If I was to place myself in John’s shoes I’m not sure I would be so eager or excited to hand over my congregation to an unknown shepherd/carpenter just because it was claimed he was going to be something big.
I mean, if you stand back and look at the situation, John’s ministry at this point was very popular and even expanding. Why wouldn’t God want both of them to succeed? The scripture tells us that John was attracting large crowds from Jerusalem and from all of Judea and all over the Jordan Valley (v. 5). Scholars believe that the area where John was baptizing here was six miles north of the Dead Sea by the city of Bethany (not the same Bethany by Jerusalem). It also says that the large crowds went out to see and hear John (v. 5). So I think it would be okay to think that John may have struggled with the idea of handing over all of his people to Jesus.
In a world where pastors are measured by the size of their congregations, Matthew 3 challenged me in a different way then I thought. I found myself standing in John’s shoes wondering what would I do? Would I be so willing to give people over to another pastor? Would I be as willing to recognize that someone greater than me was coming and I should be okay with taking the back seat? Truth is, we all have to ask ourselves the same questions. Just because you’re not a pastor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be challenged by the same thoughts. John’s integrity and true purpose of ministry was challenged upon’s Jesus’ arrival.
But think about how Jesus handled the situation. Jesus, the son of man, was coming to John to be baptized…?
Jesus Baptized By John
Matthew 3:13-14 (NLT) 13 Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to talk him out of it. “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,” he said, “so why are you coming to me?”
15 But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.
Now this would be an interesting situation. John knew that Jesus didn’t need to be baptized for repentance, in fact, he knew ultimately it was him who would want to be baptized by Jesus. We know that John knew about the power of Jesus’ baptism from his words in verse 11 and 12.
Matthew 3:11-12 (NLT) 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
What’s interesting in this passage is Jesus’ comment that, “he must carry out all that God requires.” The reality, however, is that God didn’t require baptism. In fact, you can search the Old Testament and you won’t find any “law’s” requiring baptism. So what did Jesus mean? Well, scholars believe that Jesus’ desire to be baptized fulfilled to specific points:
- Complete the relationship connection between Jesus (Son) and God (Father)
- To advance the cause and purpose of baptism as a part of God’s redemptive work
So think about it: The one who didn’t need to be baptized made is a specific point to be baptized in order to give validity to baptism. Even though Jesus didn’t need to be baptized he still placed himself in the humble position of baptism as a representative of all the people of Israel.
The amazing thing to consider today is this: Jesus began his ministry by symbolically taking on the sins of the people of Israel, he ended his ministry on the cross, taking on the sins of the world.