“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Jesus, descendent of Abraham, was born in Bethlehem, fled to Egypt, was called out of Egypt to return to his homeland and has been baptized. Can you guess what happens next? We won’t jump ahead just yet, but there seems to be a familiar pattern developing here. We will now examine his baptism using the CAGED method. Remember, Context is king in an attempt to understand the author’s Aspirations to his audience, keeping the Genre in mind as we expose the examples using proper Exegesis and Divide the word.
Noticing the context, we have seen the genealogy of Jesus, his birth in Bethlehem, Exile to Egypt, his homecoming, the preaching of John the Baptist and John’s baptizing. We now see Jesus being baptized by John in another parallel to the people of Israel. Let’s dive deep into the context.
“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John…” “Then,” is a, you guessed it, conjunction, meaning, “after these things.” The account Matthew gives is historically successive. Much like Luke and Mark but distinctive from John’s account which is not consecutive. Matthew starts from the beginning–the genealogy genesis, and progressively portrays the facts of the life of Jesus, mostly chronologically, through the lens of the Old Testament. The first few chapters cover the most ground, chronologically speaking. The first few paragraphs of the life of Jesus cover over two decades; some say three. However we will see that when Jesus begins to speak in parables, Matthew takes the necessary literary liberties to provide said parables placed perfectly in his prose, which may or may not be written chronologically. Nevertheless, we will sill see them through our Old Testament tutor. We will continue to see Jesus as Israel but the true Israel who does not fail.
Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan. The Jordan River runs from the sea of Galilee south to the Dead Sea. Nazareth, is in the region of Galilee, west of the Sea of Galilee. At the time of Jesus’ baptism the Jordan River ran through Samaria, where Jews did not usually go according to John 4. South of Samaria, east of Jerusalem and north-east of the wilderness was a place called Bethany, near where John the Baptist was baptizing, according to John 1:8; “These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” It lay close to the mouth of the Jordan River, north of the Dead Sea. All this to say, Jesus traveled a relatively long distance to be baptized. Matthew’s first century audience would understand this. In modern times, it’s not a long distance, but at a time when the foremost form for setting forth was feet, Jesus meandered many a mile to be baptized by John. Much like Israel in the Exodus, Jesus had to walk before being baptized.
“Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?’” Jesus just more-than jaunted to be baptized by John but John initially refuses and asks Jesus, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me? Immediately, we as observers of the narrative, agree with John. Problem: Jesus, the son of Abraham, the son of David, the son of Joseph, the son of God deliberately sought out John for baptism. Should not John have acquiesced to Jesus request, considering the source of said request? Yet considering the source of said request, we again agree with John and his statement. It’s quite the conundrum. Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah that will save his people–John knew who he was, consider; “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” John knew that his baptism was for changing of the mind and that Jesus was greater, and his baptism was greater–we agree with John. Yet Jesus-the-greater came to John seeking to be baptized–we agree with Jesus.
Jesus said, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Now we fully agree with Jesus as did John. We, like John, need reassurance that Jesus isn’t trying to trick us, don’t we? Think about the ultimate claim of the Gospel as Paul states it in Romans 10:9; “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” No way, that’s too easy, I must attempt to atone for my own sins. John has the same thoughts, “I have need to be baptized by you.” While the statement is true, Jesus changes everything and says, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Great, we now agree with Jesus, but why–what does he mean by fulfilling all righteousness? This is an example of Jesus as the true Israel. They were baptized into the sea. Paul writes, “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” Jesus must be baptized to fulfill that which the Israelites couldn’t. Jesus will take the same metaphorical path as the nation Israel, but unlike Israel who failed every step of the way, Jesus overwhelming succeeds to fulfill all righteousness. Israel crossing the Red Sea wasn’t the fulfillment, it was the type. Jesus is the anti-type, he is the fulfillment. This is Matthew’s aspiration to his audience.
This is an aside; the piece I love most in the statement of Christ concerning fulfillment of all righteousness is the word, “us,” a first person, possessive pronoun, in first person plural. More than the alliteration, I love that Jesus included John in the fulfillment of all righteousness. Back to the context.
“Then he permitted Him. And after being baptized, Jesus went up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” The first thing the first century audience would understand is that upon the words of Jesus, John relented and realized the authority of Jesus, thus baptizing him. But we, who arguably live in the greatest of times because we have the Spirit and the completed Scripture, can also use said completed Scripture to ascertain absolute amazement and see the following: “The Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” We, who dwell during the greatest of times recall once again Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10, For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.” With Israel, God’s first-born, God was not well-pleased. However, with Jesus, God’s first-born, He was well-pleased. Yes, God is that awesome, yes he made it that easy. The problem is not with Scripture but with our minds. We, like the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and Israel, seek self-righteousness rather than seek what God has said. We search the Scripture for all it’s worth concerning ourselves and fail to see Christ as the fulfillment of all, from Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, Israel and the Law, kings, rulers, prophets and the like are all summed up in Christ. What more can I say, listen to the apostle Paul; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us. In all wisdom and insight He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”