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An Unanticipated Request


The meeting had just begun when Greg rose from his seat. He grabbed the water pitcher and quietly began pouring water for those around the conference table. It took a few minutes before they realized it was a vice-president, the highest-ranking person in the room, who had served them.

Certainly it was a surprising moment when John realized that Jesus had come to him to be baptized. John objected. “I need to be baptized by you,” he said, “and do you come to me?” John was familiar with Jesus on two levels. First, he and Jesus had family ties. John’s mother was Mary’s relative (Luke 1:36). But John was also aware of Jesus’ divine lineage. John recognized that Jesus was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Jesus was the promised one whose impending arrival John had announced (Matt. 3:11–12).

Jesus’ answer to John displayed humility and His mission. Jesus did not disagree with John’s assessment of the difference between them, but He explained that the baptism was proper “to fulfill all righteousness” (v. 15). By being baptized, Jesus showed that He had come into the world to serve as our representative. Not only did Jesus come to die as the payment for our sin, He came to accomplish our righteousness. Jesus provided the obedience that we are unable to give. The Old Testament law did not mandate John’s baptism. This is why Jesus characterized the act as “proper” rather than necessary. It was a symbolic action. After John baptized Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit both testified to Jesus’ identity (vv. 16–17). The Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove as the Father spoke from heaven.

>> What are you depending upon for righteousness? Your own ability will always fall short. Jesus fulfilled the law in every point, “so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). Before you can follow Christ, you must first accept Him as your substitute.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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