11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
John the Baptist new that the Messiah was coming. He had some inclinations of what that would be like and what the Messiah would do. What he didn’t anticipate was that the Messiah would come and be so humble, so submissive, that He would come and be baptized in the Jordan River just like everyone else.
John’s baptisms were a sign of repentance, a sign of turning from the old life to a new life. People that went out to hear John were convicted of the sins they had been committing against God and wanted a fresh start. So why would Jesus come out and be baptized if He never committed any sins to repent from?
That is all part of Jesus showing how human He is and how much He is identifying with the people He came to save. Hebrews 4:15 says that He was tempted in every way that we have ever been tempted. Jesus’ baptism is a way of Him showing us that He struggled with temptation too. He never gave in. He always did the will of the Father, but the temptations were there.
His baptism was a turning point and a change, also. From then on, He began His public ministry and began talking about the Kingdom of God.
At the same time, Jesus was obeying the old old old law custom that said the previous High Priest would pass on his authority to the next through baptism. John was the son of Zechariah, in the order of Levi. John would be in line to be a high priest one day if he hadn’t been called out into the wilderness to preach repentance. When Jesus comes along, it’s time to take the role of High Priest into the new covenant in Jesus’ blood. That’s the other part of the ‘righteousness being fulfilled.’ Jesus took upon Himself the true priesthood to make the ultimate sacrifice to God.
Jesus obeyed everything the Father told Him to do. From the nuances of an ancient ritual to the simple humility of identifying with sinners, Jesus obeyed. If there was ever a person that didn’t need to be baptized, it was Jesus. We follow Him in that act as we want to follow Him in all that He is still doing.