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.
“Why do we have to do that?” One will often hear that question, especially in a small group Bible study setting. Christians take a look at the commands of God, and we look for a reasoning behind those commands. It somehow makes us feel better about obedience when we can come up with a rationale for why God would set the boundaries where he set them or why he calls us to do what he calls us to do.
Taking a look, then, at the scene of Jesus’ baptism should be a challenge for those who always feel a need to have the “Why’ question answered when it comes to God’s commands. Jesus comes to John the Baptist, and he asks to be baptized. John, realizing that he is in the presence of the Lord’s anointed, a man more righteous than John, tries to prevent Jesus from going through with this request. After all, John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Those who went into the river with John were telling God and the nation around them that they were turning away from their sin and being cleansed in preparation for the coming of the Lord. How could it be a good idea for the sinless Christ to take part in this activity?
Now, Jesus could have answered John with many answers to the “Why” question. Jesus could have told John, “My being baptized will set a pattern for my followers—be baptized just like Jesus was baptized.” Jesus could have told John, “My ministry will, in a typological way, follow the course of the nation of Israel and their rescue out of Egypt and settling in the promised land. Since I have already been to Egypt, I need a symbolic crossing the Jordan moment to keep the parallel going.” Jesus could have told John, “I don’t want to ask my followers to do something that I am unwilling to do.” He could have told John, “I am identifying myself with a sinful humanity so that I can truly represent them before God, even though I personally have no sin.”
Jesus could have given any of those answers, but he did not. Instead, Jesus’ answer to the “Why “ question was as simple as this: “It is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus tells John to baptize him, because it is the right thing to do. John needs to obey this command, not because Jesus hits him with a good logical reason to obey the command of God, but simply because the son of God said so.
I’m not condemning those fun little coffee table discussions as to why God might have commanded his people in the Old Testament not to eat pork or to cut their hair in a certain way. But let’s be sure that our discussions come after we have determined in our hearts and lives to always obey the commands of God simply because God gave those commands. We live in a world that demands that we justify every aspect of our faith, even though they put themselves to no such standard. We live among people who want to know the whys and wherefores of all of God’s commands so that they themselves can approve or disapprove God’s commands. We, ourselves, have such a sinful longing to be in control that we want to examine and give sanction to the commands that we obey. Let us determine, if we are followers of Christ, to obey the commands of Christ for this simple reason, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”