Matthew 3:13-17 CEB: At that time Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. John tried to stop him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, yet you come to me?”
Jesus answered, “Allow me to be baptized now. This is necessary to fulfill all righteousness.”
So John agreed to baptize Jesus. When Jesus was baptized, he immediately came up out of the water. Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting on him. A voice from heaven said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.”
I have always wondered about this passage. Why did Jesus need to be baptized? What ‘righteousness’ was he fulfilling? As we noted previously, Jesus was the embodiment of Israel. That is, Jesus was to do and be all that Israel was to do and be. And, as Wright has pointed out, humanity was to be priests. They were to reflect God to creation and reflect creation’s worship back to God. When humanity sinned, God chose Israel (through Abraham and Sarah) to be the priests for the world through whom God would rescue creation. When they failed, God became a human being in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1.1-5, 14; Colossians 1.19-20; Philippians 2.6-11) . One of the things a priest must do before ministering is wash himself (See, for example, Exodus 30) and since Jesus was a priest (see Hebrews 5-7, specifically 5.10; 6.20; 7.17), he must be baptized before he could start his ministry.
Furthermore, not only was Jesus doing and being the True Israel, he was also doing and being the True Human One. This is one of the reasons I like the Common English Bible. It translates the usual ‘Son of Man’ with ‘the Human One’. It has been said if one wants to know what God is like, one must look to Jesus of Nazareth. He is the ‘image of the invisible God’ (Colossians 1.15). But I would add that if someone wants to know what humanity is supposed to do and be, one must also look to Jesus of Nazareth. He is also the image of what humanity is supposed to be (see Romans 5.14; 1Corinthians 15.45-47). That is one of the things specific to Celtic Chistrianity. They called Christ the ‘Great Remembrance’ meaning we have forgotten what it means to be truly human but we are reminded of this in the life of Jesus.
In the Love of Three in One,
Br Jack+, LC