Matthew 3:13-15

3:13  Then Jesus appeared: he came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John.

3:14  John tried to dissuade him, with the words,

'It is I who need baptism from you, and yet you come to me!'

3:15  But Jesus replied, 'Leave it like this for the time being;

it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that uprightness demands.'

Then John gave in to him.


Just before this event we heard that John the Baptist was preaching a baptism of repentance; those who were baptised confessed their sins. About Jesus we heard in the first chapter that he was the Messiah (Hebrew word for ‘Christ’/’Anointed One’ (1:1); and that he had been born out of the Holy Spirit (1:20).


Now Jesus is presenting himself to be baptised. John tries to prevent it. We can understand that. Did the Messiah, born from the Holy Spirit, need repentance, confessing of sins? Jesus replies (literally translated), ‘Leave it now; for as such it is prepared for us to fulfil all justice.’ A rather enigmatic answer.

What does Jesus mean by ‘justice’? Exactly what is he doing this very moment? That he joins the people who know that there is something wrong in their lives; that they are aware of it; and that they long to be forgiven and to make a new beginning. They are the people to whom Jesus feels attracted. That is the programme, the summary of his public life. He will be found in their midst during the rest of the time. That will be the complaint of his opponents (Matthew 11:19): ‘He is a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But it is precisely because of this behaviour that he is called ‘Son of God’.

John participates actively in this mission. Jesus doesn’t say, ‘... as such it is prepared for me’, but, ‘as such it is prepared for us!’

Picture Meditation

Jesus presents himself to John the Baptist to be baptised in the river Jordan. The gesture of both John’s hands seems to express that he tries to prevent it.

There are two important differences between John and Jesus. The first one is: John wears clothes; Jesus is naked, without any protection, vulnerable. An image of God!?

The second difference between John and Jesus is: Jesus is much taller than John. And higher. He is looking down upon John. What is the expression in his face?

Is it coincidental that we don’t see John’s face?

In the background people are preparing themselves to be baptised by stripping off their clothes. The artist doesn’t show people who are already baptised. In his painting Jesus is the first one. The others will follow Jesus’ example. Imitatio Christi. The imitation of Christ.

And I, would I have followed him? And do I follow him now by sharing my life with people who don’t deserve it? Or am I rather one of the people in the background?

Can I recognize myself in the gesture of John the Baptist, ‘Please Lord, don’t join the wicked people.’

Did I ever hear in my life those words of the Lord: ‘Let us fulfil all justice’?

Does the yellow plant with the three flowers in the foreground have a special meaning?

At the end I have a talk with some of the people in the background; with John the Baptist; with Jesus.