It doesn’t take much to be confused. Just when we think we get it, something throws us off track. Take a look at many of the items made today that we buy in the U.S. Most of them say “Made in China.” Imagine my surprise last week when I bought a prominent Chinese hot sauce — it was made in the USA!
I think John might have experienced something like that with Jesus. He knew something about Jesus, more than most. His preaching pointed ahead to Jesus, the Messiah. As John begins his ministry of baptizing and preaching repentance, the last person he expected to see is Jesus. If anybody did not need what he was offering, it was Jesus. Little wonder that John tried to “deter him” (NIV), “prevent him” (NAS/NAB), “stop him” (GW).
Yet here is Jesus, at the Jordan to be baptized by John. Jesus said: “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). The obvious intent is that Jesus fulfills all righteousness (perfect obedience: active, in living for God; passive, dying for all who fail). Yet, Jesus says that “it is proper for us to do this.” In other words, John’s role is essential in Jesus fulfilling all righteousness.
So there is a double surprise: Jesus to be baptized, and John’s role in God’s plan for Jesus fulfilling all righteousness.
Perhaps we need the reminder that with God there are no insignificant words, acts, or even thoughts.