“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.” (Matthew 3:13)
When Jesus approached John with this appeal, John didn’t think this was entirely a good idea. Feeling completely unworthy to fulfill Christ’s request, he attempted to reason Christ out of his plan. Earlier, the Baptizer had explained to the massive crowds that came to him from Jerusalem, Judea and all the regions around the Jordan River, “He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry” (Matthew 3:11). John, the fiery preacher, the outspoken prophet who unequivocally ridiculed the Pharisees and Sadducees’ hypocrisy, found the concept of baptizing Christ way beyond him.
Naturally, John had a good excuse. “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14) Jesus had initiated this encounter with John, approaching him with this specific mission that only John could fulfill. Jesus knew John was imperfect, that he possessed his own camel’s hair bag of flaws. Christ understood John’s sense of unworthiness; it made no sense from John’s perspective that Christ would approach him. But it made perfect sense to the Lord in order to fulfill his divine purpose. “Permit it at this time,” Jesus reasoned with John. Permission granted.
We process similar arguments. Recognizing that Christ’s invitation to us is often an ambitious undertaking, we stammer, “Lord, you are asking me to do a task that is far too grand. You desire that I fulfill this assignment, but I am unable. I am not worthy. Don’t you see, Lord, I am inadequate for this. Clearly, I am the one in need of you and not the other way around.”
John obeyed Christ, proceeded with the baptism, and was then perfectly positioned to witness the “heavens opened,” the Spirit descending, and the Father’s voice booming out the highest praise possible on his beloved Son. Imagine that! A willingness to do the unthinkable, to participate in God’s work in spite of his own inadequacies, to follow through when it made no sense whatsoever, and all of heaven opened before John’s eyes and ears.
What delight could possibly be in store as we choose to listen and obey God in spite of our obvious limitations?
Elizabeth Karram Mitchell