Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. Matthew 3:13-15
Jesus shows up, John tries to stop Him from being baptized, and Jesus says, “it’s all good, bro.” But wait, there’s more! Seriously, there really is.
Jesus explains to His confused cousin that the reason they’re doing this thing – baptizing God, who doesn’t need to be baptized – is because it’s proper and it’s right and it’s time. https://www.gotquestions.org/fulfill-all-righteousness.html gives a great explanation, one we need when we live in a time so far removed from Jesus’ own.
It was a way to affirm – and announce – that Jesus is the Messiah. In a way, this moment passed the baton of leadership of the faith from John the pre-Messiah prophet to Jesus, the actual Messiah. Don’t forget that the famous, eclectic desert preacher had become famous, as much for his eccentricity as for his confrontational message. John never claimed to be the Messiah, but those who listened to him thought he could be. Or at least could be heralding the Messiah’s approach.
That would have been big news at the time. The Jews expected the Messiah to lead a political and military revolt to overthrow Rome; to return God’s chosen people to their position of prominence. The Jews had been a scattered, now conquered, people for over 400 years. The long-awaited and anxiously expected Messiah would set things right, would deliver Israel from its captors, and would free the people from their yoke of subjugation to the sinful world.
And that’s what Jesus did, except He didn’t do any of it the way they expected. John had been alluding to this, that the Messiah would winnow them, separate them, call them to account for what they had said and done. Yet they soon found out that the expectations of the crowd were different from the intentions of the incarnate Son of God.
But wait, there’s more! In indirectly, and still publicly, assuming His role as Messiah, Jesus blessed John with further legitimacy. Jesus’ submitting to John’s baptism showed He was God appearing as one of us. God was blessing John as John was blessing Jesus. In doing so, it was as if He was saying, “everything John said was true.” That’s when things really started to change. This was the public start of Jesus’ ministry, and the beginning of the end of John’s. What happened next would confer the personal blessing of the Father on the entire event: a rare and beautiful miracle. You guessed it: but wait, there’s more! Much, much more, indeed.
For more reading: Matthew 3:16
Lord Jesus, all praise to You for being baptized, to fulfill all righteousness for our sake.