13 Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 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. 16 After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, 17 and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Verse 15 has always proven to be a bit cryptic for me. How is Jesus getting baptized a baptism of repentance “fulfilling righteousness” if He had nothing to repent from? Some say it is because He was in human form and He needed to set the example. This is most likely a part of it, but we cannot miss the spiritual significance here. The fulfillment of righteousness isn’t about Jesus being an example, but about Him obeying what God wanted from Him. Fulfilling God’s will is our way of pleasing Him and fulfilling His righteousness. Jesus reveals this when talking to His disciples in John 4:
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.
Notice also that it wasn’t just about Jesus getting baptized, but John baptizing Him. It was fitting for both of them to fulfill righteousness in that moment. This is when we then notice that it was fitting for Jesus to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is the baptism John was talking about receiving from Jesus. When we obey God and fulfill His righteousness on earth as it is in heaven, we please Him. Just like any parent who has an obedient child, God is pleased when we follow His lead.
The word “righteousness” tends to have an ominous and untouchable connotation to it. We recognize what righteousness is but we generally view it as something that is unattainable. It is unattainable as far as it depends on us, but it is attainable thanks to God’s outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is about to commence His ministry, which will reveal to us that because of the Holy Spirit (which He just received) He is able to please God and fulfill His righteousness in everything He does. This is the main example Jesus came to be for us. He came to reveal what God does for us through His Spirit to help us in our relationship with Him. I have heard some people mention how ridiculous this sounds and on a human level. Yes, the logic might seem a little off, but think about it!
God is perfect and just; we are not. If we were, then we would be God. So, God’s Spirit in us purifies us and sanctifies us (makes us holy) so we can live in communion with Him (which is why He created us in the first place) without being immediately destroyed in His presence because of our ungodliness. Not too long ago I wrote a short article about why this is necessary by using the metaphor of light and darkness. Read Flip the Switch here. People tend to focus on needing God’s presence in our lives and complain of the necessity instead of recognizing the beauty of Him providing what we need in order to live in a relationship with Him. The author of Hebrews writes about faith in chapter 11 and explains what is necessary to please God (ie fulfill His righteousness) and the beauty of what God has given us in order that we may do so:
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
By believing God for what He says we please Him. God told Jesus it was necessary for Him to be baptized by John and although He didn’t need it, He complied and this pleased God. What is God telling you to do?