptism? Why should Jesus submit to a rite that was a confession of guilt, so that guilt could be washed away when He was guiltless?
The preaching of John was so powerful that many believed him to be the messiah, and now John before all the people proclaimed Jesus to be the Messiah. For some, this would have been a shock. For others they would have refused to believe.
Now as this Man came before John he proclaims for all to hear: “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me. I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” John 1:29-31)
Jesus came into this world to be our example and to become one like us in every way. It was in this way that Jesus did not receive baptism as a confession of guilt on His own account. He identified Himself with sinners, taking the steps that we are to take, and doing the work that we must do.
Just as His life of suffering and patient endurance after His baptism was also an example to us so was his birth and baptism be an example to us.
Baptism is the washing away of our old self of sin and putting on the spotless robe of Christ’s righteousness. We die to self and are raised up in Christ as a new person.
All this was in harmony with what had been revealed to John regarding the Messiah.