Thoughts on Matthew 3:13-17
In all the Gospel’s, the baptism of Jesus is the inaugural event in Jesus’ ministry. All four Gospel’s mention John the Baptist and his preparation of the way for Jesus as prophesied in Isaiah 40:3. Even though there is no interaction recorded between Jesus and John, except in utero, I like to think they had some kind of relationship or acquaintance during their 30-year lives to that point based on the fact their mothers were related. It’s also clear in verse 14 that John had knowledge and belief of who Jesus was – the Son of God – which is even more explicit in John 1. Was this knowledge based on experience, or was it belief based on supernatural revelation? I suspect both. I imagine John’s mother, Elizabeth, had told him the story of his supernatural birth, as well as that of Jesus, and how he leapt in her womb when she heard the voice of Mary when she was pregnant with Jesus. I find it hard to believe he was ignorant of those stories or of the words spoken by the angel to his father, or of his father’s prophecy about him. In addition to that, John was filled with the Holy Spirit before he was even born.
When Jesus came to John to be baptized, he probably wondered why Jesus, the perfect man, needed to partake in a baptism of repentance. He recognized Jesus’ superior character and sought to be baptized by him. Nonetheless, Jesus saw fit to be baptized by John. What does it mean they in so doing they “fulfilled all righteousness”? John MacArthur believes, and I agree, that Jesus’ baptism was one way in which He was “numbered with the transgressors” and identified with sinful man. I think we can all agree John’s hesitation was rooted in his knowledge that Jesus was sinless and had nothing from which to repent nor needed a baptism of repentance. However, Jesus, in the process of bearing and even becoming sin, not only put on flesh, walked among us and was tempted in all ways are we are yet sinned not, but also submitted to an act that prefigured His death and resurrection. In fact, Christians are baptized so as to identify symbolically with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.