“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. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. 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?”
But Jesus said, “It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.” So John agreed to baptize him.

After his baptism, as Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and settling on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” (Matthew 3:11-17)

If we really believed that God loved us we’d never resist his will. Jesus was concerned only with doing what his Father wanted. Human beings, in contrast, are generally more concerned with only doing what they want.

John knew that the Messiah was coming. John saw himself as God’s servant, as a human being of limited consequence. It made no sense to him that Jesus should ask him—or any other human being—for baptism. Rather, John saw only his own need for redemption; he was aware only of his own failings. And that prevented him from seeing beyond himself to what someone else might need—in this case, Jesus’ need to begin his public ministry, to receive, not the baptism of repentance that John had been giving everyone else, but rather the baptism given to those who were becoming rabbis. There were many sorts of baptisms regularly performed in Judaism: for conversion, for ceremonial cleansing, and for those becoming rabbis or priests. John, because of his focus, because of his own needs, had trouble seeing beyond his own habitual patterns.

Because of our fallen nature, we tend to think of things only in terms of what’s in it for us, or what we’re used to. Rather than being like Jesus, who saw things only in terms of what his Father wanted.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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