“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.” Matthew 3:13-15
Thirty years after He was born in a Bethlehem stable, Jesus was called by the Father to appear to Israel and begin His world-changing ministry. There were at least two things He was called to do to in preparation for that ministry: be baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, and face temptations and testings in the wilderness for forty days.
John was surprised when Jesus came to him for baptism because John had been clear that the baptism he was offered was for repentance and the forgiveness of sin. Why should Jesus come to John for this rather than John come to Jesus? Was Jesus indicating that He needed to repent? That He needed forgiveness of sins? No, He didn’t say that. He said that it was proper for them to do it “to fulfill all righteousness” (3:15).
So here’s what I want to draw your attention to about our wonderful Master, Disciple: He was devoted to fulfilling all righteousness. He wasn’t content to simply be a decent fellow or a good guy. He wasn’t looking to “make friends and influence people”. With a full and robust love for His ever-present and ever-loving Father, our Master made choices solely because they were necessary for Him to complete the work His Father gave Him. Some years ago, I asked a small group of disciples how often they do things just because Jesus said to do them. Each and every one honestly admitted that they never do. This doesn’t mean that they always commit sins or act badly toward people. In fact, I would imagine that much or most of the time, these precious people are what others would describe as “decent” and “good”. But Jesus shows us that there’s more for us.
And so here’s a powerful challenge and promise for the disciples of Jesus: we can become the kind of people who purposefully make choices throughout our days based solely on what He has said to do. We can answer objections or questions about what we are doing by simply confessing that it’s proper to do these things to fulfill all righteousness. What we do may not make sense to those around us, and this is where we will be tested. When others, who live by the standards of this world – even “decent” standards, raise their eyebrows or question our decisions, will we stand solidly on the truth that our Master has called us to be peculiarly good and uncommonly righteous. What others see as extreme or fanatical, we will simply do because it is obedient and trusting. Even godly people (like John the Baptist) may not understand why we choose to do what we do in response to our Master’s voice. Like Him, we will be gently and confidently insistent. Jesus is our Master and His voice compels us. We trust Him, and we know that all He calls us to do and be is exactly what our Father has (re)created us to do and be.
Learning to fulfill all righteousness with you,