The Scriptorium

To Fulfill All Righteousness

What we could not do, Jesus did. Matthew 3.13-15

Matthew 3: The Trailblazer (5)

Pray Psalm 42.1-3.
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where I is your God?”

Sing contemplatively Psalm 42.1-3.
(Nettleton: Come Thou Fount)
As the deer pants for fresh water let my soul, Lord, pant for You!
Let my soul thirst as it ought to for the Savior, ever true!
Tears by day have been my portion, tears by night have been my food,
While my foes add to my sorrow, saying, “Where now is your God?”

Read Matthew 3.1-15; meditate on verses 13-15.

1. Why was John reluctant to baptize Jesus?

2. Why did Jesus insist on it?


John right away recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God, come to take away the sins of the world (cf. Jn. 1.29-36). No wonder he hesitated to accept Him for baptism. Indeed, he seems almost astonished that Jesus would want to be baptized by him (v. 14). He thought Jesus should baptize him.

But Jesus said, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” What did He mean by that.

First, Jesus understood that He had come to earth “to fulfill all righteousness.” To do this, He would have to keep the Law of God in complete and exhaustive detail, because the Law of God is holy and righteous and good. Jesus was often accused of violating Jewish traditions. He was even accused of transgressing Roman law. But no one could ever make a case against Him where the Law of God was fulfilled. God called His people to fulfill His Law, to be holy as He is holy, so that they might live as He intends (Lev. 18.1-5). But no one can keep the Law of God – except Jesus. The righteousness that He fulfilled is accounted to all who believe in Him, who deny that they have any righteousness of their own with which to commend themselves to the heavenly Father, and who cling to Jesus’ righteousness for their hope and salvation (2 Cor. 5.21).

Theologians refer to this as the active obedience of Christ. His passive obedience is seen in His submitting to the cross and bearing the judgment of God against our sins. But without His active obedience on our behalf, His death would have been without power, and His resurrection would never have occurred.

Second, when Israel came out of Egypt, they were “baptized through the sea”, as Paul explained (1 Cor. 10.1, 2). From this “baptism”, Israel plunged into the wilderness, before again being “baptized” through the Jordan to undertake the conquest of the land. Jesus, God’s Son called out of Egypt to recapitulate and fulfill the redemptive plan of God, was baptized in the Jordan before heading off into the wilderness to defeat and bind the one who held the nations captive to his lies.

Jesus needed to be baptized by John, not because He had sin to repent of, but because He was the sin-bearer and salvation-bringer for all who repent and believe the Good News of His Kingdom and salvation.

1. Why is baptism important? What does baptism proclaim?  

2. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness by keeping God’s Law. What does this suggest about our use of God’s Law?

3. Why was it so important that Jesus should identify with Israel in the Old Testament?

When he who is perfect according to the law was baptized with the baptism of John, he became the first to achieve the perfection of the law. For this reason even Christ, who was perfect in the law, was baptized with the baptism of John. For this reason he says, “For thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Theodore of Heraclea (d. 355), Fragment 21

Clothe me with Your righteousness today, Lord Jesus, as I…

Pray Psalm 42.4-11.
Jesus has fulfilled all righteousness for you! Let Him lift your soul into the joy of His salvation as you4pray and sing of your Rock and your God!

Sing Psalm 42.4-11.
Psalm 42.2-11 (Nettleton: Come Thou Fount)
Now I pour my soul out in me as these thoughts come to my mind.
And I long to once again be where true worship I might find.
Oh my soul, be not despairing!  Hope in God, and praise His Name!
For the Lord, your burden bearing, will restore your peace again.

Oh my God, my soul is weary, therefore I remember You.
Let Your grace and goodness near be, and Your promise, firm and true.
Lord, when trials and fears surround me, Your commands will be my song.
When distresses sore confound me, Your great love will keep me strong.

Lord, forget me not in mourning ‘neath my foes’ oppressing hand.
See their mocking, hear their scorning; help my weary soul to stand.
Hope in God, praise Him forever when despair on you has trod.
Look to Jesus; never, never doubt your gracious, saving God.

T. M. Moore

The Gospel of Matthew will help us grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Two companion books can supplement our study of Matthew. To Know Him examines what it means to belong to Jesus and to love and serve Him (click here), while Be Thou My Vision enables us to gain an even larger perspective on Jesus (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore