The people of Israel have been coming from all over to receive the baptism of repentance by John. Not only the common folk, but the spiritual leaders as well. John warns each of them to take it seriously. Then John gets yet another visitor. Matthew writes, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.”
John is apparently instantly aware that Jesus has no need for a baptism of repentance. His perception is spot on – the situation is very much reverse of what it ought to be; As righteous as John is, he stands yet in need of Jesus’ ministry, not the other way around.
But Jesus – knowing that the people around them do not yet know who He is – instructs John to proceed all the same. One commentator writes, “The words “to fulfill all righteousness” mean that Jesus, with John’s cooperation, is to do all that is right for the completion of his mission.” That completion depended on Jesus’ incarnation and ministry among sinners, but also His complete identification with the sinners He came to save. And Jesus’ identification is so much so that He feels the need to be baptized.
What Jesus did in submitting to John’s ministry is the very definition of intercession: To so identify with those you are ministering to, that before God you repent on their behalf, crying out to Him for mercy on them. Such is the depth of Jesus’ love for the lost He is surrounded by, and such is the length of His humility in modelling righteousness for them.
That is not just a note of interest. It is a tremendously practical and tremendously profound object lesson for us. For the mission Jesus revealed during this personal conversation with John is also our mission. We know that because much later, Jesus will say, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” We are sent with the same objective as He was sent (to reconcile others to God), and we are reminded of that fact every time someone refers to us as a Christian (which means, literally ‘little Christ’). We are therefore obligated to also identify with those God sends to us, and those He sends us to. We are to get to know them, to practice their language and invest in their lives, so that we can pray to God for them and intercede on their behalf.
After all, they cannot do so on their own accord – they are spiritually dead and unable to respond to the things of heaven until mercy is put upon them.
We are priests, which is far more than being a king or queen, because the priesthood makes us worthy to stand before God and to intercede for others.Martin Luther
Today, pray for the lost around you. Intercede for them, and call on God to have mercy toward them. Then, pray for them that they too will hear God’s voice calling them to repentance. PTL, mercy triumphs over judgment!