John the Baptist preached a radical message of repentance from sin, John lived in the desert far from the sacred caverns of the Temple, and father still from the rituals and staunch practices that most Jews would have abided by in his day. And yet, this is the very man Jesus seeks to begin his ministry. The rule followers among us have red flags flying and sirens blaring: “What are you doing Jesus?! Don’t you know that it’s the Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the law, scholars and scribes that you need on your side? Not your crazy cousin in the desert!”
I suppose Jesus is simply not a rule follower. Jesus is sinless though, and John knows this. He attempts to persuade Jesus to baptize him instead of the other way around. But Jesus insists and what follows is the assuring voice of God from heaven; saying what we all long to hear from God, praising his child as we all desire to hear our Heavenly Father praise us, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
Jesus does not engage in the act of baptism to repent from sin—he is sinless, Jesus is baptized because Jesus came to be in relationship with us. Jesus came to be near to sinners, Jesus came to be near the lost, to be near the broken and sick, to be near to those who recognize their sin.
This is why John’s message of repentance is so beautiful. John prepares the way, teaching us that the Kingdom of God is coming because God is coming. Our repentance does not hinder or quicken the arrival of the Kingdom, rather it is because God has turned to us that ensures the Kingdom’s arrival. Jesus is this turning, Jesus is this coming, and Jesus’s baptism shows us that God is not too lofty to humble himself to the dirty waters of the Jordan, and the image of a dove descending on Christ shows us that God will bring new life—-just as the dove that brought a sprig of leaves to Noah after flood—we will find our salvation in this man who has come to teach, heal, and befriend us.