Sometimes we meet our maker a little earlier that expected. From the very beginning John knew exactly the identity of Jesus. In fact even in the womb he knew Jesus (Lk 1:41-42). But now John was in the role of calling people to repentance (Mt 3:11) and turning the hearts of the father to the children (Lk 1:17). He knew one day that the Son of God would make his formal introduction to humanity. John was in such reverence and awe that he said this, “the straps of his sandals I am not worthy to untie” (Jn 1:27). Perhaps we miss the cultural part of this. The feet were considered The dirtiest part of the body. Only slaves could do anything with the feet. And to not even be worthy to loosen a strap on his sandals? John fully recognized the identity of Jesus.
Maybe it was a big surprise that Jesus came to him to be baptized. We assume he expected it but there’s no Scriptural indication to believe so. One day as John was baptizing, Jesus came and just like when John recognized him in the womb, he recognized him again. And Jesus made the wildest request–he wanted to be baptized.
“John tried to deter him,” (Mt 3:14).
Why would the Son of God need to be baptized? It was Jesus who needed to be baptizing, not just the masses but John himself. No way.
“I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Mt 3:14)
I’m sure John was in a state of shock when Jesus replied,
“Let it be so now; is is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness,” (Mt 3:15).
“John consented,” (Mt 3:15).
It’s not easy to argue with the Son of God about his baptism and win. But Jesus did and John relented.
Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Theological volumes have been written about the subject. It is perhaps a mystery, but Jesus says it was “fulfill all righteousness.” And so whatever that entails, Jesus set himself to do things in the way of righteousness. And he was baptized. When Jesus came up out of the water the Spirit descended and a voice from heaven confirmed, “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased” (Mt 3:16-17).
It must have been an extraordinary moment for John. And also one where John recognized the sobering humility of Jesus to be baptized. Perhaps he could have written later that night:
Today I baptized God. The Son of God anyway. I lived to tell about it. He really did this?
John, the Baptist