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 Matthew 3:13-14“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?”

As Jesus wades into the Jordan river for a baptism by his cousin, John the Baptist fiercely objects. His objection is not like you trying to prevent your parents or grandparents from paying for your dinner. You try once then you’re like “okay, fine!” The original language indicates a continued effort by John to avoid baptizing Jesus. Translation: “John kept trying to prevent Him.”

Why does John object like this? Matthew 3:11 gives an answer. There John says, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

John’s baptism is for repentance. Those getting baptized were turning away from their sin and self-righteousness. They were admitting they could not be included in the people of God except by the grace of God. John wasn’t wrong to be concerned about baptizing Jesus. The Messiah didn’t need to repent. He’s not a rebellious sinner or a self-righteous hypocrite.

Russell Moore puts it this way, "To hear Jesus' request to be baptized would have felt to John the way it might feel to you to hear your spouse announce an interest in being listed on a registry of child molesters." [1] To see someone so pure identify with something so heinous is shocking!

So how is Jesus going to respond to John’s objections? Matthew 3:15 says But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Jesus doesn’t rebuke John. In Matthew 16, another man will try to prevent Jesus from doing something. This time it’s not John the Baptist, but Peter. Jesus had just foretold His death and resurrection and Peter said, “This shall never happen to you.” Do you remember what Jesus said to Peter? “Get behind Me, Satan.” (Matthew 16:22-23) Jesus is not afraid to rebuke, even His closest friends. But He doesn’t rebuke His cousin, John. Why not?

Because John isn’t wrong. Jesus is greater than John. He isn’t sinful. He doesn’t have any need to repent. But Jesus tells John to “...Let it be so now...” (Matthew 3:15). “You’re right John. This feels upside-down because it is. But it won’t always be this way. Permit it for now.”

But why? To answer that question, come back tomorrow.


 [1] Russell D. Moore, Tempted and Tried: Temptation and the Triumph of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011), 31.